Trade Show TalesBlog

Word on the Street — June 15th thru June 19th

June 19th, 2009 COMMENTS
Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

This week started with a call from a Classic Exhibits distributor regarding an existing quote that needed to be re-addressed. The week finished by reviewing client notes from a distributor on a project quoted several days ago.

Both the phone call on Monday and the email from this morning (as well as a conversation on Wednesday) involved the buzz word “Value Engineering.”

How many of you just cringed? : – )

So I went to Google to see the current definition of Value Engineering, and the two highest results were from Wikipedia and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

 Wikipedia says . . .

Value engineering (VE) is a systematic method to improve the “value” of goods or products and services by using an examination of function. Value, as defined, is the ratio of function to cost. Value can therefore be increased by either improving the function or reducing the cost. It is a primary tenet of value engineering that basic functions be preserved and not be reduced as a consequence of pursuing value improvements.

The US Army Corps of Engineers says . . .

Value Engineering is defined as “an analysis of the functions of a program, project, system, product, item of equipment, building, facility, service, or supply of an executive agency, performed by qualified agency or contractor personnel, directed at improving performance, reliability, quality, safety, and life cycle costs.” 

As it relates to the two projects mentioned earlier, it would appear that the clients (endusers) want a blend of the two definitions. From an aesthetic and functional standpoint, they want exactly what the Distributor and Classic Exhibits designed — but for less money.

I know what many of you are thinking, “Same old story Kevin. The clients have unrealistic expectations when it comes ‘what they want’ and ‘what they can afford’.” It would be very easy for me to agree with that statement. . . and maybe over a drink or two, I might. But it would be wrong in both these cases.

In this current economic climate, endusers are under the gun to get the biggest bang for the buck, more so now than ever. Their bosses are making decisions whether or not to attend shows, not to mention justifying the approval of a new $80,000 display. ROI is king! And being able to predictability deliver ROI may not just determine whether your client keeps his or her job . . . but it may in fact determine whether or not his or her boss keeps their job or if their company survives in the short term.

So the challenge really lies in not looking at their request to “Value Engineer” as a negative. Rather, look at it as selling point — to make their perfect design work with their less than a perfect budget. Use it as an opportunity to become an interested and vested partner in their short- and long-term survival and success.

Suggestions I received this week from distributors:

  • Introduce a mixture of rental. The best example from this week was a design that had a double deck. By renting the double deck through Classic Rentals rather than buying it, the client realized a savings of nearly 1/3 of their stated budget.
  • Find out if other divisions in their company go to tradeshows and events. Then utilize more modular components so that the initial design has the parts to re-configure for those divisions at their events and shows. Help them kill two birds with one stone.
  • Recommend different materials. An example from this week was a laminate that the client felt was a “must have,” but the laminate was also about five times more expensive than a very similar alternative. In the end, the look was about the same, and the alternative saved a huge chunk of money.
  • Look at what can be conveyed through graphics, rather than actual structure. Sometimes clients feel that they have to have “structure” to get their point or product across — whether its the exhibit structure or part of their product as structure. While that is often true, a large part of what they do and or sell can be conveyed through graphic images. Combine that with the long term savings involved in the use of fabric graphics such as lower maintenance, lower long-term costs, reduced shipping weight and lower initial costs, and fabric graphics can be a significant budget saver.

What are some positive ways you have used to “Value Engineer” a new exhibit design? Please share them by posting them to the comments.  I think, in the end, that value engineering is going to be a request as we head into the fall show season.

Be Well!

Kevin Carty


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