The initial concept of functions as defined herein was invented by Lawrence D. Miles as World War II conflict was coming to an end, while he was working as a purchasing agent for the General Electric Company. Since materials required for the war effort were in short supply for companies that were supplying goods for the general public’s consumption during those war years, many of General Electric’s products had to be discontinued until a substitute material could be found.
Mr. Miles began to correspond with potential suppliers by asking if they had something that General Electric could use in place of rubber, steel, and other materials that were allocated strictly for military use during those World War II years. Sometime later, Mr. Miles started to describe to his potential suppliers what he needed by using functions expressed by an active verb and a noun. This was just one of the steps he used to obtain new suppliers that could supply different materials and products to General Electric.
Not only was the cost of some of these products reduced, but it also made it possible for General Electric to supply them once again during those war years. He discovered that the most productive technique was when his suppliers offered him products or parts that performed the same function but at tremendously lower cost. This approach was so beneficial to General Electric that Mr. Miles was promoted to manager and trained other people within the company so they could do the same thing.
His verb-noun concept of naming functions, along with his other concepts for reducing costs, was included in the training program he developed. He named his technique value analysis. His technique was adopted later by the United States Navy and named value engineering.