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Posted 9/28/2018

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By Stephen Baack
Huntsville Center Public Affairs

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Sept 28, 2018) – Huntsville Center’s Value Engineering process offers stakeholders a way to analyze their military construction project during the planning phase to improve the final product for the best possible value.

But how do they get the most out of the Value Engineering process itself?

The first step is to start the study process early. The earlier in the project a stakeholder participates in a VE study, the easier it is to make changes, according to Vernon Petty, project manager for costs with the Center of Standardization at Huntsville Center.

The lion’s share of that participation comes in the form of a multidisciplinary workshop that brings stakeholders and Value Engineering experts into the same room. Petty said it’s critical that this happens before the project’s design phase.

“Once design starts, it’s a pretty well done deal,” Petty said. “Even if the customer stands up and says, ‘That’s not what I want,’ nobody has the money or time to stop and go back and change it all over again.”

Workshops often result in modifications to existing plans based on input from both sides of the table, but it is still the stakeholder who has the lead in making decisions.

“They’re the ones who say, ‘Yeah, that’s a really good idea. Let’s develop it,’ or, ‘I don’t think that’s really going to work,’” said Tiffany Torres, Value Engineering officer and value program manager.

Petty compared the relationship between the VE team and stakeholder to that of a homeowner and homebuilder.

“Your ideas might all sound great until you talk to the builder who actually has to build it,” Petty said. “It’s that crosstalk between the builder and the guy who has an idea of what he wants.”

In other words, Petty said the interaction between the stakeholder and the engineers in the workshop is like “taking a dream and pounding it into the ground.”

“You lose a little of the dream but you pick up a little reality,” he said.

Nevertheless, Petty stressed the need to think big, too. The workshop gives all participants the freedom to do something he calls “blue sky” thinking.

Petty recalled a workshop years ago for a 2,500-acre range project at Fort Knox, Kentucky. One of these blue-sky ideas was to literally reroute the half mile of the Ohio River that was cutting through the range. While this might have actually been an easier fix construction-wise, the idea was quickly thrown out due to environmental concerns and the associated legal issues.

“It wasn’t the fact that the idea was bad; it was that, due to the circumstances of life, it could never happen,” said Petty. “So, in one phase of the study, you’re encouraged to think everything you can think of that would help the project, and then in the next step they go back and start crossing them out.”

Another recommendation Petty has for stakeholders is to be as engaged with the process as possible.

“They will make so much more progress on everything,” Petty said. “The design will go easier, the paperwork will go easier, and the VE study will definitely be better because they actually cared.”

Running a full value-engineering study isn’t a requirement for every project. For projects between $2 million and $10 million, Torres said a stakeholder must at least address the value engineering requirement and document it in a value management plan.

“Between $2 million and $10 million, we have a bit of flexibility,” Torres said. “Running a workshop like that may not really be the best way to go because it does take a lot of resources. Or, maybe the dollar value of the project is so low that there’s not really a benefit.”

Additionally, while Huntsville Center’s VE program conducts studies for standard designs, each district does value engineering studies for site-specific work.

“We put out a standard full plan, a standard cost, and we lay out how it’s supposed to function,” Petty said. “Then, when we give it to an installation, they put their skin on the outside based on their installation; they do their air conditioning based on where they are; earthquake protection where they are; their structures where they are. Their role is, ‘What do we need to make it work in the geographical area we’re in?’ We’re just looking at the big picture of, ‘This is what the floor plan needs to do; this is how it needs to flow.”

Whether the project is $2 million or $50 million, starting the process early and being as engaged as possible are the keys to success, Torres and Petty said.

“When the owner of the product and the Corps get together, normally it’s amazing what both sides will see that the other doesn’t,” Petty said. “And there’s no other meeting we have that does that.”

Editor’s note: This article accompanies another story about Value Engineering, “Recent workshop highlights strengths of Value Engineering.” Read it here: www.hnc.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Stories/Article/1648568.

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