Value Engineering plays an important role in our Masters in Improvement philosophy. Products can always be improved, in terms of both functionality and costs, particularly in the markets in which Hittech is active, where the time-to-market aspect is of great importance. Product introduction often puts the emphasis on proving the functionality, with the emphasis shifting to improving the ratio between functionality and costs soon thereafter. Streamlining the process of optimising costs and/or functionality often involves the use of product roadmaps. These roadmaps are drawn up to efficiently implement product improvements from market feedback and value engineering ideas. In order to be able to support our customers in the continuous product improvement and the preparation of product roadmaps, Hittech has an experienced and specialised value engineering team at its disposal. The improvement possibilities for value engineering are not only limited to the product alone but also focus on the production process and the associated production and qualification tooling.
In order to fill in a product roadmap, the possibilities for improvement must be identified on the basis of a proper business case, in which the risks and savings are carefully weighed. Forming ideas for improvement requires a creative process on the one hand, while on the other, you need to create structure in order to achieve concrete results. To this end, Hittech has developed the 3C method to structurally identify promising business cases at Concept, Construction and Component level.
The product concept is subjected to a critical review at the highest level. At this level, value engineering proposals often have great potential. However, the impact of such a change is also large, which means that the implementation costs and potential risks can be considerable. In order to balance the business case, a substantial cost reduction and gain in functionality is necessary. In the example on the right of a high-resolution printer, we left the printing process of the machine intact, however, the entire machine layout and film handling has been overhauled. We succeeded in achieving a total cost reduction of thirty percent with increased productivity. This has clearly extended the life cycle of this product.
The manner in which the concept has been translated into a product design is something that is assessed at construction level. A change at construction level still has an impact on multiple parts or at product level. However, it also offers extensive options for achieving significant cost reductions. In the example on the left, a standard solution available on the market was initially chosen in order to realise a short time-to-market. The construction has been changed during the redesign. The supporting structure consisting of a number of milling parts has been replaced with a customised extrusion profile. Only the critical components for positional accuracy have been maintained. Ultimately, a complete forward and backward compatible module was designed at half the cost.
At component level, you practically always have the opportunity to implement cost optimisations. In the case of the following example, we originally opted for known technologies: milling, grinding and wire EDM. It is a bracket with an elastic construction element in it which, in combination with the surrounding construction, can convey one degree of freedom. With the knowledge of and experience in constructing sheet-metal work, this component has been redesigned. Ultimately, a cost price reduction of 85 percent was achieved.