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Value Engineering at McGill University

The Department of Mechanical Engineering at McGill University has operated a workshop in Value Engineering for the past 22 years. The combination of Value Engineering and industry-university cooperation is unique.

What is different about our approach?

The McGill University Value Engineering Workshop is the only university course where company representatives sit together with senior Mechanical Engineering students to solve their common problem: a real-life project selected by the company. At the end of the workshop session, each company has one or more specific solutions available which will improve the value of the subject of the study, be it a process, product, or service. The results are presented to company management both at a group session and in the form of a bound report.

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What benefits will result?

An impressive track record has been logged during the 22 years this course has been offered at McGill, where 140 projects have been evaluated. The financial return is customarily measured over a five-year period, and is compared to the necessary investment, including the cost of sponsoring the workshop. In the 1993 session, the combined five-year return for six projects was $ 8.13 million, accomplished with a total investment of $ 331,000. This represents a return on investment of 26:1. Another benefit of the workshop is that participants who wish to become Certified Value Specialists earn credit for one of two 40-hour training courses required by the Society of American Value Engineers in their CVS accreditation program.

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How does a company get involved?

The sessions are held at McGill over five Monday afternoons and evenings - beginning the second Monday after Labour Day. The five sessions total 40 hours; in addition, there is a practice session and a final presentation for each project. Instruction is provided by a Certified Value Specialist. Professor Vincent Thomson of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and other staff members share their many years of industrial expertise with the workshop teams in applying the value engineering methods to company problems.

Therefore, define your project and decide which one or two individuals from your company (who also receive a certificate on completing the course) will work on the project with the students. There is a fee for each project sponsored by industry ($3,500), representing a portion of the total expenses for professional support, workshop space, preprinted notes, materials for graphic presentation, and the evening meal during the workshop sessions. However, as demonstrated above, the workshop doesn't cost, it pays.

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What are typical projects?

The five problems described below were successfully resolved during the workshop in the Fall session of 1994.

ASEA Brown-Boveri - Design an exhaust duct for a gas dryer in a paper making system.
The incorporation of gas dryers into existing paper making systems causes a problem for exhausting the high temperature gas (1500 F) in the new systems. A new exhaust duct was designed for use with ABB's new gas dryer system which accommodated the high temperature gas and required low maintenance. The final design achieved both the goals of low fabrication cost and very high reliability.

CAE Electronics Ltd. - Reduce the cost of a cabin door on the CAE-Boeing 777 simulator.
Two alternative cabin door designs were developed for the CAE-Boeing 777 simulator. The alternatives were recommended depending on the expected number of simulator sales over a five year period. The design focused on using less expensive mechanisms and parts while maintaining the requirement for realistic looks and operation. The designs gave a cost reduction of 10-14%.

CAE Electronics Ltd. - Improve the quality of the mirror assembly used in simulator optics.
CAE's MAXVUE system creates images in a simulator by projection onto a concave screen with an aluminized mylar surface which is 90 inches across with a 120 inch radius. Presently, when the mylar is mounted onto the system's rigid frame during fabrication, stretching occurs which reduces the optical quality of the screen. A new process was developed to eliminate the distortion during manufacture.

Northern Telecom Inc. - Improve the quality of a breaker interface panel used in telecommunications equipment.
Breaker interface panels are used in racks of telecommunication equipment to distribute power and protect electronic units in the system. A modified design of an existing unit was necessary to eliminate some problems which occurred during the manufacture of the unit. The recommended design modification promised to reduce the manufacturing problems and achieve a 10% reduction in product

Okaply Ltd. - Reduce the time for roller changeover in a panel printing/drying line.
Okaply makes wood panels with printed wood grain patterns. The makeup of present markets demands small quantities of more products, and thus, requires shorter production runs. However, the original process used by Okaply required considerable time to change print rollers between panel types. A rapid changeover system was designed for changing the set of four rollers used in printing. This reduced downtime during changeover by 80%.

Comments received about the workshop:

  • "We were able to follow (and exceed) the project sales curve for five years. It made us the largest company in that business in North America".-(President, Air-drying equipment manufacturer)
  • "The best course I've ever taken. I really appreciated the experience of working with industry on the project".- (Student, after completing the course)
  • "I enjoyed working with the students. A great session, a lot of energy comes out of it".- (Section Chief)

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To discuss projects, contact:

Professor Vince Thomson,
Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Phone: (514) 398-2597
Fax: (514) 398-7365
e-mail: thomson@mecheng.mcgill.ca