With rising labour costs and prices of raw materials on an upward trajectory, many industries are finding it harder to maintain cost-effective productions. Although it is logical to keep consumers interested by manufacturing premium products designed with innovative features, it is not easy to justify the production costs.
One methodology that seems to have found a balance between cost and product design is value engineering. This is a process that encourages the systematic review of new and existing products during the design phase, and carefully substitutes materials and methods with less expensive alternatives. However, this does not compromise the functionality and quality of the product in question.
In other words, value engineering recognises that if a product is supposed to be in the market for a specific duration of time, and is considered obsolete thereafter, it should be reworked on with cost saving methods and alternatives for materials but not compromising on the product’s quality nor its intended purpose. This is because manufacturing the product with higher-grade components would equate to higher costs, which is not ideal.
Simply put, a well-developed value engineering process is focused on value analysis – the study of how to achieve essential functions at the lowest total costs over their physical attributes. To put value engineering into practice, here are two simple steps that can help strike a balance between design and production cost:
Understand the Core Objectives of the Product
For any product to excel in an overly saturated marketplace, businesses must first identify the core objectives of their products. Is it a “me-too product” that many brands have, as they furiously compete to gain market share, or is it a game-changing innovation that raises the benchmark for a particular product category?
Which is why, every stakeholder involved in a project, from product design to final production, must be fully aligned when it comes to the goals and purposes for developing the product. It is also at this starting point that important questions such as “Why”, “How”, and “What” must be addressed. Essentially, the team must be on the same page, from ideation to product launch. Only then, can the most appropriate strategies and costs be derived.
This is especially crucial for organisations producing high-tech electronic products, smart connectivity devices, and telematics equipment, as these require stringent product design processes. As such, adopting a value engineering approach can prevent unexpected escalation of production costs, as it will keep the desire to fulfil the innovative aspect of the product at all costs without carefully evaluating the overall value of the project in check. Businesses can follow a three-phase approach to identify the core objectives of a product:
Understand the problems that need to be addressed
This phase involves gathering information through market research, surveys, and focus group studies. The data collected will reveal potential issues, market needs, and the missing gaps before a product can be conceptualised and designed.
Creating a product or service to fill the gap
Simply put, this is where businesses identify what products/services and functions can solve the problem/s identified in phase one. A function analysis should be adopted at this phase to consider what features and components will work for consumers instead of following how existing products in the market work. As such, this may involve:
- taking existing products apart to re-examine how to improve them
- changing the raw materials and components to improve efficiency
- removing good-to-have but redundant features that do not add value
- combining existing functions with new features to increase efficiency
Because this is a critical part of the entire project, expect many rounds of deliberation and testing before a particular product design is shortlisted.
Evaluation of the new design
When a new product’s design is conceptualised, it will go through an evaluation phase. This third phase breaks down the advantages and disadvantages of each idea to decide if any element should be dropped or more functions must be added. Typically, a weighted matrix analysis will be used to study individual components before the best alternatives are selected for consideration in the production phase.
Pre-set Production Cost Targets
Traditionally, production cost budgeting often happens after the design phase. Should the design prove to be too costly to produce, designers would have to redesign it to meet affordable cost targets. What could happen thereafter is a scaled-down version of the original design that distorts the functionality and reliability of the product.
Therefore, adopting sound value engineering where design and production costs are closely monitored right from the start of the project is deemed a more viable method for modern-day product development. According to a study by Capgemini, a design-to-cost approach can create savings of 15% to 40%. This method ensures a much higher rate of cost savings as it deviates from the traditional way of cutting costs and continuous manufacturing improvement methods.
While it is not possible to determine the exact budget during the planning phase, the value engineering method advocates a pre-set production budget that is strictly adhered to, and this involves careful management at every stage such as product design, material procurement, and man-hour allocation. It even takes into consideration unexpected costs for design amendments and an increase in production volume.
Truth be told, value engineering planning and execution is never an easy one. There must be meticulous management and close tracking of costs against budget to ensure cost-effective production at the end of the project. This also points to the need to evaluate if there are enough resources and project managers to keep the resource-demanding process going. If not, businesses are more likely to benefit from engaging industry experts with the relevant knowledge and skillsets to assist in the product design and development processes.
The Leading Specialist in Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS)
PCI is an innovative EMS manufacturer with more than 50 years of industry experience. Here at PCI, we help our clients develop innovative designs and products with optimised functions and features using the right materials and technologies so that they can enjoy cost-efficient product development and profitable product launches across global markets.
Our capabilities go beyond providing manufacturing solutions to fully integrated product development so that clients can turn their product ideas into reality without having to build an extensive development team or invest in a manufacturing plant. For businesses seeking the services of an EMS provider, you can either email or call us to discuss a project, and we will outline what we can do for you, how much it will cost, and the timeline in which we will have it completed. Our dedicated customer service team will provide a comprehensive proposal customised to your requirements.
Every product development process can benefit from a stringent value engineering approach that focuses on increasing the value of products with meticulous examination of functions or reduction of production cost. However, it is not always easy for stakeholders to decide what functions an innovative product should retain, or which features should be removed to maintain cost-effective production. To get around this, businesses will need to engage the services of experienced EMS providers such as PCI for sound end-to-end solutions before delving into product development. With over 50 years of experience, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, and a large pool of designers and engineers, PCI is proficient in conceiving innovative products that are cost-effective for our partners.