Engineering projects are very difficult because there’s so much at stake. The hypothesis stage or trial-and-error stage comes in the creation of the plans. But once the project begins, there’s no room for major changes. After all, you’re dealing with important structures that need a solid foundation. The materials are also expensive, and projects are always time-bound.
The success, therefore, of any engineering project, starts with thorough and good planning. Think of this like you would treat any other project. If something doesn’t start out with a plan, then that project is really doomed to fail in the long run. And failure is something you wouldn’t want to happen with an engineering project.
Below are five of the most important things to go through before planning an engineering project.
1. Draft A Contract
Before undertaking any engineering or construction project, having a general contractor’s agreement that comes complete with the 6 elements of a contract is always a must. This would encompass the limits of the construction project, and the rights and obligations of both the engineer-contractor and the client before, during, and after the completion of the project.
This contract should also contain the project cost estimates in a detailed fashion. Having a contract is very important because an engineering project carries with it the security and well-being of properties and lives. Should anything go wrong, you’ve got a contract that legally binds both parties to help smoothen out disagreements.
With that said, your contract should at least have the following to make you feel confident that the project will go as stress-free as possible:
- Clear Language: For your contract to be official, it doesn’t need to have any complicated and incomprehensible legalese terms. Keep the language as clear as possible, so it can be clearly understood even by non-engineers.
- Insurance Requirements: A good engineering contractor is one who also has insurance. That way, should anything happen in the course of the project, you’re confident that there’s an insurance company that’ll cover the expenses and liabilities.
- Fixed Payment Schedule: This refers to the mode of payments, and how often the client must pay the engineer-contractor until the full price of the project is paid.
2. Gauge The Project’s Scope
One of the hardest challenges to hurdle in any construction project comes when the client has unrealistic expectations of the project scope.
Generally, the scope will be outlined in the general contract. This has to be absolute. A good contractor will make it clear that once the project has started, no changes in the design or alterations should be made. Any extensions and added work will mean additional costs and delays.
However, some clients can be so difficult that they think it’s alright to add a few changes because these are very minimal. Then, when the contractor revises the price to give in to these ‘few changes’, they haggle the price.
It's important for both parties to understand that the project scope is definite and final. Otherwise, delays are bound to happen. If a certain work or adjustment that a client wants isn’t included in the original project scope, then this should be covered in a new contract and may even need an additional warranty.
3. Hold A Kickoff Meeting
The kickoff meeting is the very first meeting you’re going to have with your client right after completing the project plan. The engineer-contractor will present this plan or blueprint to the client, and explain everything in thorough detail.
This kickoff meeting is an opportunity for you and the client to lay all your cards on the table. Should there be any changes to the plan or blueprint, then these should immediately be raised in the meeting.
During this meeting, the architect and/or interior designer will also be around, if the project has one. This can ensure a seamless flow of information, design, and good communication across all parties who are privy to the engineering project.
4. Set The Success Criteria
As an engineer-contractor, having established criteria for success can give you the means to decipher if the project is indeed successful or not. This can differ from one client to another. So, for every project you’re going to undertake, the success criteria must be made in reference to the project scope and the needs of the client.
Generally, however, the goal should always be the turnover of the project earlier or during the deadline. The project estimates should also be as accurate as possible, so you won’t have to keep on asking for additional payments from the client. Lastly, the quality shouldn’t be compromised as well.
5. Create A Project Schedule
Creating a project schedule is a step for the engineer-contractor to undertake only with their team. After meeting with a client who has already approved the final plans, this is a good signal for you to start working on the project. This is also when you can start meeting with your team to create a project schedule.
This meeting should be with every single individual who’ll form part of the construction project—from electrical engineers, electricians, painters, and even the carpenters or masons. That way, a smooth flow of communication can be done right from the beginning and each one is made aware of the responsibilities they all play towards completing the project.
This project schedule should also include discussions about the project’s timeline. This discussion can help each team be aware of impending deadlines they’ve got to meet. As much as possible, you may also want to break up the tasks weekly. By doing so, you’ve got a means to determine at the end of every week whether or not these deadlines are met.
Everyone plans projects in different ways, so this isn’t meant to be an exclusive, one-size-fits-all approach to engineering projects. It’s merely a guide of the non-negotiables to have before starting with the engineering project. Remember that these kinds of projects are serious and very important, so it’s not one for you to simply take lightly. The tips above, for starters, can help position your project on a good start. The goal of every engineering project is to finish in the earliest time possible, at the best price, and for the best quality.