Changing Workforce / Career Development

Is your plant suffering from poor engineering quality? You're not alone.

Poor communication between owner and contractor, limited availability of experienced resources and an increase in project complexity might be fighting your other gains.

By Stephen Cabano

Most industry leaders would argue the biggest factor affecting engineering quality is the lack of experience of many technical staff. The industry must cope with a large expansion in activity with a limited increase in skilled resources; senior-level engineers, although highly experienced, can’t handle the workload. The industry has tried to fill this gap with tools. These have reduced users’ knowledge of engineering fundamentals and robbed them of valuable experience. Moreover, this approach has resulted in a lack of awareness of what quality looks like and what it consists of as far as deliverables. Too many inexperienced engineers believe: “If the system spits it out, it must be good!”

In addition, despite the implementation of more and more electronic systems and tools, engineering hours for projects haven’t dropped. This is a misguided metric, though, because engineering typically accounts for only around 12–15% of the total cost of a large-scale capital project; procurement and construction activities represent a majority of the total project cost. So, spending a little extra in engineering effort to get the other areas more efficient is a cheap price to pay. Owners should appreciate that ensuring we make prudent purchases (of equipment and materials) and build projects flawlessly in today’s less-experienced-project-team environment is more critical than reducing engineering hours.

To learn more about engineering quality, read “Boost Engineering Quality” from Chemical Processing.

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