Value Improvement Practices (VIP) Guide Words

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Brainstorming around a table

Brainstorming around a table

A Value Improvement Process (VIP) session, also known as Value Engineering, is a meeting that tries to analyze a design and find ways to improve the “value” the project provides to those undertaking it. This usually means saving money, but it can also mean saving time, reducing maintenance, increasing profit margins, etc.

Value improvement meetings are often run using methods similar to safety meetings like HAZOPs:

  1. A facilitator leads the meeting, keeping the group on track. A scribe takes notes. Members of the project team and others (operations, clients, valued equipment vendors, etc.) may participate
  2. Break the process broken down into “nodes,” sub-divisions that make a logical sense to review at the same time. (Ex: truck unloading, the crude unit, the diesel tank farm, the pig launchers and receivers, the chiller unit, etc)
  3. For each note, brainstorm for ideas that may generate value
  4. The ideas are ranked for their value: how much money could be saved, and at what cost (in time/schedule/safety etc.). Generally it’s enough to categorize ideas into Implement, Maybe, and Reject piles, depending on how promising the idea appears.
  5. A list of recommendations are created, for the project team to follow up on.

Also like safety meetings, several VIPs can be taken over the life-cycle of a project.

Much like having a list of HAZOP guidewords, a VIP list of guidewords, ideas, or prompts can help you have a better session. For any given situation, the majority of guidewords won’t apply, but flipping through the list may occasionally spark an idea. You may also get value reviewing previous articles on brainstorming and TRIZ.

Guidewords/ideas/prompts for VIP brainstorming:

  • Is this part of the project really necessary? All of it? Immediately?
  • Reuse existing resources (spare vessels, unused capacity, retrain current employees, etc.)
  • Use “free” resources (air cooling, waste heat, rain water, empty building space, online tools & training, open source programs, etc.)
  • Reduce design targets or margins; design for less extreme conditions
  • Better analysis to reduce design margins
  • Intrinsic safety instead of controls (e.g. increase design pressure instead of adding safety relief valves, spark-free electronics instead of air curtains)
  • Simplify or use less parts
  • Combine parts into a whole, or vice-versa
  • Consider alternatives (equipment, processes, routing, etc.)
  • Move to grade/ground level, instead of building on higher stories or underground
  • Smaller / lighter / shorter
  • Reduce operating costs; reconsider CAPEX (capital) vs OPEX (operating) cost trade-offs
  • Reduce utility demands
  • Use a cheaper or local / resource /feedstock
  • Material of construction
  • Diversify of feedstocks or vendors
  • Buy it vs. making it yourself; which is cheaper?
  • Contract out vs. do it in-house
  • Reusable vs. disposable
  • Automated vs. manual
  • Procurement or contract options (Should we order this lump sum? Find a foreign vendor?)
  • Constructability/easy to build. (Build it offsite and ship it in? Use packaged/prefab equipment?)
  • Existing facility vs. greenfield construction?
  • Corrosion mitigation (change the fluids/conditions/material)
  • Maintenance/Reliability
  • Robust design
  • Sparing philosophy
  • Standardization / Symmetrical (identical equipment reduces parts, eases training and maintenance)
  • Off-the-shelf solutions
  • Cooler
  • Lower pressure
  • Faster
  • Simpler
  • Layout
  • Lower standards/regulation (not breaking the law, but maybe bending voluntary guidelines?)
  • Less treatment
  • Less chemicals (total quantity or variety)
  • Less storage (can we use just-in-time delivery or production? This can also improve safety by having less products on hand)
  • Less toxic / flammable
  • Change the operators (more training? less expensive?)
  • Get expert advice
  • Out-source, crowd-source, or hire a contractor
  • Advanced control
  • Analytics or big-data approaches

Do you have other ideas? Share in the comments below.

Example of use:

The team turns to the next node: a hot fluid needs to be cooled and stored. A new cooling-water heat exchanger and storage tank is proposed. Here's how the VIP session might go:

  • "Use existing resources...can we put a larger impeller in our cooling water pumps to get more output from them, instead of buying an extra pump to handle the increased demands?"
  • "Free resources...would an air cooler be cheaper than expanding the cooling water system? Can we remove pipe insulation in some areas?"
  • " we really need so much storage capacity? If we can shrink the size of the storage tank and just produce this fluid on-demand we'll spend less on equipment, have less capital invested in product sitting idle in the tank, and safety is improved because there is less to leak."
  • "CAPEX vs OPEX trade-off...cooling water is getting more and more expensive and our cooling tower is nearing capacity. We should study investing more for an ultra-efficient heat exchanger to minimize water demands."

...and so on

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