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History of Value Engineering

The Origins of Value Engineering

Value engineering began at General Electric Co. during World War II. Because of the war, there were shortages of skilled labour, raw materials, and component parts. Lawrence Miles and Harry Erlicher at G.E. looked for acceptable substitutes. They noticed that these substitutions often reduced costs, improved the product, or both. What started out as an accident of necessity was turned into a systematic process. They called their technique “value analysis”.

History of Value Engineering at McGill University

In 1972 Robert Sproule worked at GE Hydro and was a member of the McGill University Faculty of Engineering’s Advisory Board. The Faculty was interested in having more interaction between students and company engineers. Bob suggested the creation of a course to teach value engineering and to have students work on industry projects with company engineers. Professor David Pfeiffer and the Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Jules Stachiewicz, went to GE to participate in value engineering projects in order to understand the concept firsthand. The following September, in 1973, David Pfeiffer organized the first Value Engineering Workshop held at McGill assisted by Bob Sproule and Henry Wales, a Certified Value Specialist from the USA. Bob Sproule continued until 2005 when he was 90 years old.

In 1995 Professor Vince Thomson and Lucie Parrot, CVS, took over the teaching of the Value Engineering Workshop at McGill when David Pfeiffer and Hank Wales retired.

On February 9, 1998, the Canadian Value Analysis Society presented an award to the Department of Mechanical Engineering to recognize it for teaching value engineering for 25 years. The award was accepted by Professor Vince Thomson on behalf of the Department. The Society also presented awards to Robert Sproule and retired Professor David Pfeiffer to recognize their contributions to value engineering.

2007 was the 35th year for the Value Engineering Workshop at McGill University. In 2008, the 200th VE project was done. Over the years, the Workshop has helped to improve many products, processes and services as well as teach the value engineering methodology to many people, who worked in the different Montreal companies and organizations that participated in the VE projects.

One special example was Gennum Corporation (Burlington, Ontario). In 1999, the company flew two engineers to the VE classes to solve a design/manufacturing problem for the production of integrated circuits for hearing aids. The group of students working on the project was able to find a solution along with new design rules for the integrated circuits. Gennum implemented the solution immediately.

SAVE (Society of American Value Engineers) gave the 2007-2008 Presidential Citation Award to Mechanical Engineering at McGill University for their pioneering and sustaining work in teaching value engineering. Also, the Canadian Society for Value Analysis recognized McGill with the 2008 CSVA Award of Merit for Education.