JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT VOLUME 6 NO 2, DECEMBER, 2008
VALUE ANALYSIS FOR COST REDUCTION: A NIGERIAN APPLICATION
Oludimu O. Ehalaiye
Department of Accounting, University of Jos, Jos, Nigeria
The objective of this paper is to discuss the applicability of the Value Analysis (VA) Technique as a tool for cost reduction within manufacturing firms in a developing country like Nigeria. A description of the technique is made and how the Value Analysis Job Plan is used to follow through the Value Analysis Process discussed. Recommendations such as the application of Value Analysis in Engineering, Inventory, Logistics and Transportation in manufacturing firms in Nigeria were also made. Challenges to the technique like resistance to change and time constraints for implementation were also highlighted. The study is significant to the survival and competitive ability of manufacturing firms in Nigeria and African firms within an increasingly globalized competition.
Keywords: Value, Value Analysis, Cost Reduction, Function Analysis, Job Plan.
The battle to fight rising cost of production is a challenging and formidable task for any business manager. This challenge becomes all the more apparent in a developing and struggling economy like Nigeria. Nigeria displays quite a despondent situation as manufacturers suffer from the Bring-Your-Own-Infrastructure-Syndrome (BYOIS), which simply means that to do any business in Nigeria the business promoters must be ready to provide their own infrastructure such as water, electricity, and communication, which adds additional cost to the production expense.
Thus, reducing as much cost as possible is very critical to the success and remains a veritable competitive strategy of a manufacturing firm in Nigeria taking into consideration of the fact that the average Nigerian consumer is not willing to pay any extra for the commodities that are produced by these firms. Even where they desire to pay, most simply do not have the means to do it as majority (at least 66%) of the country live below the extreme poverty line as documented by the United Nations
(World fact book, 2005).
The cost reduction machinery needs to be facilitated to harness the best possible mix of resources to guarantee quality products at
affordable prices not just what the firm thinks reasonable but what the customers are willing and effectively able to pay for such products. Value Analysis (VA) is a technique of cost reduction that can make this aspiration come true. This paper’s objective is to consider the critical elements of this technique and show how it can help manufacturing firms reduce their costs significantly especially in Nigeria.
Value Analysis is a cost reduction technique that has proven to be effective in the developed world in countries like U.S.A, Japan and Western Europe but with little or no application in developing countries especially in Africa (Carbone, 1996; Romani, 1997). Its birth originated during the World War II when there were shortages of components needed for production due to the war. The search for alternative components therefore became imperative but these alternatives were equally unavailable. With this challenge, the search turned not to alternative components but rather to alternative methods of fulfilling the tasks of
the components (Palmer et al., 1996). The process for finding alternative methods for performing functions became known as “function analysis.” The development of this idea later came to become Value Analysis.
Lawrence Miles who is widely regarded as the father of Value Analysis developed the technique’s philosophy, which considers the relationship between functionality and cost when he was an engineer with General Electric in the 1940s and 50s. He questioned approach-to-processes, systems, and components and sought alternatives based on an examination of functions. Miles (1989) described Value Analysis as
“a complete system for identifying and dealing with factors that cause uncontributing cost or effort in products, process, or services. This system uses all existing technologies, knowledge and skills to efficiently identify cost or efforts that do not contribute to the customer’s needs and wants”.
The objective of Value Analysis is to achieve equivalent performance for lower cost without “reducing in the slightest degree of quality, safety, life, reliability, dependability and the features and attractiveness that the customer wants” (Miles, 1989). The aim of Value Analysis is also to achieve an assigned target product cost by (i) identifying improved product designs that reduce the product’s cost without sacrificing functionality and/or (ii) eliminating unnecessary functions that increase the product’s costs and for which customers are not prepared to pay extra for (Drury, 2004). Thus, Value Analysis is geared towards maximizing the value of a product at its minimal cost (See figure 1). Value Analysis is a form of cost /benefit analysis where functions are viewed as the beneficial characteristics of the product (Sivaloganathan et al., 2000).
The concept of VALUE is central to the Value Analysis technique and it determines whether an activity is worth incurring cost on or not (See figure 1).
Figure 1: Value Analysis Framework
SAVE International in its Value Methodology standard defines “Value” as
The lowest possible cost to reliably provide required functions at the desired time and
place with the essential quality and other performance factors to meet user requirements (SAVE, 1998)
A product or service is therefore of value if it meets the user requirements at the lowest price possible. Functionality and cost thus define what value can be placed on a product (Sperling, 2001; Sivaloganathan et al., 2000). Clearly a value-added activity is an activity that customers perceive as adding usefulness to the product or service they purchase (Drury, 2000; Feather, 1998).
The Measurement of Value
Value is measured thus: VALUE = FUNCTION COST
Where: Function Cost = the lowest possible cost for reliably providing the required function at the desired time and place with the essential quality.
Actual Cost = the cost of providing the function in the existing design; this is higher than the function cost owing to superfluous design features.
Value = the efficiency of the design; i.e. how well the product provides the function.
Measuring the Value of a product using Value Analysis is based on the functionality of the product. Thus, improving value means enhancing function or reducing cost or a bit of both actions. The philosophy behind this technique of Cost reduction is principally “function analysis.” It believes that if a product is designed in the context of functionality, the product’s value should increase (See figure 1).
Value Analysis Job Plan
Value Analysis methodology/technique employs a systematic interdisciplinary approach (Lucey, 2003; Drury, 2004) to the analysis of functions of product components and products themselves. The Value analysis ‘Job Plan’ is a prescribed sequence of steps that is used to effectively analyze a product or service in order to develop the maximum number of alternatives to achieve product’s or service required functions. The Society of American Value Engineers (SAVE) has provided a standard version of the Job plan, which is reproduced below:
Figure 2: Value Analysis Job Plan
Source: Value Methodology Standard, SAVE International (1998)
The Value Analysis Job plan shown above (Figure 2) uses a structural approach to how the evaluation of value contributing functions is obtained. The process is broadly classified into three: Pre-study, Value study and Post-study. Value Analysis is most potent in the Value study section and its technical work is arrived at in this section. The three sections will be considered briefly in the following paragraphs:
This phase is usually referred to as the preparation phase (Sperling, 2001) or the
orientations phase (Webb, 1993). Here the scope, objectives, and foreseeable constraints of the Value Analysis study are stated. What the customer wants from the products or
services are also gathered. According to Baker (2004) Value-pricing follows this basic model: Customers>Value>Price>Cost>Product, which does not follow the normal cost-plus pricing model that costs products first then offers them to customers at a profit. The VA technique tends to reduce cost from the knowledge of what the customers wants in a product and the value they seek to derive from it. Collecting customers’ preferences and what would add value to them is thus very important for the purpose of the study. The next very important matter to consider in the Pre-study phase is the composition of a Value Analysis team and the selection of its leader. An appropriate VA team according to Acharya et al., (1995) consists of a leader who supervises team members, who in turn has the expertise to develop VA ideas and have been trained in the VA study process. The keys to any VA study are the expertise and experience of team members. Team members should represent a cross section of technical fields and mixed-disciplined included in the cost management aspects of the project. The team should consist of generalists and specialists who are freethinking and flexible. It is also important that members should understand the operating methodologies for each phase of the VA process. The dynamism of the team members and the synergy of their various backgrounds and experience provide great leverage for the VA process to be able to deliver the output expected at the minimal cost possible with the highest value.
The stage consists of six interrelated and sequential stages. It starts with the information phase and ends with the presentation of reports phase.
Information Phase: This phase is a follow up to the Pre-study. Its objective is to complete the value study data package started in the Pre-study. The study team agrees to the most appropriate targets for improvement such as value, cost, performance and schedule factors. These are reviewed with appropriate
management such as the project manager, value study sponsor and the designer to obtain concurrence (SAVE, 1998). Such information can be gathered from the client, technicians, customers and internal material from similar projects in the past. The important aspect of this phase is the inestimable value of an information-rich VA team. Without reasonable and quality information the success of the exercise is highly elusive.
Function Analysis Phase: This phase can be termed as the soul of the Value Analysis process. It represents the critical point of looking into the past and taking what is profitable from it, then examining the present based on the scope and target value enhancing areas of the product to know what is to be of functional value or not. Functional Analysis encompasses two basic steps which are functional identification and function classification (Sivaloganathan et al., 2000).
The first step of function identification simply involves the study of each subsystem or component in the product or process under consideration and to find out exactly what functions they are to perform or currently performing. The number of functions to be defined will surely depend on the product involved and the scale of operations under study. When these functions are clearly identified the next step is to classify them into whether such functions are basic (primary) (solution neutral) or secondary functions (solution specific) (Ho et al., 2000, Sivaloganathan et al., 2000). The VA process aims at eliminating unnecessary functions and searches for cheaper means to perform the functions that have been deemed acceptable by the design team. Very importantly this phase challenges the VA team to relate their functional findings to the product hardware in order for the redesigning recommendations to be properly planned.
During this phase function models should also be developed especially the FAST (Function Analysis System Technique) model. Using the model or its variants like the FASTPERT (The FAST model combined
with Programme Evaluation and Review technique (PERT) and FACD (Function Analysis Concept Design) would allow for the clarification of product functions and the assignment of costs to these functions in order to highlight areas that need improvement and redesigning (Tucson, 1992; SAVE, 1998; Stocks and Singh, 1999).
Creative Phase: This phase is usually referred to as the “brainstorming” session (Sperling, 2001). The phase is also called the “speculation phase” (Webb, 1993; SAVE, 1998). During this phase the VA team would generate alternative design solutions for the potential areas of improvement. A key success factor for this phase is the allowance for new ideas by team members. The room is open to challenge fully the status quo and bring up ideas which may sound initially “crazy” for the purpose of further refining and amendments. This is noted aptly in the Value Methodology standard as follows:
“There are two keys to successful speculation: first, the purpose is not to conceive of ways to design a product or service, but to develop ways to perform the functions selected for study. Secondly creativity is a mental process in which past experience are combined and recombined to form new combinations. The purpose is to create new combinations which will perform the desired functions at less total cost and improved performance than was previously attainable. The guiding principle for attaining this objective is to suspend all forms of judgment/evaluation. Free flow of thoughts and ideas without criticism is required (SAVE, 1998).”
Evaluation Phase: At this phase the ideas generated are carefully scrutinized against the agreed value criteria. Alternatives discovered are discreetly evaluated and the best ones are selected. Where there are many fantastic alternatives a ranking process should be used to list the alternatives in order of feasibility and highest value delivery. The ideas selected are to be championed by a member of the team who will take it to next phase-the development phase.
Development phase: The objective of the Development phase is to expand the best ideas generated into workable solutions (Hauser, 1997). The proposed improvements are developed into more complete designs whose benefits and costs can be quantitatively assessed (Sivaloganathan et al., 2000). These improvements and workable solutions would be written down into an implementation plan containing their advantages and disadvantages which would subsequently be presented to management for approval and inputs.
Presentation phase: The proposals developed are presented to company management or project sponsor for approval. Their approval provides the green light for the proposed changes. If the management thinks the study is not persuasive enough the VA team may need a reappraisal of the exercise and bring out better recommendations until they merit management’s nod (See figure 3). Presentations are done by comprehensive reports both oral and written. Clear explanation of proposed changes to management by an eloquent and competent team member would be helpful in convincing management of the Value Analysis plan.
Journal of Research in National Development 6(2) December, 2008
Figure 3: Iterative Value Analysis Job Plan
Source: Sivaloganathan S., Kermode G.R, Shahin T.M.M (2000): Value Analysis- the technique; state of art and future directions
This is the concluding part of the Value Analysis process. The proposed changes if approved by management are expected to be implemented and reviewed with expected outcomes. The implementation can be carried out by the Value Analysis team themselves if projects involved are small (Archarya et al., 1995) but they are usually carried out by the design team of the firm or contracted to a specialist in such matters. Irrespective of what means of implementation, it is vital that the VA team be in touch especially the team leader with the implementation process in order to constantly conduct assessments of the process and make relevant changes and adjustments where necessary. A post audit of the implementation process has also been recommended (SAVE, 1998) to verify to management the full benefits resulting from the Value Analysis study.
The Value Analysis Job plan achieves all the aforementioned objectives through a question and challenge approach. Lawrence Miles laid down 10 basic questions when using the VA technique on a product or component. They are as quoted by Morgan (1995):
- Does its use contribute to value?
- Is its cost proportionate to its usefulness?
- Does is it need all its features?
- Is there anything better for the intended use?
- Can a usable part be made at a lower-cost method?
- Can a standard product be found that will be usable?
- Is it made on proper tooling-considering quantities made?
- Do material, reasonable labor, overhead, and profit total its cost?
Journal of Research in National Development 6(2) December, 2008
Will another dependable supplier provide it for less?
- Is anyone buying it for less?
For this process to achieve Cost reduction it would involve the following key aspects as stated by Horngren et al., (2006):
- Understanding customer requirements and competitor actions
- Selecting a target price and determine a target cost
- Anticipating how costs are locked and incurred
- Improving product and process designs to achieve target costs and better quality
- Using cross-functional teams to coordinate actions that need to be taken throughout the value chain
The answers to the above questions as it is specific to an organization would provide ample opportunity to significantly reduce product costs.
Value Analysis Application In Nigerian Manufacturing Firms
So far a general review has been made on the Value Analysis technique. The process, workings and objectives have also been considered. The issue now is can the process work at all in a developing country like Nigeria? What areas in a manufacturing set up can be improved to enhance product quality and reduce cost? Are the questions postulated by Lawrence Miles for the VA technique answerable in the Nigerian context? What are the challenges of implementing a VA technique in Nigerian manufacturing firms? These questions and some others would be our point of reference as we look at how Value Analysis can be a mechanism for cost reduction in different departments of Nigerian manufacturing firms.
Many manufacturing firms in Nigeria incur significant costs in the lengthy assembly process. Questions as to the necessity of a process should be asked all the time and ways to reduce the assembly line sought. Each process in the assembly setup should be identified uniquely. The VA team needs to evaluate the usefulness of every step of the assembly line and find out whether the process can be removed completely without affecting the production exercise or can be merged with another process. Also is there alternative technology that would reduce costs that could be employed in place of the identified process and whether some refining of machinery within this process would save costs and add value to the product. The function analysis of each identified process should be done with utmost care so that both primary and secondary functions of each process are set out clearly and proper evaluation of each process carried under the test of functionality, quality and cost reduction/elimination.
Engineering and Design
Product design is critical to the success of the product in the market place. A floored design may cost a company a fortune and an assessment of this vital part of any manufacturing firm should be thoroughly considered. Pylkas et al. (2002) remarks with respect to the implementation of VA in the construction of public buildings: “Design integrity is an important consideration in this project and an important item to consider in any VA Proposal. Providing an attractive, durable, functional building is certainly a design consultant’s responsibility when spending taxpayers’ money”. Relevant questions to ask here include: Are there alternative materials that are cheaper than the one we are currently using which will not jeopardize product quality? What customer requirements are critical to the product’s acceptability in the market? Do these requirements mesh with the functionality of the product? If no, how can they be inculcated into the product without
increasing costs? Are there specialty suppliers who can supply component parts for our production for less? Also, what new technology for machining and tooling is there available that can save cost, result in great product quality without hampering functionality?
Manufacturing firms critically require raw materials for conversion to their finished products. Obtaining and processing these materials is what the manufacturing process is about. Obtaining quality material at low cost is thus a real challenge for manufacturers especially in Nigeria. Some manufacturers here are beset with this problem to the point that they import raw materials at expensive rates. The VA process would have this aspect carefully evaluated. What kind of materials and grade of materials do we need? Can we find local and proximate suppliers of these materials in order to reduce delivery costs? Are there cheaper alternatives that meet our quality standards? Our current materials are they still what is required or should we change to new or improved ones without increasing costs? Also the storage process of these materials should be looked at to safeguard the life span and use of these materials especially items like chemicals. Raw materials that are well managed and would help reduce costs significantly.
In as much as the fact remains that without excellent product packages sales usually will not soar this does not mean that budgets for product packaging should be exorbitant and “cost abused”. It is recommended that based on the Value Analysis initiative which takes an interdisciplinary approach the marketing department’s representative should be on the VA team with the production people. The idea is that they would be able to sort out various differences with the goal of reducing costs and enhancing functionality within the
VA framework. Challenging questions to be asked include: What impact does packaging have on the sales of our product? What kind of packaging influences the customer of our product? Is there a direct relationship between the product package and the returns we get from it? Are there alternatives that are cheaper that can be used? What about cheaper local content in terms of raw materials for packaging? Can lighter packaging materials be got to reduce product weight and lessen transportation costs? How often do we need our packs in order to ascertain how they would be stored in the most cost effective way?
Inventory takes up quite a chunk of cost and is ultimately passed unto the customer to pay. This is increasingly becoming unacceptable and firms that do a good job of reducing their inventory costs are able to reduce price and get favorable patronage compared to firms that do not. Basic costs that inventory causes are ordering cost, holding cost and stock-out costs (Lucey, 1996). By implication VA would be interested in the reduction of these costs. The VA team should consider how much is invested into ordering of items for production and marketing of products and find out the activities that contribute to the bottom-line rather than follow a scheduled ordering company process. In Nigeria manufacturing firms generally maintain stock levels of both raw materials and finished goods in order to keep up with both production and customer demand. Inventory therefore piles up in most firms because optimal management of such stock is usually not easily achieved and for this, cost is built up unnecessarily into products. Critical questions on the various levels of inventory required for production and demand should be asked and an optimal management technique should be adopted and better techniques of holding inventory should be sought. Particular inventory of items not contributing to the functionality of products
should also be removed and firms in Nigeria need to make adjustments into how stock deliveries are contracted. Many times quotations are costly and follow corrupt route but strong internal control measures can restrict these practices. The VA team would need a careful evaluation of these areas and monitor closely the implementation of improved inventory management models for these modifications to have impact on the product(s).
Computers, Business systems, and Electronic components
The wave of information technology is sweeping globally and Nigerian manufacturing firms are not spared from the influx of various kinds of technological components that are supposed to enhance their businesses. A lot of investment on the part of these firms is committed to upgrade their current technology components. The question is all these new components that are purchased are they really needed or are they just for cosmetic purposes that do not contribute to the functionality and quality of the product. Simply put are customers not paying too much for firms’ products because so much cost is incurred on administrative components such as computers and other electronic gadgets? Through Value Analysis these questions can be put into perspective and the genuineness of what component is been used for what evaluated. The cost of acquiring and maintaining these components is usually enormous and they need to be cut. Many Nigerians find what is fashionable and in vogue appealing and this attitude is taken to the office, so Directors want the latest computers and the use of these components are usually at less than full capacity. Such component may not even be relevant to the company’s operations but because of its “in vogue ness” they are purchased. In agreement with Morgan (1995) I believe the following questions would enhance significantly the VA team’s efforts in this area.
Transportation and Logistics
Another significant cost contributor remains firms’ logistical processes. Transportation costs incurred by companies in Nigeria are quite high. Major causes of this situation include poor road networks, inaccessibility to trains that can carry heavy equipment at cheaper rates and robust use of heavy vehicles that run on plenty fuel. With rising cost of oil globally increased fuel consumption constitutes non-value added to products many times. What about telephone calls and other communication device costs and airline tickets? If not checked they can become huge cost contributors. VA would seek to cut down this through the answers to the following questions: What are the logistical needs of the company? What marketing routes do our marketing staffs ply to distribute our products? Can we get cheaper logistics companies to handle our mails and packages? How have we used technology to cut down transportation costs? With the advent of the mobile phone revolution in Nigeria recently, most businesses that require physical contact could be discussed on phone, this naturally should reduce fuel costs. Firms also need to ask: Should we lease or buy vehicles? What are the cost differentials over the long-term? Call costs should be checked by making sure that employees do not use the telephone indiscriminately? Flight tickets can also become a serious cost burden. Firms should make sure unless the travel is going to add value to the company’s output eventually it should not be sponsored especially for small firms. Lean management should be encouraged. Executives need to be encouraged to be careful with how they use the telephone since they usually call more and expend huge amounts of company resources on this. Also the use of so many official cars by executives should be discouraged if VA is going to succeed in reducing costs. Some executives in Nigerian firms are attached with 2-3 official cars and accompanying drivers, if this were cut down to one the firm would save the cost of
purchase and maintenance of at least two other vehicles and also the costs of paying the drivers employed on this vehicles. Lastly an audit process needs to be put in place to check our transportation/logistical bills in order to detect structural problems within our logistical operations and suggest recommendations.
Challenges To Implementation
Considering the unique business environment of Nigeria implementing a Value Analysis programme would be challenged by the following problems:
i. Resistance to change: Restructuring usually does not go down well with people generally. Value Analysis challenges a firms’ comfort zone and because of that the programme may be rebuffed vehemently by staff since it involves major paradigm shifts in how things are done.
ii. Cost/Benefit Analysis: Most times VA experts who are usually consultants need to be invited to help facilitate the process and this might be expensive. Managers become wary to go this part when they have not seen the dividends of the process and yet have to pay these consultants.
iii. Time constraints: Not enough time may be given to the VA process and this would jeopardize the process. Firm’s who want drastic positive results may be too much in a hurry with the process and this would limit the effectiveness of the outcome.
iv. Not many believers: A final point to note here is that for VA to work the team must believe in the process. In the words of McKew (1999) “Value engineering (Analysis) must be a team effort in order to provide the optimum solution for the application”. Thus if the team involved is not in harmony and all forms of sub optimality expelled it would be difficult to achieve the lofty ideals of the Value Analysis philosophy.
Reducing costs is critical to the profitability of any firm especially in Nigeria and Value Analysis remains one of the techniques that can be used to achieve this. Although implementing the process may be challenging, I believe that the Technique can be implemented within the Nigerian manufacturing context. What it would require is to recognize the very essence of it, and to explain clearly to stakeholders what changes it would require and the ultimate support of top management and the need to be ready to make necessary sacrifices to secure the future of the firm and the industry in general.
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