Who is an Engineer and who is not?

Who is an Engineer and who is not?

Who is not an Engineer!

  • A person who would carry out calculations based on pervious example of a specific design, a number cruncher, is not an Engineer. There are many people in the industry who are called Engineers and that’s all they do, number crunching.
  • A person who manages the finance and resourcing of an Engineering team is not an Engineer. Again you will see that most Engineers move to management of a team of Engineers/number crunchers and technicians as a progression in their career. This progress is just a false perception that has found its way in the Engineering industry.
  • A person who do not understand the basics of Engineering mathematics and science, can not become an Engineer, although the title “Engineer” is awarded to the person for being in the industry for a number of years.
  • People who are called Engineers in the society are not necessarily Engineers.

My view is an Engineer is a person who takes the available information (scientific) from various fields and applies it to overcome a specific problem. The process involves conceptual design, science, mathematics, planning (programming), coordination between various parties, production of engineering drawings and finally execution of the project (where applicable).

Engineers start their project with a problem and using their experience and knowledge to over come the problem, with safety efficiency, aesthetics, and economy. The purpose of the various Institutions such as the ICE (the Institution of Civil Engineers), IStructE (the Institution of Structural Engineers), ASCE American Society of Civil Engineers, Engineers Australia and so on is to promote these qualities in Engineers.

I welcome other views.

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Design Appreciation

One of the problems that Engineers face today is lack of appreciation of their work by other. They do not understand what designs involve and how changes affect the design, the behavior of say a structure, the amount of time that is required to carry out the works as a result of the change and finally the cost. We as Engineers should as soon as a change is proposed, estimate the time required to make the change, the additional cost and provide a break down of the effects if required.

What we need to think about when we agree to changes is whether we accept the liability for the change and the risks associated with it.

Recently I was designing a bridge in the Middle East, where American Code AASHTO was used. The client proposed a change in the carriageway width by 2.3 m (by removing the verges on each side of the carriageway, keeping the overall width of the bridge the same) and stated “Can you please re-run the loadings from experience this should be pretty quick and simple”

. Below were the items that I communicated to the client:

• The new layout changed the number of notional lanes resulting in re-doing the deck loading.

• Load combination need to be re-run

• Result need to be extracted

• Design of all element, Prestressed beams, deck, diaphragms, edge cantilever, abutments, pilecaps piles and bearing schedule need to be checked/amended.

• Load on the abutments will change, the design of the abutments need to be checked

• Load on the foundations will change, the foundations have to be re-analysed, this may result in increasing the pile length, or increase in the pile no. and layout.

• The programme of works will need to be amended as the original deadline can not bet met

• Management and communications cost as a results of the change.

• The cost associated with the change will be calculated if necessary but it is a good proportion of the design cost.

The above resulted the design to be carried out without the change.

If I had alternatively carried out the design with the change without communicating the issued listed above it would have resulted in carrying out a lot of work and not getting paid for.

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Engineering at Risk!

Engineering at Risk

From my experience over the past 20 years, it appears that Engineering is changing into a type of production line in most consultancies and contractors alike. Less emphasis is given to the Engineering aspects of the projects than the economy of the project. There are obviously exceptions in high prestigious projects where this is not the case. But most of the local authorities and private organizations opt for the economy in the construction of the structure to a degree where the Engineering part is sacrificed and decisions are made base on the pressure from client, contractor due to shortage of time and budget in completing the projects.

More often than not the designers are not involved in the pricing and programming the design works, they are given a programme to work to. The Designers should assess the programme and raise their concerns if any right at the start of the project.

Vague scopes of the works can cause a lot of redundant work. It is worth studying the project first and making a list of comments/questions to clarify the areas where the Engineer may think it is unclear. The Engineer needs to communicate the queries using appropriate communication methods (Technical Queries, TQ) to document this at the start of the project.

Instruction from the parties involved in the project is another trap that the designers fall into quite frequently. The Engineer receives instructions to change something without realising the consequences of the change. The Engineer should document the change and inform the instructor of the effect of the change on the program and budget, he/she may change his/her mind.

The contractors generally ignore the construction methods and details that are specified by the designer and choose a cheaper and quicker option without consultations with the designers. They then argue and pressurize the designers to justify the methods used are acceptable.

One of the arguments that we hear constantly is that “we have done this many time in the past”, this does not validated the correctness of the method and its fitness for the specific purpose. The design codes have changed and more strict requirement might be in place today than it was in the past, therefore this should not be used as a justification. Specific projects have specific details, constraints and so on, the fact that it has been done in the past is a vague statement that has no value at all. The liability is still with the designers to ensure they comply with the current Standards.

The other phrase used commonly is “it should be fine”, it should be fine based on what, how many time have we thought a design to be sufficient, prior to carrying out calculation only to find out after calculations that it not sufficient. The designers should carry out the necessary calculation in all circumstances and not post calculate the design. Which then would be impossible to change the design as soon as it is out f the door. The Designer then need to do a lot of research, cutting corners to justify the design.

The designers are expected to work with shorted programs and produce more. The economic crisis has further affected the budget on the projects. One of the common phrases used in many companies to justify the pressure on the Engineers is “You are lucky that you still have a job”!

In summary:

1)      Engineers are expected to work with extremely tight deadlines, obviously not compromising the design and produce the same amount of calculations as before due to shortage of budget.

2)      Engineers are expected to accept what has been built by the contractors to economise the construction cost.

3)      Commonly used phrases mentioned above should not be used as justification.

4)      Vague scope of works

5)      Engineers should be grateful for having a job! What a joke!

What should we do as Designers and Engineers.

1)      Value our work

2)      Assess the program of works at the beginning of the project and raise any concerns that we may have.

3)      Document all the communications and decision that are made. People give instructions and later forget! This is very common in our industry, always document the decisions made.

4)      Document all the variation/changes to the design and send to the parties involved specifying the addition time, budget and resources that it requires.

5)      Ensure that sufficient calculations are carried out prior to submitting something to Client or the Contractor.

6)      Do not be pressurised by various parties involved. If you delay the submission and ensure it is right is much better than submitting something which may not be correct. I have seen many urgent cases where if something was not done in two days time then a disaster will happen, few months down the line the designers were still carrying out the design and everything was fine!

 

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Updates to the Spreadsheets

Currently updating the spreadsheets, there seem to be a demand for spreadsheets to Eurocodes, I will attempt to focus more on Eurocodes.

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Welcome to STSK Consulting Knowledge Centre

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