For many engineers, the technical requirements of a project are specific and quantifiable. They are relatively straightforward to action. In contrast, the tasks involving scheduling, scope, and communication tend to bring projects unstuck.
A 2020 study by researchers at Edith Cowan University found the average levels of project efficiency were lowest within the construction industry. The research highlighted the need for project managers to focus on communication, collaboration and coordination to achieve greater project efficiency.
Given civil construction projects are typically non-linear and complex, how do engineers stay on top of it all?
Communicate to survive
Professor Lonny Simonian is a highly experienced licensed professional engineer in the State of California, USA. He is certified as a Project Management Professional by the Project Management Institute and has worked as an engineering design supervisor for many high-profile projects. He regularly teaches for The American Society of Civil Engineers. Simonian has a wealth of international expertise in construction contracts, professional practice for construction project managers, and project controls.
Simonian says learning to view project design engineering as a process is crucial to achieving success.
“You need to apply management techniques to guide this process,” says Simonian. “You have to equip yourself with cost management skills, as well as quality assurance techniques, that will help you manage the engineering design process.”
While there are many factors that can influence project success, Simonian says regular and transparent communication is needed at every phase.
“Communications management is a frequently overlooked aspect of project management that ultimately can lead to project failure,” says Simonian. “Project stakeholder management involves communication management of all stakeholders, including the general public.”
Choose a delivery method
In civil construction, there are three project delivery methods, each with their pros and cons.
Simonian explains, “In Australia, these project delivery methods are referred to as construction procurement systems, and are known as:
● Design and Build or Integrated Procurement
● Novated Design and Build
● Separated or Traditional Method.”
Design and Build involves appointing a main contractor to undertake both the design and construction. Novated Design and Build generally involves designers being contracted to a project owner and then being moved to the building contractor. The Traditional Method has the design completed before competitive tenders are invited and before the main construction contract is awarded.
Importantly, the choice of method—as well as the need to bring in consultants for specific tasks—relies on knowing the relative benefits and limitations of each according to your project needs.
“Hiring a professional engineering construction management design consultant may help a project manager to focus on other project needs, but it depends on the core competencies within the team,” says Simonian.
During the design process, project managers must be able to recommend procedures for quality assurance and quality control.
“The concept of built-in quality needs to be integrated into the design process,” says Simonian.
Project teams should engage quality assurance personnel at the all design stages, and integrate constructability reviews into the design process. This helps alleviate conflicts between drawings and construction specifications.
“Constructability reviews are a design review led by someone knowledgeable in the field of construction,” explains Simonian. “The review is typically performed by a licensed general contractor and conducted at discrete project design stages.”
Manage complexity with confidence
Of 464 project managers and business leaders surveyed in 2020, 67% believed projects were becoming more complex. Project management skills—and the ability to use the latest techniques—are needed to deal with this complexity into the future.
Engineering Education Australia is partnering with The American Society of Civil Engineers to deliver the Managing the Design Process Virtual Workshop. This interactive course will provide attendees with essential project management skills, as well as quality assurance techniques, to help professionals manage building and civil infrastructure projects.