Engineering is the science (or in many cases, art!) of solving the world’s problems. Whether it be chemical, civil, rail, power or electrical, the discipline presents engineering project managers with a unique set of challenges.
Engineers by their very definition are problem solvers. Many engineers when given free reign will aim to deliver the perfect solution to a problem, regardless of time or cost. Trying to find the perfect solution is an admirable quality of course, but frustrating to manage. The key to managing this type of situation is setting phased goals. Set deadlines for draft designs and/or documents to be reviewed by senior management, or even the client. Once a draft has been nodded through, it reduces the temptation to fundamentally change the design.
Engineering projects can produce literally thousands of electronic documents. Designs, drawings, schematics, layouts, O&M manuals, you name it, there’ll be numerous documents for it. The efficient management of these documents is absolutely critical to a project’s success. Many document management systems exist, each with their pros and cons. Whichever software you choose, be sure to put rigid processes around its use. If you have a planner/scheduler on the project, ask them to create a tracking spreadsheet to ensure key documents are not missed. Although document management may not be on your day-to-day task list, you will be ultimately responsible for it.
On major infrastructure projects there’s highly likely to be a series of contractors, subcontractors and other suppliers involved. The negotiation and management of these contracts is a specialism in itself, but again you will ultimately be responsible should something go wrong. Ensure the contracts are watertight and well understood by your commercial department. Pick out the key payment milestones and highlight any penalties incurred for late delivery or substandard quality. These milestones need to be proactively managed to avoid substantial financial penalties that will only serve to reduce your project’s profitability.
What other skills are specific or more relevant within engineering project management? Have your say below.