Engineering: The beautiful swine

Value engineering

A hardly popular choice for students when it comes to deciding their professional future, but certainly engineering is one of the most absorbed practises in the UK; it is embedded into all activities that imply a level of complexity. In the UK, we just seem to add the suffix “Engineer” to many careers or jobs simply to add a buzz word and create theatre behind it, like a technology implied activity that tells those interested that there is an intricate structural and mathematical work attached to it. For many this is considered the boring stuff, the better-you-than-me thing, the weirdo matter.

But what is engineering? If you Google it, the most common definition is “The branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures.” This is clearly not an accurate view and more assigned to the Victorian times, however there is one definition, published by experts at WIE (What Is Engineer), that truly tackles the current feel; Engineering is the application of scientific knowledge to solving problems in the real world. That’s more like it.

Engineering is incredibly time consuming, no matter which branch of science or applied activity it is used for. This is because of its scientific, methodical and rigorous approach to problem solving. It is exactly that thoroughness what makes it an enormously effective practice for any company, not just to those who specialise in tangible products but in services too. It eliminates the chances of error and narrows down the potential solution outcomes of a particular problem.

We could create sophisticated tools to make it easier and speed up its processes, but it will always fall back into one question; “how much value do they really add to products and services?”

Let’s consider for a moment the concept of Value Engineering (VE), the brain child of Lawrence Miles and his team at General Electric in the mid-1940s, who realised that by changing materials and improving specifications without modifying the functionality of their products, they could significantly reduce the costs of manufacturing. That’s value added at its best.

And who is to say that this same principle can only be applied to manufacturing products. The  key to VE, also known as Value Analysis (VA), is to understand tasks and processes with absolute clarity so they can be described in two words, literally. For instance; the function of a drill is “making holes”, or the job of a priest is to “save souls”. To say this without entering heated debates requires us to identify the purity of a functionality in two words. Achieving this opens up possibilities to alternatives to drilling holes or saving souls, and therefore to truly breakthrough thinking on problem solving.

Engineering is a science and a practice, boring and exciting in equal measures, and if well implemented, it could become one of your best core business services and unique selling points.