3 Strategies to Unlock Substantial Value In Your VA/VE Tools
October 3, 2022
As a new product evolves through its life cycle, Value Analysis and Value Engineering (VA/VE) is a critical process that can offset price erosion. During a VA/VE event, engineering teams aim to identify opportunities to reduce costs while maintaining product functionality. VA/VE can protect profitability through engineering-led cost reduction – without compromising quality.
To get started with VA/VE, you must first identify the product your team will analyze. After that, you’ll conduct the information-gathering VA/VE process steps. VA/VE is described in several international standards, including ASTM E1699-14(2020) and several VDI standards. These standards are developed in accordance with recognized principles on Value Engineering and serve as an excellent starting point for defining a VA/VE process for your organization.
The final challenge is selecting the tools to help the team discover substantial, cost-improved design change options. These tools can be grouped into three categories:
- Organization-based desktop software
- Cloud-based/asynchronous systems
- Collaborative design file sharing and annotating
1) Organization-based desktop tools
Most engineers start any task by opening a spreadsheet. And for good reason: MS Excel is convenient, cost-effective, flexible, and familiar. Excel is helpful for VA/VE as it enables teams to tabulate ideas with descriptions and quantified profitability impacts following the design change.
Another popular tool for VA/VE is MS PowerPoint which offers a great way to present digital images of design change proposals and has significant graphic and annotative capability.
Because engineering-led cost reduction is a redesign effort, the evaluation operates like a development project. As a result, MS Project and Wrike are logical choices for project management software. MS Project offers the popular Gantt chart view to determine critical-path process steps, plan for milestone reviews, assign task ownership, and determine overall project timing. Wrike is versatile and offers improved customization capability.
Drawbacks of organization-based tools
The primary challenge of the traditional tools mentioned above is that they make collaboration cumbersome. For example, teams can use Sharepoint to store spreadsheets and slide decks via the cloud, but this approach carries version control inefficiency, such as check-in/check-out overwrites and arrows and text boxes on still images on a slide.
Documenting and organizing the ideas is easy with desktop tools, but communicating and collaborating requires additional explanation and is ripe for unclarity around a redesign idea. These tools need to accompany an MS Teams, Zoom, or Google Meet call to discuss things live and review design change proposals. The world became fluent in these through the pandemic, and each promotes a way to have a live meeting with screen-sharing for live design ideation and feedback to review the slides or spreadsheet. Everyone must be on a call together, an increasing challenge in a hybrid and remote workplace.
2) Asynchronous collaboration
Desktop tools like the MS Suite are the default software most experienced leaders have used throughout their careers. Businesses are moving to an asynchronous communication style with tools like Slack to decouple collaboration activities from team members' availability. This approach removes the need for advanced planning and scheduling, letting the team get to work sooner.
Some of the advantages of async are:
- Improved collaboration between global team members by allowing them to access data at any time of day
- A digital record of file versions to capture progress during a redesign
- Better inclusion of remote team members by adding functionality that encourages more rapid (and less formal) engagement through a voice or video message
Jira is an increasingly popular async tool for VA/VE, which improves collaboration on teams by offering a customizable platform for workflow tasks and integrating elements like Kanban and scrum to drive progress.
Another platform teams have adopted for VA/VE is GitHub, a repository tool that promotes collaboration through async file sharing. GitHub can integrate Jira to document annotations, communicate with team members, and tie design steps to project management tasks.
Drawback of asynchronous collaboration
Existing asynchronous tools improve the scheduling bottleneck that slows VA/VE down. However, many current tools were created for software development and are flexible enough to apply to various applications.
The challenge existing async tools have for VA/VE comes in collaborating on 3D CAD models and drawings. While async allows users to "pick up" and "put down" work at different times, it lacks the ability for team members to engage with a colleague's ideas to understand the intent. Clear communication and illustration are vital to sharing an idea-and achieving stakeholder adoption.
3) Collaborative software for VA/VE
Given the benefits and opportunities of the two approaches above, the winning solution would take the organizational benefits of familiar desktop tools and the asynchronous benefits of collaborative software platforms.
Collaborative software designed for industrial design and VA/VE, like CoLab, hosts the design effort on a single platform and handles the admin tasks to soften the technology barrier between virtual team members. It also enables CAD model and drawing uploads for on-component annotation and discussion about a design feature. Industry leaders like Johnson Controls are using collaboration software to deliver year-over-year VA/VE.
Asynchronous cost reduction is the best way to mitigate scheduling bottlenecks of team members and promote collaborative VA/VE ideation. CoLab enhances asynchronous cost reduction by empowering teams to find hundreds of savings ideas with a single platform.
Promoting authentic VA/VE the way engineers prefer fosters the environment needed to generate great ideas. By using a platform that can host events and manage idea follow-ups, save the team time, and maintain participant engagement, CoLab can maximize the cost reduction output from VA/VE.