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6.22 - Value Analysis / Value Engineering (VA/VE)


Value engineering began at General Electric Co. during World War II. Because of the war, there were shortages of skilled labour, raw materials, and component parts. Lawrence Miles, Jerry Leftow, and Harry Erlicher at G.E. looked for acceptable substitutes. They noticed that these substitutions often reduced costs, improved product, or both. What started out as an accident of necessity was turned into a systematic process. They called their technique “value analysis”. Many of the VE/VA techniques are incorporated into DFM methods.

Value engineering (VE) is a systematic method to improve the “value” of goods or products and services by using an examination of function. Value, as defined, is the ratio of function to cost. Value can therefore be increased by either improving the function or reducing the cost. It is a primary tenet of value engineering that basic functions be preserved and not be reduced as a consequence of pursuing value improvements.

In the United States, value engineering is specifically spelled out in Public Law 104-106, which states “Each executive agency shall establish and maintain cost-effective value engineering procedures and processes.”

Value engineering is sometimes taught as part the project management or industrial engineering body of knowledge as a technique in which the value of a system’s outputs is optimized by crafting a mix of performance (function) and costs. In most cases this practice identifies and removes unnecessary expenditures, thereby increasing the value for the manufacturer and/or their customers.

VE follows a structured thought process that is based exclusively on “function”, i.e. what something “does” not what it is. For example a screw driver that is being used to stir a can of paint has a “function” of mixing a can of paint and not the original connotation of securing a screw into a screw-hole. In value engineering “functions” are always described in a two word abridgment consisting of an active verb and measurable noun (what is being done – the verb – and what it is being done to – the noun) and to do so in the most non-prescriptive way possible. In the screw driver and can of paint example, the most basic function would be “blend liquid” which is less prescriptive than “stir paint” which can be seen to limit the action (by stirring) and to limit the application (only considers paint.) This is the basis of what value engineering refers to as “function analysis”.

Value engineering uses rational logic (a unique “how” – “why” questioning technique) and the analysis of function to identify relationships that increase value. It is considered a quantitative method similar to the scientific method, which focuses on hypothesis-conclusion approaches to test relationships, and operations research, which uses model building to identify predictive relationships.

Value engineering is also referred to as “value management” or “value methodology” (VM), and “value analysis” (VA). VE is above all a structured problem solving process based on function analysis—understanding something with such clarity that it can be described in two words, the active verb and measurable noun abridgement. For example, the function of a pencil is to “make marks”. This then facilitates considering what else can make marks. From a spray can, lipstick, a diamond on glass to a stick in the sand, one can then clearly decide upon which alternative solution is most appropriate.

The Job Plan

Value engineering is often done by systematically following a multi-stage job plan. Lawrence Miles’ original system was a six-step procedure which he called the “value analysis job plan.” Others have varied the job plan to fit their constraints. Depending on the application, there may be four, five, six, or more stages. A modern version has the following eight steps:

  1. Preparation
  2. Information
  3. Analysis
  4. Creation
  5. Evaluation
  6. Development
  7. Presentation
  8. Follow-up

Four basic steps in the job plan are:

Information gathering – This asks what the requirements are for the object. Function analysis, an important technique in value engineering, is usually done in this initial stage. It tries to determine what functions or performance characteristics are important. It asks questions like; What does the object do? What must it do? What should it do? What could it do? What must it not do?

Alternative generation (creation) – In this stage value engineers ask; What are the various alternative ways of meeting requirements? What else will perform the desired function?

Evaluation – In this stage all the alternatives are assessed by evaluating how well they meet the required functions and how great will the cost savings be.

Presentation – In the final stage, the best alternative will be chosen and presented to the client for final decision.

How it works

VE follows a structured thought process to evaluate options as follows.

1. Gather information

  • What is being done now?
  • Who is doing it?
  • What could it do?
  • What must it not do?

2. Measure

  • How will the alternatives be measured?
  • What are the alternate ways of meeting requirements?
  • What else can perform the desired function?

3. Analyze

  • What must be done?
  • What does it cost?

4. Generate

  • What else will do the job?

5. Evaluate

  • Which Ideas are the best?

6. Develop and expand ideas

  • What are the impacts?
  • What is the cost?
  • What is the performance?

7. Present ideas

  • Sell alternatives

Data Sources Required for VA/VE

To conduct effective Value Engineering and Analysis practitioners need access to reliable and structured data sources covering the following:-

  • Material types and their relative costs.
  • Component manufacturing processes and their comparative costs.
  • Material joining processes and techniques and their relative costs.

In addition, existing or past designs need to be catalogued or indexed in such a way as to make available the existing body of product knowledge to avoid “re-designing the wheel” or at least to make it cheaper this time around.

Value Engineering versus Design for Manufacturing

The philosophical approach of VA/VE, questioning and comparing the value and cost of each feature and each element of a product’s design, is entirely compatible with the methodology of Design for Manufacture (DFM). The brainstorming technique, frequently part of a VA/VE study, is extremely worthwhile.

Further Reading