5.31.2012

Product Improvement -- Which Approach?

Jay Mandelbaum, along with three co-authors, published a book titled Value Engineering Synergies with Lean Six Sigma: Combining Methodologies for Enhanced Results, and I recently had the chance to ask him a few questions during a phone conversation. I wanted some more clarification on value engineering, but more specifically, I asked him: "Why is it important to use more than one approach to product improvement?" Here is Jay's response:

Different process and product improvement methods were developed under different circumstances -- each has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Value Engineering (VE) is a practice that is distinguished from other techniques by three elements -- analysis of functions; a multidisciplinary team approach; and the step-by-step VE Job methodology.

VE works synergistically with all other continuous improvement initiatives. It makes any project better by using a unique approach to problem solving that includes the analysis of the functions of an item or a process to determine best value. More specifically, VE systematically determines all of the necessary functions of the item or process, identifies those functions that cost more than they are worth, and brainstorms alternative ways to perform those functions for further evaluation. This distinctive approach drives innovation because it encourages people to think about solutions in atypical ways.

An example recently came to my attention. The New York City FAIRTAX software integrates 40 major systems, 3,000 programs, and 1,400 job streams into seven subsystems, incorporating state-of-the-art technologies and an advanced development environment. The subsystems are: Taxpayer ID, Returns Processing, Property Management, Charge Processing, Accounts Receivable, Collections, and Case Tracking. The amount of information that needed to be input exceeded the capacity of all existing technologies. A Value Team analyzed the functions of the system architecture, software development, hardware, implementation plan, and staffing requirements. The study produced a change in the program to reduce the computer capacity requirements and a revised implementation and staffing plan which yielded monthly savings of $325,000.

What do you think of Jay's response? Do you have any experience using value engineering?

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