Thanks to the application of Value-Assured Engineering (VAE) by Firstco, technical consultancy, project management and systems integration specialists, the Heathrow Express station at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 has seen an initial systems budget of £25m reduced to an anticipated final cost of £19m – thus saving some 25% on the overall cost of the project.

According to Firstco’s managing director, Bill Martin: “This application of VAE, combined with Firstco’s use of superior products and the latest technology, has ensured the success of the project at every level. VAE offers clients an alternative method of systems procurement and delivery. By separating the three primary elements of a typical large systems project and applying individual expertise to each of them, a more commercially focused solution can be obtained.”

Mark Calnan, Firstco’s chairman, explained: “Traditionally, because of their perceived difficulty, systems projects are often awarded to a single major manufacturer. This appears to give the client a one-stop shop solution, with the selected manufacturer offering all the required elements in house and so ensuring continuity of design throughout the various sub-systems. However, history shows this is not always the case.”

“When large companies are given complete control of systems projects, they tend to use their own products and solutions. These may not be the most suitable solutions for the individual project and can lack innovation,” Calnan added.

“There is little or no incentive to drive down costs and members of the design team feel less responsibility for the project. All these factors can mean that the client does not get the best available technical solution at the most economic price. On the other hand, we believe that the VAE approach gives the optimum structure for managing the overall supply of a successful systems project,” he said. “And this has been justified in the case of the Heathrow Express station at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5.”

“VAE has a number of advantages – including tangible cost savings and a fully assured design,” said Martin. “The equipment selected is the best available and not limited to one manufacturer or one technology. A concerted effort to achieve and exceed the project’s requirements is guaranteed and the project will be delivered on time and within budget.”

“VAE means best-in-class systems engineered at the lowest cost by specialist multidisciplinary teams,” he continued. “It ensures the optimal mix of technologies instead of slavish adherence to boilerplate products from one manufacturer.There is unconstrained innovation and a real commitment to achieving and exceeding the client’s requirements.”

The three primary elements of VAE are:

  • Engineering design
  • Assurance / compliance
  • Cost management

By drawing expertise from each of the teams’ disciplines, the client is able to realise huge potential savings in overall delivery costs. The team is headed by a project manager – who could be a member of the client team – assisted by planners and other support staff depending on the project’s size.

All three teams are specialists in their respective disciplines, have a definite structure and lines of communication – and are responsible for value, assurance and engineering. The teams have the ability to be expanded to suit the size of the project.

The cost management team has expertise with specific systems knowledge, providing detailed equipment and labour budgets, cost control and earned value reporting throughout the project life cycle, and the procurement of specialist packages.

The assurance team deals with the capture of design, standards, safety, CDM, EMC, RAMs and human factors – along with traceability, change control and document control.

Firstco provides the engineering team, with responsibility for conceptual and detailed design, asset management, procurement specifications, sub-contract management, commissioning, operator and maintenance manuals, operator and maintainer training and maintenance.