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Value Engineering

Mechanical engineering, Civil engineering, Electronics and Communications engineering, and now Value Engineering (VE). The American Management Association has defined Value Engineering as follows:

"Value Engineering is a functionally oriented scientific method for improving product value by relating the elements of product worth to their corresponding elements of product cost in order to accomplish the required function(s) at the least possible cost in labor and materials."

Value can, in turn, be defined as “performance delivered at a specific price.” Hence value is directly proportional to performance. Value Engineering started in GE during the Second World War. Lawrence Miles and Harry Erlicher analyzed the shortages related to labor, raw materials and components and worked out a strategy to reduce costs and/or improve their product. The primary benefit of VE is that it enables the team to reduce costs while they continue to be effective because of innovative methods to keep a high quality of their products. The only hitch in Value Engineering is that it requires strong discipline and innovation to achieve success.

The eight steps involved in the process of Value Engineering are:

1. Preparation
2. Identification of Problem
3. Identify Functions
4. Prioritize
5. Define Basic Design
6. Alternative Designs
7. Presentation
8. Follow-up

Some important factors that are studied during the preparation phase are pre-existing conceptual designs, cost information and contact data of the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). In the next stage, the problem to be solved is defined. The possible solutions for the problem are brainstormed. The benefits and disadvantages of each of the solution are discussed as also are the issues related to the implementation of the solution. Each of the components involved in the solution is taken apart and is associated with its corresponding function. This is known as the “Noun/Verb Tool.” The component is the noun and its associated function is the verb. Once a one-to-one map is created, only the most basic and required components are selected for development. These functions are then prioritized as primary or secondary. Contrary to popular expectations the secondary elements prove to be the cost saving factors for the customer. A baseline design is then defined. This design may be what the firm uses for other products or services, or it might be something used by the competitor, or it is an alternative that you want to experiment with (of course, all risk taken into account). An alternative design is considered primarily when it comes to developing low-cost solutions. The solution is then presented to the customer after all the trade-offs are considered and accounted for. A follow up is, of course, needed to study the effectiveness of the solution that is designed as well as to function as a learning tool.

An example of the successful implementation of Value Engineering is Russian rocket motors that are ugly to look but are totally leak proof. The welding design is such that the finishing touches are not done because they do not add anything to the performance of the motor.

Value Engineering is different because it is a structured, consistent, documented and scalable process. It supports value-based change in any process. It is a strategic problem solving methodology and must not be considered a quick-fix solution to any problem.

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