US Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center

Furnishings Program team focuses on ‘better, smarter, faster’ at VE workshop

U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville
Published Dec. 6, 2019
Randy Barber, a process improvement consultant who led a three-day value engineering workshop for the Furnishings Program, captures input from workshop participants at the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, Alabama, Nov. 5, 2019.

Randy Barber, a process improvement consultant who led a three-day value engineering workshop for the Furnishings Program, captures input from workshop participants at the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, Alabama, Nov. 5, 2019.

Participants of a three-day value engineering workshop for the Furnishings Program review the results of the Function Analysis Phase before diving into the Creative Phase at the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, Alabama, Nov. 4, 2019.

Participants of a three-day value engineering workshop for the Furnishings Program review the results of the Function Analysis Phase before diving into the Creative Phase at the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, Alabama, Nov. 4, 2019.

Jessica Winningham, an interior designer and participant of a three-day value engineering workshop for the Furnishings Program, adjusts sticky notes during the workshop’s Creative Phase at the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, Alabama, Nov. 4, 2019.

Jessica Winningham, an interior designer and participant of a three-day value engineering workshop for the Furnishings Program, adjusts sticky notes during the workshop’s Creative Phase at the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, Alabama, Nov. 4, 2019.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Dec. 6, 2019) – A group of Huntsville Center professionals took part in a value engineering workshop for the Furnishings Program Nov. 4–6 with the goal of improving processes, reducing costs and boosting value for stakeholders.

Randy Barber, an independent contractor who led the workshop, said “value” can mean different things to different people, so he frames it with one question: “How do we improve the return on investment?”

The Furnishings Program is part of Huntsville Center’s Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate and procures furnishings for administrative, barracks, lodging and educational facilities at federal agencies throughout the world. Their mission includes managing the delivery of products and can include project management, installation, quality assurance and interior design.

Barber said the workshop was the perfect opportunity to look at the program’s existing process and ask questions like “How do we make the process better,” “Why are we doing the things we do?” and “Is there a better way to do the things we do?”

The group of workshop participants, or VE Team, consisted of individuals with a range of program knowledge, technical experience and seniority, according to Stephanie Hardin, program manager with the Centralized Furnishings Branch.

“This mixture of members ensured that diversity was represented so that topics could be brainstormed with maximum discussion,” Hardin said.

“That’s exactly the goal,” said Carlos Reis, project manager and value engineering officer with the Business Management Office who took part in the workshop. “We want people with different views so we can come up with better solutions and better alternatives to solve problems to fit everybody’s needs.”

The workshop followed a six-phase job plan as outlined by SAVE International, an organization that establishes value engineering standards for the federal government:

  1. Information: Gathering information to better understand the program and process. “We wanted to understand how the process worked and how the different players fit into it,” Barber said.
  2. Function analysis: “That is really asking the question of, ‘Why does the product, project or process exist? What’s its main purpose?’” he said. “Once you identify its main purpose, there are subsequent things that, functionally, you do that support that main purpose.”
  3. Creative: This is an opportunity to generate ideas about new or different ways to accomplish those functions. “In this case we had five functions we brainstormed upon and said, ‘What are alternative ways to do the functional requirement we’re trying to meet?’ ‘Let’s look at what we do today, are we doing something that we shouldn’t be doing or are we not doing something today that we should be doing? And if we’re doing something today, is there a better, smarter, faster way to do it?’” From this phase, the group generated 37 ideas, each written on a sticky note and posted to the wall.
  4. Evaluation: SAVE International defines this phase as a time to “synthesize ideas and concepts and select those that are feasible for development into specific value improvements.” For this workshop, participants reduced the 37 ideas by roughly a third.
  5. Development: “The development phase really is the opportunity to take the subset of these ideas and flesh out details about what the change might look like, how might it get implemented, and what the implications are of cost and resources being applied,” Barber said.
  6. Presentation: This is an opportunity to brief leaders on the results of the workshop. “My opinion is that this is not a decision-making opportunity; it’s the time for decision-makers to understand what the thought process was. So, as they go back through and review and evaluate the work that was done by the VE Team, there is context associated with what was done. They can take context, put it with a black-and-white report and say, ‘Is this something we should consider?’”

“The open discussions provided thoroughly defined actions that will hopefully result in improving process and efficiencies,” Hardin said.

Stand-out topics included the increased need for documenting programmatic processes, which Hardin said the PDTs would be responsible for developing. This would cover program templates and using rules of thumb for certain situations.

Another hot topic was process automation to free up resources for PDTs to focus their expertise in more design work and to grow product lines such as Army family housing and general and flag officer quarters.

Now, Hardin said, a dedicated team has been established to work through the final VE report and begin implementing improved and/or new processes. She said she expects the majority of the accepted actions will be completed within a year, along with several long-term goals further out.

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To learn more about the Furnishings Program, visit www.hnc.usace.army.mil/Media/Fact-Sheets/Fact-Sheet-Article-View/Article/1910931.