VE Program Stays Course Despite COVID Shutdown

By Kristen Bergeson, Public Affairs – Huntsville Center, USACE

(Published September 22, 2021)

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Huntsville Center does business, but it has not changed the business we do.

For the Center’s Value Engineering (VE) Program, that means implementing innovative solutions to continue helping the Center’s programs provide high-quality work in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

Through programmatic workshops to evaluate methods and processes, the program increases value and stretches taxpayer resources by proactively searching for and resolving issues. The Corps of Engineers requires all Huntsville Center programs to conduct a VE study once every five years.

The collaborative workshops that involve contractors, stakeholders, Center employees and a VE facilitator are typically held in-person over the course of a week; however, the COVID-19 shutdown in March 2020 prevented in-person meetings. For the remaining programs to meet a 2021 deadline, the Center’s VE program had to alter the typical workshop format, said Carlos Reis, value engineering officer.

“Value engineering is a vital part of how we deliver projects and meet the needs of our customers, so it was crucial that all of our programs complete the workshop,” said Reis. “By going virtual, we were able fulfill this requirement and don’t have any overdue programs.”

The Center held five virtual workshops total, fulfilling the VE requirement for multiple programs: High Performance Computing, Resource Efficiency Managers, Centers of Standardization, Energy Savings Performance Contracting, Utility Energy Services Contracting, Power Purchase Agreement, and the Army Office of Energy Initiative.

David Yee, a project manager for the Center’s Energy Program who recently participated in one of the virtual VE workshops, said applying the value engineering method to projects and processes ensures the highest level of efficiency.

“Often, we get caught up in the small things without addressing underlying issues, which leaves us putting out one fire after another,” said Yee. “These workshops allow us to step back, identify challenges, and streamline our processes, so we’re correcting the problem as opposed to fixing the symptom.”

Though the VE program isn’t specifically focused on cutting costs, changes implemented following these workshops often have that result. In fiscal year 2020, Huntsville Center estimated a net savings and cost avoidance of $12 million due to value engineering initiatives.  For fiscal year 2021, that number rises to over $14 million, said Reis.