Value engineering is far from new. The term was invented by Larry Miles of General Electric in the 1940s – spurred by wartime material shortages.
Value engineering seeks to pre-empt and solve potential problems, reduce costs, while improving function and quality. Given those benefits you’d think that developers, contractors and clients would be beating down the door.
Since its creation, the concept has been developed and implemented across multiple sectors, including construction – well, sort of. It’s fair to say that the application of value engineering in construction has been patchy. If value engineering were the norm, construction wouldn’t be plagued by stagnating productivity, late delivery, budget overruns and poor quality.
One obstacle to applying value engineering in construction is that it has often been viewed purely through the frame of cost-cutting. Reducing and controlling construction costs is important – but there are other important elements on the scorecard.
Manufacturing has found it easier to apply and enjoy the benefits of value engineering because it is a closed and controlled system. Supply chains are tightly managed and there’s a high level of automation. Where manufacturing is carried out in multiple locations processes can be replicated exactly. Process improvements can be thoroughly tested before being rolled out.
A traditional construction project doesn’t look much like the closed manufacturing model. The ‘system’ is affected by many external factors including the weather, the experience and skills of operatives, and the availability of people with the skills needed to complete the work. Automation is limited and the process relies on a manual interpretation of the plans.
Projects with a high Pre-Manufactured Value (PMV) are different. More of the construction process takes place in a modern, highly automated and digitally controlled manufacturing facility. This is a context in which value engineering, in its broadest sense, becomes relevant.
So, if you value ‘value engineering’ it’s also worth exploring the PMV of a proposed project. One leads to the other.
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