Implementing Value Engineering to Improve the Food Distribution Process

By Monisa Manju Nagarajan Gomathi, Xiao Xiao Lyu and Trey Tan – Arizona State University MS Candidates in Construction Management


Established in 1984, the Association of Arizona Food Banks (AAFB) is a private, non-profit organization serving five regional food bank members and a network of nearly 1,200 food pantries and agencies. Agua Fria Food and Clothing Bank is one of the five food bank members that is actively serving the people of Arizona. Their mission is to see a “Hunger-Free Arizona” where every impoverished person would have enough provisions to be relieved from hunger.


Agua Fria Food Bank is located in the county of Maricopa, Arizona. They serve a total average of 500 families during the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. The number of people who benefit from this food bank is enormous during the holiday season. Hence, this Value Engineering (VE) Report documents efforts to provide Agua Fria Food Bank with an evaluation of existing conditions and design recommendations to improve the site layout and food distribution process particularly on events such as Christmas and Thanksgiving meal distribution.


The purpose of the Agua Fria Food Bank project is to enhance the food distribution process by first gathering information on the existing process and design layout, then analyze the process before brainstorming for new ideas that would improve the current process through Value Engineering Methodologies. The goal of this project is to improve the efficiency and productivity of the food distribution process through innovation and to eliminate any form of waste, such as, time, staff, or resources.

The VE Team’s fundamental objectives are as follows:

  • Shorten the waiting time for food collection
  • Improve the process through value engineering methodologies
  • Improve customer satisfaction ratings
  • Simplify the current environment in order to provide easier and more effective food recognition and navigation

The VE team reviewed the existing conditions provided by Leanne Leonard, Executive Director of the Agua Fria Food Bank, and initiated a brainstorming session to identify the function of the project, VE concepts and recommendations. The summarized results are as follows:

  • Total number of original ideas developed by the VE Team: 96
  • Number of ideas retained for further consideration: 20
  • Final Recommendation: Layout #4 – In & Out Process

Information Phase

Current Process

The Manager of the Food Bank described the overall processes from planning, advertising, client registration, food collection to food distribution was during one of the site visits. Each of these processes has been broken down into a step-by-step process for better comprehension of the project. Chart 1 below shows of the major activities that take place in the event.

Chart 1: Overall Process Layout of Thanksgiving/Christmas Food Distribution Event

Food Distribution Process:  The significant part of the entire event is food distribution. On the day of event, canned food as listed in the holiday dinner packing list (Figure 1.) are packed into different box sizes ranging from small, medium, to large.

Looking at the existing site logistics as shown in Figure 3 below, the door facing south is used to deliver food to the client while the door on the west wall is used to receive food. Carts are placed close to the Turkey, Fresh produce, and Bread. The desks are located beside the doors to validate clients as they walk in. Shelves that contain can foods are situated on the east side of the building. 52 inch boxes are placed in the center and beside the wall next to the freezer to store food for the clients.

Chart 2: Food Distribution Process

Figure 1. Existing layout of Agua Fria Food and Clothing Bank during holidays

We have learned that from 9am – 12pm, foods are packed according to small, medium, and large portions. These foods are taken from shelves located on the right side of the building and stored in bags which are placed on the small and medium shelves located on the left side of the building west of the entry door. Large portions of food are placed in boxes situated beside the freezer.

From 12pm- 3pm, foods are distributed to clients in order of the waiting line. Most of the families think that by being first in line they would get the best food. However, that is not necessarily true.. Being first in line only means getting food first, and does not change the fact that all foods distributed to families are equal.

Function Analysis Phase

Function analysis consists of three steps

  • Define Functions
  • Allocate resources
  • Prioritize functions for value

Defining function has three different facets. We used random identification sheet to not only identify functions, but also to classify and organize them. Identify Functions: We used two-word statement to describe the functions with Active verb and Qualitative/Quantitative noun. Classify Functions: Functions are classified into 1. Basic functions 2. Secondary functions (a. Required function b. Unwanted function) 3. Higher order functions 4. Lower order functions. 

Serial No. Component / Operation Resource Function Function
time (mins) Verb Noun Type
1 Food Delivery Relieve Hunger Higher Order
2 Food Delivery Distribute Food Basic Function
3 Food Delivery 8 Transfer Food (to car) Secondary Function
4 Food Delivery (total) 8 Transfer Food (to cart) Secondary Function
5 Food Delivery 2 Collect Frozen food Secondary Function
6 Food Delivery 2 Collect Canned food Secondary Function
7 Food Delivery 2 Collect Fresh produce Secondary Function
8 Food Delivery 1 Collect Bread Secondary Function
9 Food Delivery 1 Pack Food Secondary Function
10 Food Delivery 2 Validate Client Secondary Function

Table 1. Random function identification sheet for the Agua Fria Food and Clothing Bank

Creative Phase

Ideas for Value Enhancement

For the Agua Fria Food Bank project, a list of ideas was created in 7 different categories. The goal of the creative listing idea phase were to find the appropriate way to limit time, improve client satisfaction and improve efficiency. A total of 96 ideas were listed and we use ranking and scoring method to choose the best ideas which were used for further analysis.  Below are the Food Distribution Ideas:

Food Distribution

  1. Arrange the carts near the Small/Medium shelves
  2. Assign 1-2 volunteers to one station and differentiate roles through colored t-shirt or hat
  3. Bring in more volunteers and more carts to distribute food faster
  4. One board per shelf and a method to cross out each bag taken (using stickies or marked lines)
  5. Create a distribution line of process (from person to person)
  6. Create 3 lines for 3 different bag sizes to shorten line and increase focus
  7. Have a separate station to distribute food in huge amounts to larger-sized family
  8. A single cart can be used to transfer two client’s bags/boxes to minimize manpower and equipment
  9. Upon registration, a ticket would be given to provide a specific time to come and collect food
  10. Door delivery system for the selected handicapped within a 5 mile radius from the site
  11. Clients can show up in their car at the main entry to collect food and leave within 5 minutes
  12. Pack food in boxes and leave them right outside the door with a volunteer
  13. Have the client pull his/her car up to the front and pick up the food from his/her volunteer
  14. Assign the same numbers to each volunteers to each client for tracking and allocation purpose
  15. Parents could wait in line while children could go choose their toys at the same time
  16. Turkeys could be taken out from the frozen storage within 5 minutes of food delivery to clients
  17. Smaller families could receive their food first before larger families
  18. Have clients confirm their own food using the brochure given to them as a checklist
  19. After packing boxes, write name of client to the box and strike his name off the list
  20. Assign a volunteer to wait outside to distribute food to car

Evaluation Phase

After careful evaluation of the VE team’s idea identification, we developed a list of final recommendations to help improve the food distribution process in Agua Fria Food and Clothing Bank. The essence of this phase is to evaluate if the ideas go beyond just the basic function and determine if the alternatives are of greater value than the original ideas. Each idea was further brainstormed to determine its feasibility as well as the value it brings to the project.

To conduct the evaluation phase, we first categorize all 96 ideas into Group A, B, C, and D. After which a scoring method was used to evaluate each idea to determine the best ideas that could add the most value. The ideas that garnered the highest scores were then selected to identify their advantages and disadvantages. These ideas then became the foundation of the layouts created in this proposal.

Development Phase

In the development phase, we have taken the selected ideas above and generated 3 different layouts. These layouts have gone through many revisions to ensure that our team provide only feasible, easy to implement proposals which add the most value to the food distribution process. To avoid any confusion, we have named Layout #1 – The existing condition (which can be seen in Figure 1 above), and will not be mentioned below in the development phase. The 3 new layouts (#2, #3, and #4) are described in detail below.

Figure 2 Site Distribution Layout #2 (To-Go Process)

We have named Layout 2 the “To-Go Process” because of the speed of food distribution that we are anticipating from this layout. First, we have identified that 60% of clients register for Medium sized bags, while 20% of clients go for Small bags and the remaining 20% of clients go for large boxes. After understanding the situation, we have dedicated a whole shelf for medium sized bags and a line of carts for medium sized foods. The info desk at the front is used for the validation of medium-sized families, while the desk to the right behind the wall is used to validate Small and Large families. By doing so, the majority of the clients (60%) to receive their foods faster as opposed to the traditional food distribution process.

This layout is efficient in a way that it utilizes two paths instead of one. It helps to focus on the majority of the client,s  which then speeds up the majority of the process. Even if there were to be more small and large families waiting in line at the same time, the path to the left could cater to them as well, if no medium sized family is present. We like to think of it as the “HOV lane” for the medium sized families.

Figure 3. Site Distribution Layout #3 (Supermarket)

In this layout, clients will be grouped depending on their family size. Stickers will be given to each family with size and number labels on it. Volunteers will be standing by the entrance to meet clients and take food for them depending on the family size. Once the validation process is complete, clients can proceed to walk up to the exit and wait for their assigned volunteer to bring them food. The volunteers will then help push the cart for each family to their respective cars and help unload the food from the cart and into their cars. Once these volunteers are done unloading the food, they will push the cart back to the entrance and meet the next family in line.

This layout would allow each family to feel better about collecting food from a Food Bank by creating interpersonal experiences between them and the volunteer. When clients are being greeted by the volunteers, they would feel comfortable and welcomed. The volunteer will also end up with a more fulfilling and enriching experience as they connect with these people.

Figure 4. Site Distribution Layout #4 (In & Out Process)

Layout 4 is going to operate systematically where carts are loaded with turkey first, then fresh produce, bread, and canned foods before heading out the door. In this process, a volunteer would push a cart and load the food in a counter-clockwise order as seen in the figure above. Once the volunteer hits the exit door, he/she follows the client to their car and unload the food for them before pushing the cart back to the entry door. As the volunteer returns, he/she is given a new number label that is consistent with the client so that the volunteer can load the cart based on the client’s needs. 

This layout allows for a clean and organized workflow inside the building of Agua Fria Food Bank. It prevents people from colliding into one another while pushing carts and collecting food. The greatest advantage you get out of this layout is speed. By creating a systematic order of food collection, the process will be simple and repetitive, hence improving the efficiency of staff and volunteers at the time of the holiday event.


All in all, this project aimed to provide a solution that would improve the current process of food distribution in Agua Fria Food Bank. This VE Report has started in January and was completed in April, 2017. It is our intent as a Value Engineering Team that the information and insights provided in this report would be of benefit to the staff and volunteers working for Agua Fria Food Bank. We hope to see the food distribution process improve, employees’ and volunteers’ service made easier; and most importantly, clients become more satisfied with Agua Fria Food and Clothing Bank.


Miles Value Foundation, Value Methodology Pocket Guide (Kindle Locations 1897-1898).


Afterword by Steve Kirk

As a follow-up, I participated in the food distribution yesterday (November 21, 2017).

Many of the ideas were implemented, such as identifying the size food basket each family is to receive during their wait in line. This and many other improvements to the flow of food distribution allowed us to process over 140 families in the first hour! Before these VE efficiencies, it took over two hours. Thus, value has been improved, with reduced wait times for the families and for the volunteers distributing the food.

We have now been asked by The Phoenix Rescue Mission to help them improve their processes. This will again be a student VE semester project starting in January at Arizona State University.