Professional and Career Topics

  • 1.  Engineering as a Finite Resource

    Posted 06-01-2021 11:43 AM
    A mentor of mine once told me "Engineering is a finite resource."  There is a finite number of licensed engineers.  There is a finite number of hours in the week.  Are we as a profession able to grasp and convey this to the client?  Is the client or general public understanding of this?  The challenge for any engineer is to identify the critical limit state or acceptable threshold to be checked, in an effort to exercise judgment and provide services at the acceptable standard of care in a timely manner.  Does everything need to be engineered and stamped? Or can the engineering scope be clearly defined and agreed upon by all parties?  Please share an experience where there was disagreement on what needed to be engineered and how you handled it.  How should the profession work to focus their services where they are most needed?

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    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI
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  • 2.  RE: Engineering as a Finite Resource

    Posted 06-02-2021 02:11 PM

    I think the statement is generally applicable to the extent – going beyond engineering. Perhaps it is not because of the non-availability of resources per se – but because of the constraints one faces to deliver a product or service – within the constraints of Time-Scope-Cost – and perhaps more.

    While working within the constraints, one has to go through optimization exercises to arrive at the best alternative. Industrialization of things is geared toward developing standards and codes – to help one to conduct standard of care, due process and diligence – without going to the full length of available resources.

    But there are situations, especially for engineers dealing with non-routine projects – in which cases, he or she faces a dilemma of where to stop. Because advanced technical resources are available beyond what are considered the norm. A smart engineer then must not forget to bring it to the notice of client – pursuing the client either to stretch out the constraints – or to define a new project.

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    Dilip

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    Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCE
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
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  • 3.  RE: Engineering as a Finite Resource

    Posted 06-08-2021 02:20 PM

     Q1 of 3:  "Or can the engineering scope be clearly defined and agreed upon by all parties?"

    Q2 of 3"Please share an experience where there was disagreement on what needed to be engineered and how you handled it."

    Q3 of 3: "How should the profession work to focus their services where they are most needed?"

    Interesting questions that I imagine are real-world issues routinely part of:

    • 1 of 3: Last economical chance to get this right at the lowest possible cost is during the contract negotiations. And of course, such negotiations include budget and schedule as well as scope. Also included would be setting limits on work requested after the contract is in place into at least two groups:

    • Work/dollar/time limit for contractor requests accepted and started prior to a contract addendum signed by all parties.
    • Work/dollar/time limit for contractor requests accepted and started only following execution of an addendum to the contract.
      • 2 of 3: My somewhat dated experience with the above most of the time was because the engineer did not invest time in getting to the client's requirements right at project contract negotiations. As I reflect on such experiences, the following brief scenario outlines why.
      1. Contracts are intended to address delivering the quality of the work to meet that client's requirements.
      2. But many clients while clear about their expectations, do not realize the work to be done will be based on the engineer's interpretation of expectations into requirements.
      • 3 of 3: "How should the profession work to focus their services where they are most needed?"

      Quality is conformance to the client's requirements.

      Until the engineer helps the client translate their expectations into requirements,

      starting the work puts the engineer at risk from "Day 1."

       

      Stay Healthy!

      Cheers,

      Bill

       



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      William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
      Buffalo, N.Y.

      "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
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