Who can decide thickness of pillars and beams which is just enough to support a wooden house without wasting materials? The first woman architect in China, Huiyin Lin, has once proposed such questions. In daily life, who decides how much chemical preservative should be added in food without affecting its taste, while keeping the minimum chemical components and satisfying the indicated expiration date exactly? Which kind of mobile phone can satisfy the needs for functions of targeted consumers with the lowest cost?
这些无不考验着设计人员和制造人员的智慧和水平，如何平衡产品的成本及功能，想必也是企业经营者十分关心的话题。从产品的生命周期来看，产品的生命周期可以划分为导入-成长 – 成熟 – 衰退， 在产品成熟期质量相对稳定，人们会认为在这个阶段进一步提高质量的空间存在，但是相比早期提高同样良率的边际成本会很高，因此在这个阶段更多的关注点放在快速交期，灵活数量，以及成本和产品革新上面。产品持续的创新可以保持企业的竞争力以及客户的新鲜感，革新后的产品要么成本更低廉，要么功能更好，当然功能好往往意味着价格更昂贵，利润率更可观。
All of these issues test intelligence and abilities of the design and manufacturing staffs. How to balance costs of functions of a product might be a topic that entrepreneurs operators interest in. In terms of the product life cycle, it can be divided into Launch input-growth-maturity-recession. In maturity period, quality of the product is relatively stable. People tend to think that there is still area for the further improvement of quality. However, in this stage people will pay more marginal costs compared to that in the early stage when raising the same rate of yield. Therefore, more focus is paid on the fast delivery, flexible quantity, cost and product renovation. Continuous innovation of a product will keep competitiveness of an enterprise and a sense of freshness of customers. Products after renovation will be of either low costs or better functions. Of course, better functions always indicate higher prices, which renders the profit margin more considerable.
作为成熟期的供应商开发，确保供应商在这个环节仍然具有竞争力也是其中工作之一。因为企业利润增长速度大于销售额增长速度靠的是采购与供应链管理， 而销售额的增长速度大于销售数量的增长速度靠的就是 新爆款开发和高效的供应商管理。
One of the jobs under supplier development in the maturity period is to ensure that suppliers remain competitive in this process, since the enterprise profit relies on the procurement and management of supply chain to grow faster than the sales, while the increase of sales relies on the development of new and hot styles as well as highly efficient suppliers management to grow faster than that of the sales volume.
产品创新可以分为两种：改良和革新。改良意味着小的改动，产品功能没有发生大的变化，这些从产品设计之初就会不停的被优化，不停的有工程变更，比如表面做的更细腻了，缝隙更小了，安装更容易了，就如同软件系统不停的升级解决Bug，但是Window 10 还是 Window 10, 安卓也还是那个安卓系统。于实际的有形产品而言，产品改良往往代表成本更加具有竞争力。在企业内部成立一个项目组，主题就是“Cost Down”, 但是随着市面上产品的进一步成熟，竞争加剧，不同企业生产的产品没有实质性的差异，成本也相当，进一步降本的空间更小了，“Cost Down”也就不再扮演主角了，下一步就是产品革新登场了。产品革新意味着全新的产品开发，从IPHONE 5S 到 IPHONE 6的跨越，功能显然增加了很多，更多更新的科技被应用进来，以往的经验被总结利用上，不止一种零部件被重新设计，因此生产用的物料清单（BOM）也完全不同。于制造企业而言，这些产品革新意味着重新建立项目小组开始项目立项，可行性评审以及项目展开，其最大的好处就是取代之前的利润力不可观，市场同质化严重，竞争力退化的老产品，给企业注入新的活力，这就是产品生命周期。很多的时候产品的改良是以头脑风暴法（Brain Storming）的形式在实施，而价值工程是更系统的一种产品改良方法。
Product innovation comprises two types: improvement and renovation. Improvement means slight modification, while the product functions do not change significantly. These parts of the product, which are under modification, have been optimized constantly since the beginning of the product design. For instance, the surface is made more delicate, the seam is made smaller, and installation proves to be easier. It is just like the software systems. They may continuously upgrade themselves to solve their bugs, yet Windows 10 is still Windows 10 while Android system is still Android system. For the actual tangible products, product renovation implies that the cost will be more competitive. The theme of the particular project team established inside the enterprise is “Cost Down”. However, with products on the market maturing gradually and the competition becoming fierce, products manufactured by different enterprises do not vary significantly, and the costs are almost the same, the room for further decreasing the cost is smaller. “Cost Down” is no longer the protagonist any more, as product renovation will make its debut next. Product renovation implies brand-new product development. From IPHONE 5S to IPHONE6, its functions have been increased a lot obviously. More and more latest science and technology are applied. Meanwhile, the past experience has been concluded and applied as well. Since more than one component has been redesigned, the BOM (Bill of Materials) for production is completely different. For manufacturing enterprises, product renovation indicates that project team might be reestablished to start the initiation of project, feasibility review and development of project. Its biggest advantage is that it can replace the previous old products with inconsiderable profitability, homogeneous market and degenerated competitiveness, but inject new vitality into enterprise. This is the so-called product life cycle. Usually, product improvement is conducted in the brain storming form, and value engineering is a more systematic method for improvement.
百度里面的解释是这样的：“价值工程是一种用最低的总成本可靠地实现产品或劳务的必要功能，着重于进行功能分析的有组织的活动。价值的表达式为： 价值(V)= 功能(F)/ 成本(C)，这里所讲的价值是指某种产品(劳务或工程)的功能与成本(或费用)的相对关系，也就是功能与成本的对比值。功能是指产品的用途和作用，即产品所担负的职能或者说是产品所具有的性能。成本指产品周期成本，即产品从研制、生产、销售、使用过程中全部耗费的成本之和。衡量价值的大小主要看功能(F)与成本(C)的比值如何。人们一般对商品有个”价廉物美”的要求，”物美”实际上就是反映商品的性能，质量水平；”价廉”就是反映商品的成本水平，顾客购买时考虑”合算不合算”就是针对商品的价值而言的。” 对于制造企业来讲，价值工程就是一种正面而积极的“偷梁换柱”，但是这个梁和柱是以不损害产品的基本功能为前提的。价值分析是针对新开发的产品而言，而价值工程是针对已开发出的老产品的改进优化。 以这个公式来看，价值，功能，成本之间形成以下的规律，其中箭头越多，代表变化越大。
The explanation in Baidu says, “ Value Engineering is an organized activity that can realize necessary functions of products or labor service reliably with the lowest total costs, which focuses on analyzing functions. The expression of the value is: value(V)=Function(F)/Cost(C). Here value refers to the relative relationship of the function and costs(or expenses) of a specific product (labor service or project), as known as the contrast ratio between functions and costs. Function refers to application and effect of a product, that is, its responsibilities or performance. Cost refers to the product cycle cost, the sum of costs that are generated from development, production, sale and usage. To evaluate the value, we can mainly focus on the ratio between function(F) and cost(C). Commonly, people require that a product should be affordable fine. “Fine”, in fact, reflects performance and quality of a product, while “affordable” indicates the product’s cost. When making a purchase, consumer always consider whether the purchase is worth or not. This is actually based on the value of commodities. For manufacturing enterprises, value engineering is a positive and active “perpetration”. However, the premises for “perpetration” is that it will not hurt the basic functions of the product. Value analysis is for newly-develop products, while value engineering aims at improvement and optimization of an already-developed old products. Under this formula, value, function and cost form the following law. The more the arrows, the bigger the changes.
以做服装来讲，减少了一个多余的口袋，就减少了布料的使用，同时加工时间和成本也有下降，功能没有发生大的变化，而成本下降了，因此服装的价值得到了提升,。例如前几年流行起来的“船袜”, 布料就至少比传统的袜子少了1/3, 但是就功能来讲基本上还是一样的，还能被称为时尚。又如常见的瓶装饮用水，有企业用到极致，瓶子的厚度能有多薄就有多薄，盖子也是，因为他们深谙其道 – 产品的功能未变，而成本更低了。
Take clothing-making as an example. If you reduce a redundant pocket, then the cloth used will decline. Meanwhile, the time and cost for processing also declines. As function remains same when cost declines, the value of this clothes will increase. One example is the boat shape socks which were trended some years ago, the materials of cloth is 1/3 lesss than traditional socks, however the function basically is the same and new style even were called fashion. Take the bottle of water as another example. Some enterprises go to such extreme that they make bottles, together with bottle caps, as thin as possible. This is because that they deeply understand that they can keep functions unchanged while bearing a lower cost.
The company I served for has once paid tremendous attention to the function of products when designing them during a specific period. For instance, how to make a house of 20 square meters be both for accommodation and livelihood, and even for work. For a same product, you may fail to achieve cost advantage. But if you exceed your competitors in terms of structure and function, you exceed them in terms of value.
It will be a bonus if the cost can be reduced on the basis that the function is improved. Just like handles on drawers: its basic function is to pull or push drawers. If the material used can be reduced through intelligent design while its basic functions are kept invariable, then why not bother to do it? At early times, food served on the airplane was accompanied by steel-made knives and folks(Of course some aviation remain unchanged), but now more and more aviation change them into plastic ones that can be folded. It not only reduces safety risks(after all, metal ones are more dangerous than plastic ones)and improves functions(foldability that can be stored easily), but also makes the cost lower. Since I have not conducted the research deeply into industries and this is only the assumption of writer. Of course, it may be true that steel forks can be recycled and thus the comprehensive cost might be even lower.
I find that a new type of glasses, as a popular fashion, appears in the market which combines myopia and UV prevention, which is called as “Myopia Sunglasses”. Whether it is called product improvement or product renovation, it will be better than both myopic lens and sunglasses in terms of functions, as it combines functions of the two(Although I have not tried them, maybe they have some fixed drawbacks). Costs, in addition, will be higher than that before improve. However, the comprehensive value should be higher. Or like the parasol that can prevent both rain and sunshine, its cloth should be more expensive than normal one. Nevertheless, its value still increases because it possesses double functions. Similar multi-functional products are now prevalent in the market. For example， multi-functional knives(knives that include multiple sets of knives and forks), multi-functional chair(it can change into chairs or ladders), multi-functional door locks(a lock that can be applied to doors with both left-open design or right-open design), etc., are all included in this category.
In practice, people are liable to form a fixed mindset and are unwilling to change it. Or they are pursuing a kind of extreme, especially when both function and cost decrease, the phenomenon of cutting corners or losing function are likely to appear. Thus, a degree should be controlled well. Wood within a door is hollowed out and replaced by other fillings. Seemingly, its function does not change significantly, yet the degree on “hallowing out” should be controlled well—otherwise, its soundproof effect will be discounted greatly. A cup, once if it save its material too much, will become a vase. A good smartphone can eliminate some functions to transform into phones for elders and children, but it can by no means lose its basic calling function—otherwise, it will become no more than a model. Manufactured by enterprises, the sliding rail of drawers, with its thinner materials, experiences a drop in life span from 30000 times trial to 10000 times trial. The premises must be that the clients can accept this life span; otherwise, the change only occurs in manufacturing end. Without communication with customers, it might be easy to bring about clients’ misunderstandings as well as market loss.
My understanding on value engineering is: Best Cost Effective and Efficient. Go back to the beginning of this article, architectures in China can be dated back to thousands of years ago. But China still lags behind other European and America nations if architectures upgrade into a subject after accumulation of wisdom inside. This is why Huiyin Lin sighed with emotions when looking back to China after she had travelled around Europe. Now it appears that value engineering still has a large room for utilization in different domains.
随着经济的发展，中国以进入一个消费经济的时代，各种眼花缭乱的产品层出不穷，于商家而言，增加了消费者的可选择性，提高了自身的竞争力。于社会而言，刺激了消费者对新事物的欲望进行消费，拉动了经济，同时也给社会增加了负担。比如中国每年产生垃圾近2亿吨，而且这个数还以每年5%-8%的速度在增长 （环保部 -《2016年全国大、中城市固体废物污染环境防治年报》，及 世纪证券研究所 – 《中国城市生活垃圾特征及回收处理现状》）。对比而言，日本经济最近几年萎靡不振，反而倡导一种极简生活主义Minimalism – 简即是多less is more，其实就是一种价值工程理念于生活的体现。
With the development of economy, China enters an era of consumer economy as various dazzling products show up constantly. For sellers, the selectivity of consumers increases, which increases their own competitiveness as well. For society, it arouses consumers’ desire for new things so that they will make purchases. On one hand, it stimulates economy. On the other hand, it adds more burden to the society. To be specific, China generates nearly 200 million tons of waste every year, and this number is still increasing at a rate of 5% to 8% annually. (Ministry of Environment Protection-< The Annual Report for the Prevention and Governance of Solid Waste Pollution in Big and Middle Sized Cities in China 2016>, and Century Securities-. )In contrast, despite that Japan economy seems to shrink in recent years, it in turn promotes an idealism for life: Minimalism —less is more. It is, in fact, a manifestation of value engineering for daily life.
Acknowledge goes to Ms. Zizhu Wang (Akiko) from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies for translation.