In every application, there are a variety of alternative solutions that can be considered to help increase the overall value of your project. This is especially the case in applications that require linear actuators for driving the motion of a system. Finding the right balance of performance and costs helps ensure value in your final product to promote the success of your project and overall business. We will be covering the important aspects to consider when value engineering linear actuator solutions for your application.
Value Analysis or Value Engineering?
Value Analysis or Value Engineering (VAVE) share the common goal of increasing the value of a product, typically by reducing costs while improving or maintaining performance. The difference is that value engineering focus on finding alternative solutions that promote cost-effective methods and materials, however, value analysis intends to enhance the value of existing solutions. Value engineering will typically occur before the fabrication of a final product while value analysis may occur throughout the different stages of a product's life span. A simple equation used to represent value is seen below:
Value = (Performance) / (Cost)
The ideal case for increasing the value of a product is to increase performance while also reducing costs:
Value increase = (Performance increase) / (Cost decrease)
This ideal case may not always be possible for every project, however, there are alternative techniques practiced in the industry for increasing a product’s value such as:
Value increase = (Performance increased significantly) / (Cost increased slightly)
Value increase = (Performance increase) / (Cost unchanged)
Value increase = (Performance unchanged) / (Cost decrease)
Value increase = (Performance decreased slightly) / (Cost decreased significantly)
Value Engineering Process
The value engineering process is practiced in a broad range of industries such as manufacturing, construction, equipment design, and project management. Although there are a few variations on how the value engineering process is carried out, it can usually be divided into six main phases:
- Gathering information
- Brainstorming ideas
- Evaluating solutions
- Developing and analyzing stage
- Presenting top solutions
- Implementing stage
1. Gathering Information
The first step when value engineering is to gather all the information and data required to gain an understanding of the current project design plans and objectives. A detailed understanding of the current project plans will help identify the different factors which require an evaluation and their potential for improvements. During the initial design stages, team engineers may also perform reasonable approximations and calculations for their application requirements and cost estimations. Each application has its own unique set of requirements that needs to be considered before choosing linear actuators. These requirements may include:
- Force requirements
- Travel speed requirements
- Dimensional requirements
- Accuracy and precision requirements
- Environmental compatibility
- Feedback compatibility
- Sound/noise level requirements
A general understanding of your application requirements is critical for ensuring the equipment you consider in the later stages will have suitable ratings and specifications. By using progress reports, your team can keep track of the overall project findings in an organized and time-efficient manner.
2. Brainstorming Ideas
After identifying the problems and challenges of your application, the next phase is to brainstorm possible solutions with your team. The major types of linear actuators found in the industry are typically hydraulic, pneumatic, or electric, however, unconventional ideas for alternative solutions can also lead to other inspirations and useful discussions. Therefore, it is crucial to promote creativity in your team and have an open mind when brainstorming for designs, PLC controls, materials, and other project solutions. All potential alternative solutions for a project are then documented for future evaluation and analysis.
3. Evaluating Solutions
All the ideas and solutions from previously will now require evaluation based on their benefits and drawbacks. As there are various pros and cons for hydraulic, pneumatic, and electric linear actuators, the most suitable solution depends on the priorities and requirements of your application:
Hydraulic actuators: Excel at high force and requires regular maintenance with the most infrastructure requirements.
Pneumatic actuators: Excel at high speeds and requires regular maintenance with high infrastructure requirements.
Electric actuators: Excel at meeting most general specifications while on budget constraints.
As a team, it is important to discuss the benefits and drawbacks that matter the most in a project. For example, there may be a solution that offers easy integration, lower costs, and high speeds, however, it comes with lower accuracy and precision. Although high precision linear actuators have a higher price point, greater system complexity, and slower speeds, they offer the accuracy and precision required for many high precision applications. These are examples of when multiple benefits may not necessarily outweigh having a smaller number of drawbacks due to certain mandatory requirements. Using Decision Matrix Analysis (DMA) will assist your team when ranking the different solutions for your project.
4. Developing and Analyzing Stage
Further development and in-depth analysis must now be carried out to confirm which solutions from your team’s ranking will be best for the application. Below are some of the steps involved for getting a full scope of how each potential solution could affect the project:
- Gauge the viability of integrating each solution
- Adjust physical renderings according to the specifications of each solution
- Conduct test simulations/models for each solution
- Create financial projections based on team calculations and estimates
- Determine if there were other factors such as time constraints, labor, and deadlines
These steps are also used to decide between different linear actuators when trying to determine variables such as power consumption, lifespan, maintenance, and daily operation costs.
Cost per day = [Purchase price + Maintenance cost over lifetime] * (Cycles per day) / (Rated cycles)
5. Presenting Top Solutions
Once your team has established the top project solutions, a presentation will now be required for upper management’s approval. The typical presentation materials such as performance graphs, project reports, flow charts, potential risks, and cost estimates are beneficial for demonstrating the viability of the team’s top project solutions to management. It is also important to highlight the different processes that were involved by the team to reach their findings, illustrating how the top solutions were methodically chosen to enhance value and promote a successful project. Management may sometimes request further analysis or certain changes; however, these requests will allow for the project to continue development and prepare for the next phase.
6. Implementing Stage
Once upper management has agreed upon a chosen solution, the project will then proceed with the implementation stage. Typically, new teams will be formed and assigned the task of monitoring any changes that occur from the new solution being implemented. By monitoring the actual results and comparing them to the theoretical expectations, your team can use the collected data for further analysis and search for any potential improvements in the future.
As there are countless factors to consider when choosing linear actuators, we recommend performing real-world test procedures to ensure you find the best long-term solution. Real-world tests are ideal as the final and most effective method for verifying the best long-term solution in any given project. We also have a free Actuator Testing Guide written by engineers, for engineers to help you on how to select, test, and implement linear motion for any application.
Exploring alternative solutions can introduce creative and cost-effective means of improving a final product’s overall value. Through the process of value engineering, we are confident you will find linear actuators with a suitable balance of performance and cost to promote the best value for your application.
As one of the top suppliers of electric linear actuators and motion control products, Progressive Automations offers industry-leading flexibility, quality, support, and field experience to meet all your needs. If you have any other questions about what we can offer, please do not hesitate in reaching out to us! We are experts in what we do and want to ensure you find the best solutions for your application.
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