Configuration Management Software Solutions

What is Configuration Management (CM)?

While there are many industry-specific definitions of Configuration Management (CM), a good general definition of Configuration Management is the application of resources, methodologies, processes, best practices, standards, governance policies, and configuration management software solutions to establish and maintain consistency and traceability between product requirements, the actual product as manufactured and serviced, and product data for all the creators and users of this information.

Configuration Management Software PillarsRegardless of the industry or application, configuration management software solutions must support the fundamental pillars of CM including configuration identification, configuration status accounting, configuration change control, and configuration traceability and audits.

It is not uncommon that each industry-specific use of CM may have its own set of goals and roles for CM. One example is from the ISO 10007 standard which states the objective of CM is to “document and provide full visibility of the product’s present configuration and the status of achievement of its physical and functional requirements, such that everyone working on the project at any time in its life cycle is using correct and accurate information.”

CLICK HERE for more information about CM as a discipline – including references to industry standards, old and new, such as CMII, ANSI/EIA 649, SAE 649B-1, MIL-STD-973, and EIA 836B.

The practice of configuration management is applicable to products, processes, and services, as well as to the data and documentation which describe them. For products, CM helps to manage the configurations of discrete manufactured products including all their hardware, firmware and software components. Hardware configuration management is explicitly focused on managing the hardware components of products, equipment, systems, or networks.

The use of configuration management software becomes more essential and powerful when employed to manage over their lifecycles the configuration of product variants, product line portfolios, assemblies, mock-ups, test models, virtual twins, systems and networks of systems. This includes configuration data at the component, product, or system level that may be used in requirements specifications, engineering changes, product documentation, work orders, maintenance history, installation instructions, repair manuals, inspection reports, warranty records, and compliance certifications. As such, the practice of CM is applicable to physical products as well as to all of their paper, digital, or virtual records.

The historic use case of CM was to support product development, design engineering and manufacturing. CM is considered a must-have fundamental capability before bill-of-materials (BOM) management, release management, and change management can be undertaken at the product or systems engineering levels. For these design engineering-centric uses, CM capabilities are often provided by Product Data Management (PDM) solutions as part of a Product Innovation Platform (PIP) architecture or Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) business strategy.

There are many if not more uses of configuration management software solutions outside or downstream of the traditional engineering configuration and change management functions within a product manufacturer. This is especially true in the supply, support, and service chains of long-life assets deployed in the field. This mission-critical use for asset configuration management is found in many industries including aviation, transportation, aerospace & defense, industrial machinery, heavy equipment, high-tech electronics, medical devices, energy, mining, marine, and AEC infrastructure.

For these industries, managing the in-service configuration of assets over an extended lifecycle of many years is a more important function of CM than that for product design engineering. Tracking the as-procured, as-built, as-approved, as-deployed, as-maintained, as-repaired, and as-retired configuration of products, devices, equipment, systems and networks far removed from the OEM’s original CAD or PDM vault is the critical use case of CM.

In these uses of CM, engineering-centric PDM solutions rarely provide the deep functionality, workflow adaptability, and robust usability required for performing asset configuration management by the supply, support, and service chains. Asset CM requires capable functionality and nimble  workflow processes − without loss of usability by occasional non-expert users − for product structure maintenance, configuration identification, baselines, configuration items, change management, status accounting and verification. To learn why read the CMstat whitepaper on “Nimble Configuration Management.”

There are many different application categories for Configuration Management software solutions because of the large range of industries and the unique needs and standards each industry has for CM solutions. These application areas include:

  • Hardware Configuration Management
  • Software Configuration Management
  • System Configuration Management
  • System-of-Systems Configuration Management
  • Product Structure Configuration Management
  • Product Data Configuration Management
  • Requirements Configuration Management
  • Process Configuration Management
  • Test Bed Configuration Management
  • Asset Configuration Management
  • Asset Lifecycle Configuration Management
  • Network Configuration Management
  • In-Service Configuration Management
  • As-Built, As-Deployed, As-Maintained, and As-Repaired Configuration Management
  • Operator-Dependent Configuration Management
  • IT Infrastructure Library Configuration Management
  • Configuration Lifecycle Management

It is rare if not impossible to find most of these CM applications explicitly supported by any one engineering PDM software or enterprise PLM system. Thankfully, best-of-class industry-focused CM solutions like CMstat’s PDMPlus and EPOCH CM do exist that deliver many of these applications as a standard commercial-off-the-shelf software product. To see firsthand how CMstat software supports these applications request a Demonstration.

Regardless of the intended application of a Configuration Management software solution, it must support the five high-level tenets of CM: configuration planning, configuration identification, configuration control, configuration status accounting, and configuration audits. These capabilities are typically delivered by a set of core CM functions which are provided by the following software features:

  • Product Structure Management
  • Baseline Configuration Management
  • Configuration Item Management
  • Configuration Data Management
  • Configuration Identification & Control
  • Configuration Status Accounting, Verification & Audits
  • Configuration Rules
  • CM Processes & Workflows
  • CMII and EIA 649 Standards Implementation
  • Bill of Material (BOM) Management
  • Change Management & Reporting
  • Change Implementation and Impact Analysis
  • Change Effectivity Analysis & Management
  • CAD-Independent CM
  • Tracking of As-Designed, As-Built, As-Maintained Configurations
  • Warranty Management
  • Document Management
  • Configuration Planning Management
  • Reviews, Audits, and Compliance Reporting

LEARN MORE about CMstat’s newest solution for CM, EPOCH CM, which offers the deep functionality and instant usability to support all of the different capabilities required of a CM solution.

CM solutions, and the information they produce, are used by professionals in many organizations across the enterprise and supply chain over the extended lifecycle of a product or system. These groups can include contracts, procurement, design, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, quality assurance, test, logistics, technical publications, service, maintenance, and regulatory compliance. To understand the benefits that CM provides these departments visit EPOCH CM Benefits.

CM user roles within these groups often include data managers, configuration specialists, procurement buyers, quality inspectors, service technicians, technical writers, maintenance personnel, and compliance officers. To read more about who really are the users of CM solutions please visit CMsights on CM Users.

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