What is it?
Value Engineering (VE) is a product or process improvement program that is one of the oldest in the federal government. Its objective is to improve the functional value of a product or process for the warfighter. But as the word “value” implies, the improvement also includes reduced costs for the government.
Several Department of Defense regulations provide guidance for establishing and maintaining a VE program. The most recent, Public Law 111-350, went into effect Jan. 4, 2011. In Section 1711, it instructs agencies to analyze the functions of a program, project, system or even item of equipment with a goal of improving “performance, reliability, quality, safety, and life cycle costs.” This description mirrors the work U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) employees do every day in support of command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance readiness.
What can be part of it?
There are many potential sources for a Value Engineering Proposal (VEP) or a Value Engineering Change Proposal, which is a study performed by a contractor. While not an exhaustive list, some areas of consideration are items that are going through a design change; have long procurement periods; are difficult to manufacture or maintain; or have high labor, maintenance or operation costs. If a CECOM employee investigated a Product Quality Deficiency Report because a product did not meet its intended form, fit or function, a VEP can likely come from that investigation. Premature failure of an item may hinder mission readiness, so a VEP can be a way to mitigate those issues. If a program is encountering issues with obsolescence, it may be a prime opportunity to submit a project.
VE in action
Such was the case for the Product Improved - Combat Vehicle Crew (PI-CVC) headset. This headset is designed for use in acoustically challenging environments, such as tracked armored vehicles like the M1 Abrams tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Several years ago, the manufacturer notified the CECOM team that certain components would no longer be available. In 2018, the team subsequently initiated a study to determine what changes were needed and ensure those changes would not impact the headset specifications and requirements.
From that study, the team was able to identify an alternative material it could use in the headset while still meeting requirements and providing the same functionality as the original material. An existing supplier was already providing this material, so it was readily available. In addition, the team was able to identify and remove a redundant step in the process, thereby streamlining the supply chain and shortening delivery time. The VEP was completed and approved in 2020.
Clearing up misconceptions
There are some mistaken beliefs that streamlining a process can lead to job elimination, or that if costs of purchasing items for one program are reduced, the Army can use those saved dollars on another program. Neither of those are true.
Instead, the VE program creates an auditable record of cost savings (current-year dollars) and cost avoidances (future-year dollars) on programs of record. Due to the changes being instituted from the PI-CVC project, the team realized more than $56 million in cost savings. Those savings are shared for future investments into a pool of programs in need of funds. The savings benefit the entire Army and demonstrate its ability to use lessons learned over time to become more efficient while still achieving its mission.
This is where the CECOM Value Concepts Office (VCO) needs help. It is asking all Army communities to proactively find ways to streamline processes as well as provide products that allow warfighters to better complete their duties. VE project ideas do not need to come only from engineers, but from a wide variety of sources such as program or product manager customers, the field via equipment improvement recommendations, original equipment manufacturers and item managers, just to name a few. To complete a proposal, it is likely the analysis will need to include an engineer. The VCO can connect employees with engineering resources if needed.
The VCO is developing training classes to provide more instruction on how to find projects and document them properly. In the meantime, employees who have ideas for a VE project or would like more information on submitting a VEP can email the VCO at email@example.com.