The Law of Engineering

Something that I’ve heard again and again from people in careers is that they had no idea they would end up in the job they were in today. So many people start out in one career and often dramatically change career-paths at some or other point. Thats one of the resons I’m not too stressed about where I want to end up – as long I am learing a lot where I am and having a great time, its okay. And boy, am I learning a lot!

I never knew thatone of the biggest challenges on the project so far was ensuring the equipment was on site at the right time. This process is called procurement and is basically the process of selecting, purchasing, fabricating and ensuring the stuff is delivered to site at the right time. This is most of what I am doing right now. You may be thinking – why in the world is a mechanical engineer busy buying goods? Well, actually, there is so much that has to go into this process that requires a broad technical knowledge base.

Firstly, I am interfacing with the design engineers to ensure they put together the technical specifications of all the equipment packages – the crushers, the tanks, the structural steel – to meet the needs of the plant we’re building. Next, I need to ensure that the suppliers out in the market get the packages, and that they are reliable and are able to give us a good price and deliver in time. This means interfacing with the scheduling team and the accountants.  Putting all of these bits of information together and coordinating the various consultants, suppliers and project team members to do something as simple as placing an order for a ball mill requires time and serious organizational skills!

The other big eye-opener was the legal contract issues that come up. You would think that the agreement between us (the client) and the suppliers would be mainly about getting the work done at the right price in the right time. But no. Its more about ensuring that each party agrees on performance guarantees, equipment warantees, contractual obligations and exclusions, and that each party’s lawyers are 100% happy that the other isn’t going to find the smallest loophole to default on commitments!

Well ok, I am overdoing it just a little. This may seem very negative and unneccesary, but believe me, this is the type of thing that you, as an engineer, will encounter in  the real world. Contract management and the law behind it is something I’m finding actually quite interesting…who knows…maybe my career will take an unexpected turn in that direction one of these days…

3 thoughts on “The Law of Engineering”

  1. Sounds like you could become an expert in transaction cost economics, a branch of construction economics (or engineering economics really) which deals with contracts, procurement, the risks involved in setting up contracts, such as bounded rationality (where not enough is known or understood about the concept or design, yet you are about to sign the dotted line) or opportunism (either being taken advantage of by being overcharged or taking advantage of your supplier, by under paying), and of course, the hold up problem, where either supplier or client is backed into a corner with no choice but to jump to client’s tune, especially if your contract is so big you have a single client 😮 or the client is forced to pay a premium for innovation, classic example from car industry in the 1930’s with Ford me thinks. Nice to see you blogging again. Freedes a.k.a Emang 😉

    1. Hi Freda!

      You’ve hit the nail on the head – procurement, contracts, bounded rationality, cost-risks and opportunism are all part of the experiences I;ve had on this project. Its my first project as a working engineer, and I srill have a lot of projet management areas to gain experience in, but I’ve found cost and contract management very interesting and challenging!

      Where are you working right now? You seem to have had a lot of experience in pm.

      Good to hear from you!

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