VA/VE in Action: Effective Tools for Transforming Your Next Initiative
October 3, 2022
Value Analysis and Value Engineering (VA/VE) play a critical role in the product development lifecycle, helping companies maintain profitability without sacrificing quality. To achieve successful cost reduction, engineering teams need a comprehensive toolkit that supports collaboration, analysis, and decision-making. In this article, we'll explore various tools and techniques that can enhance your VA/VE process, diving deeper into each category to understand their benefits and drawbacks.
Spreadsheets and Presentations
Engineers often rely on familiar tools like Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint for VA/VE activities. Excel is convenient, flexible, and widely available, making it a popular choice for tabulating ideas, calculating cost savings, and comparing design alternatives. PowerPoint allows engineers to create visually appealing presentations to convey design change proposals and showcase the potential impact of these changes on cost and performance.
Traditional organization-based tools like Excel and PowerPoint lack built-in collaboration features, making it challenging to share ideas, maintain version control, and communicate effectively across distributed teams.
Project Management Tools
Engineering-led cost reduction operates like a development project, so project management software like Microsoft Project and Wrike is essential for planning, scheduling, and tracking progress. Microsoft Project offers Gantt chart views to determine critical-path process steps and plan milestone reviews, while Wrike provides improved customization and integration with other tools.
Although project management tools help keep VA/VE projects organized, they may not be designed specifically for engineering workflows or integrate seamlessly with CAD and cost collaboration software.
CAD, Cost Estimation Tools
CAD and PLM Software
Advanced design tools such as Autodesk Fusion 360, PTC Creo, and Dassault Systemes' CATIA and SOLIDWORKS enable engineers to analyze and optimize products for cost reduction. These programs offer powerful design, simulation, and collaboration capabilities that are essential for VA/VE. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software like Siemens Teamcenter or PTC Windchill helps manage product data throughout its life cycle, streamlining the implementation of cost-saving design changes.
Advanced design tools often have a steep learning curve and may be expensive. Additionally, they may not offer all the necessary features for a comprehensive VA/VE process without third-party add-ons or integrations.
Integrating simulation tools into the VA/VE process enables engineers to virtually test and analyze design alternatives without the need for physical prototypes. Some popular simulation tools include:
- Finite Element Analysis (FEA) for structural, fluid, and thermal problem-solving
- Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) for efficient fluid flow and thermal performance optimization
- Multibody Dynamics (MBD) for analyzing the dynamic behavior of interconnected mechanical systems
- Design of Experiments (DOE) for understanding the effects of design changes on product performance
- System Simulation for predicting and optimizing overall system performance
These tools help engineers identify potential issues, optimize designs for cost reduction, quality improvement, and better overall performance.
Cost Estimation Software
Cost estimation tools like aPriori, SEER by Galorath, and Siemens Teamcenter provide accurate cost estimations and help identify areas for cost reduction. These software platforms give engineers valuable insights into potential savings and guide them towards the most impactful design changes. With features like real-time cost feedback, "what-if" analysis, and cost breakdown by manufacturing process, these tools enable data-driven decision-making in VA/VE.
Cost estimation software may be complex and costly, making it less accessible for smaller companies or projects with limited budgets. Furthermore, these tools often require accurate, up-to-date input data to provide reliable results.
Decision-Making and Brainstorming Tools
Visualizing and prioritizing ideas are vital during the VA/VE process. Platforms like Miro or Lucidchart allow teams to map out and evaluate potential cost reduction strategies, ensuring that they select the most effective options. These tools support real-time collaboration, allowing team members to contribute ideas, vote on proposals, and visualize the impact of various design changes on cost and performance.
While decision-making and brainstorming tools facilitate collaboration and idea generation, they may not offer specific features tailored to engineering workflows or integrate with CAD / PLM software.
Asynchronous Collaboration Platforms
With the rise of remote and distributed teams, asynchronous collaboration platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Confluence are increasingly important for efficient VA/VE processes.
These tools allow team members to communicate and share ideas, documents, and files at their own pace, regardless of their location or time zone. Asynchronous collaboration platforms offer numerous advantages:
- Improved collaboration between global team members
- A digital record of file versions to capture progress during a redesign
- Better inclusion of remote team members through voice and video messages
While asynchronous collaboration platforms provide a flexible and inclusive work environment, they may not be designed specifically for engineering workflows. Integrating these tools with CAD software, cost estimation platforms, or other engineering-specific applications may require additional effort.
Purpose-Built VA/VE Collaboration Platforms
Addressing the need for a specialized cost reduction solution for engineering teams, CoLab has developed a platform that merges the most effective features of traditional tools, advanced design and cost estimation software, decision-making and brainstorming tools, and asynchronous collaboration platforms. CoLab offers:
a. Streamlined project management and organization
b. Effortless integration with CAD data
c. Real-time and asynchronous collaboration capabilities
d. Engineering-focused features, such as on-component annotation and discussion
The optimal toolkit for a successful VA/VE process should facilitate collaboration, analysis, and decision-making. By integrating traditional organization-based tools with sophisticated design and cost estimation software, decision-making and brainstorming platforms, and asynchronous collaboration tools, engineering teams can enhance their cost reduction strategies and achieve superior outcomes. Purpose-built VA/VE collaboration platforms like CoLab provide a comprehensive solution specifically tailored for engineering workflows, empowering teams to overcome the constraints of individual tools and fully realize their cost reduction potential.