Japan Engineer District’s Rising Star Brings Value Engineering to the Forefront

Kenji Hayashi, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Japan Engineer District’s (USACE JED) Value Engineering Officer (VEO), was recently awarded the USACE ‘Value Engineering Professional of the Year award.’

Value engineering, or the processes implemented by contractors to identify and offer cost savings opportunities on projects during construction, was adopted by USACE in 1964 as a cost saving tool and has since been implemented into common practice at all USACE units.

Hayashi has taken these base-level processes and elevated them.

“Mr. Hayashi’s determined efforts in Fiscal Year 2021 placed The District near the top of USACE during a challenging year, making him worthy of consideration for Value Engineering Professional of the Year,” said Stephen Karwan, JED’s Engineering Division Chief. “Kenji exemplifies excellence within USACE and the Value Engineering Community of Practice, and his leadership, performance, and work products are consistently superior.”

Kenji has applied his design and construction knowledge, inclusive leadership, and levelheaded approach assisting in turning JED’s VE program around. To his credit, The District has achieved 6-straight years of “green” metrics compliance and has facilitated JED’s VE studies with in-house teams to assist in growing their knowledge base.

“[I have helped JED’s VE program by] conducting VE study workshops using our in-house team members, to include civilians and Japanese nationals, [especially] focusing on evaluating Japanese contractors,” explained Kenji when prodded. A man of action rather than words, Kenji allows the fruits of his labor to speak for themselves. “I believe in our VE program, [and how we assist in] awarding projects on time, and within budget.”

Since October 2015, Hayashi has taken the reins as JED’s VEO, becoming responsible for a program that had historically ranked poorly in the Military Program USACE Command Guidance metrics. During that time, JED’s workload was rapidly increasing and flooded market conditions in Japan provided trouble with contract bidding. These factors, coupled with the distance and time difference from the continental U.S. (CONUS) put The District at a distinct disadvantage.

“For many, VE is a box to check in the review process – for our stakeholders in Japan, it’s a way to make sure that Japanese products and construction methods are incorporated into our projects to make them more affordable and constructable,” said Rob Baulsir, JED’s Engineering Support Branch Chief. “As a testament to Kenji and his team’s work, they often get asked for value engineering even when it’s not required – that’s a real-life demonstration of “value-added” from my point of view.”

To revamp the program, Kenji focused his efforts on ensuring JED projects are suitable for the Japanese market, stressing the importance on designing, taking advantage of Japanese products, and allowing local Japanese contractors to implement construction techniques they are familiar with.

“Kenji strives to assemble a team with a strong knowledge in Japanese construction that can identify the inefficiencies in a project and propose alternatives that add value, and save money,” said Karwan. “The groundwork Mr. Hayashi put in allows him to contribute to mission readiness, strengthening the alliance.”

Utilizing his host nation ties, Hayashi actively reaches out to Japanese contractors during U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ) industry days to gather feedback on how to improve biddability for contracts, and constructability for future projects.

“Fluent in Japanese and English, he communicates effectively with American and Japanese team members, as well as local vendors, to not only identify and develop strong cost savings and added value proposals, but to teach and share his lessons learned with teammates,” noted Karwan.

In 2018, Mr. Hayashi received the Rising Star award by USACE VE, and he followed that up in 2020, where he earned the title of Certified Value Specialist (CVS), becoming the only CVS in the Pacific Ocean Division (POD) region which includes Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, and Korea.

“The level of professionalism and precision that Kenji brings to the table for every project is amazing,” said JED’s Deputy Commander, Lt. Col. Chelsey O’Nan. “He continually proves his value to the team here, and his commitment to the alliance is incredible.”

JED’s once ‘Rising Star’ shows no signs of setting and plans to continue his innovative approaches to ensuring The District’s VE program stays ‘under budget and beyond expectations.’ and he has the buy-in from leadership to help provide him guidance and assurance.

“I feel great knowing that what JED does helps improve and strengthen the U.S. and Japan alliance,” said Hayashi.

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