This weekend I was thinking about Value Engineering and how it can be supported in Product Lifecycle Management. So, just to bring everybody on this same page – Value Engineering. Value Engineering is taking origins in General Electric in WWII and focus on systematic approach of product improvements. For me, Value Engineering is representing a very interesting problem.
The core problem of Value Engineering, as I can see it, is in the process of systematic information gathering related to product development. My short problem definition is how systematically connect product value (worth) and product costs. This is the time when I’m thinking PLM can focus on. Since PLM can connect these two in the very systematic way, it can connect “dots” of product functions in the very early design stages, manufacturing processes and consumers/end users.
So, how do you think Value Engineering is represented today in PLM. My first test is Google. Search for “Value Engineering” and PLM brings very little results. You can see them here. Your result, of course, will be local. From what I’ve seen, Aras was there in the end of the first page. However, in general, I can see, PLM is neglecting Value Engineering as a term. So, I decided to dig inside and see if does it make sense to support Value Engineering in PLM
Definition of Value Engineering
Wikipedia: 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.
You can calculate the value as worth of a specific product feature divided by cost of this feature development total cost. So, assuming you have all information, you can calculate the value of product you are manufacturing for your users.
Functions and Features Definition
This is something that comes very early during a product design and planning process. As every product, before you start to design it, you are facing your future customers. Based on that you can define what functions you have to put in your product. In the end of this process, you can transform your product functions into product features.
Lifecycle Cost of the Feature
When we’ve done with the initial product features definitions, we need to calculate cost of each feature. However, we need to assume total lifecycle cost including design, manufacturing, support, disposal, etc. This is a place where PLM should effectively come to play since PLM should have all lifecycle information about a product.
Worth of the feature
The most important point. You need to estimate what is the worth of each feature for customer. However, it is not a simple task. You can use historical information, get an online survey, use any other information. I have to say, that when you live in Google-era, you may have lots of alternatives to get this information than when you had before. Of course, it depends on the type of products you manufacture. You may check QFD (Quality Function Development) methodologies. I found it very practical approach. As soon as you have done with worth of the features, just go and get a balanced view of your product value.
What I think, can be ultimate PLM benefits. If you have successfully deployed PLM system, you have a good chance to have lots of information you need already in your system. If your PLM covers requirements, you need to have a functional breakdown. If you PLM is linked to manufacturing, you have a good chance for costing information to be available.
The biggest challenge, is that PLM integration with the rest of the company is somewhat that not happening in all organizations. Most of PLM systems are still focused on engineering processes and connected well to customer’s, sales, marketing and, even, manufacturing functions. However, by focusing on value engineering, we can provide additional “values” to get things done in PLM way.
What is my conclusion today? Value Engineering has obvious values and benefits for the organization. However, ability of PLM systems to manage all information is critical. What is very important is to have cost information inside of PLM. Value Engineering approach can be, in my view, used as one of the PLM strategies in the organization to solve real problems.
Just my thoughts…