What is a Engineering Consulting?
What Does a Consulting Engineer Do?
Consulting engineers are licensed professional engineers with diverse qualifications, including civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, environmental, geotechnical, chemical, industrial, and agricultural disciplines. At consulting engineering firms, teams of knowledgeable experts can fill many distinctive educational, technical, and mechanical roles that can help to solve or prevent any problems. Consulting engineers may design an entire project, or they might be responsible for only one component of the design, depending on the need. Their support can be provided throughout the whole process, from inception to completion, in order to facilitate the best solutions.
When business owners and engineering managers face technical challenges, or when oilfield engineering projects require improved performance, consulting engineers can assist with the entire framework, such as design analysis, construction details and future project management support. When you hire a consulting engineer, important feedback can be provided, such as material limitations and design weaknesses, offering the kind of insights that will help to optimize the entire project. Consulting engineers bring innovative, quality design that can have a positive impact on construction, operation and maintenance expenses. Whether in preparation of a new design or the rehabilitation of an existing infrastructure, consulting engineers can make the end product much simpler and more cost effective to achieve.
Selecting a Consulting Engineer
Selecting a consultant is one of the most important decisions an owner or client can make. The success of any project often depends upon obtaining the most able, experienced and reputable consultant available. There are two key points to consider when deciding what method of selection to employ:
- Inadequate fees lead to the reduction of the scope and quality of the service by spending less time on the project or assigning lower paid and usually less qualified personnel to the project.
- The method of selection that best meets all factors is quality-based selection. Choose the consultant on the basis of professional competence, managerial ability, communication skills, professional independence, professional integrity, and quality assurance.
Advantages of Quality-Based Selection (QBS)
Selecting a consultant based on quality ultimately provides the best value for the client. Top-quality consultants bring best practices to the project. This translates into the best possible solutions for the client and the end user.
Fees and pricing will be fairer to both the client and the consultant when they are negotiated after the parameters of the assignment are fully established. This will ensure a more sustainable project and one that will be more efficient, cheaper to build and more economical to operate over its life cycle.
The most important standards by which to judge an engineering consultant’s suitability to carry out a particular project are:
• Professional competence
• Managerial ability
• Availability of resources
• Fairness of fee structure
• Professional integrity
• Quality assurance system
The client should seek information on all these matters by:
• Obtaining comprehensive pre-qualification information from the consultant in a form appropriate for the assignment.
• Interviewing senior engineering personnel identified for the assignment.
• Visiting consultants and examining systems and methods of work, as well as hardware and software capabilities.
• Where applicable, speaking to previous clients.
The competent professional consultant is able to offer clients a team with the education, training, practical experience and judgment to carry out the project.
The client can evaluate the professional competence of the team by examining:
• The detailed resumes of key staff members and their relevant experience on similar assignments.
• A list of similar projects carried out by the firm and present staff.
• The approach to and engineering methodology for the proposed assignment.
In addition, clients should validate the performance of the consultant on similar previous assignment and examine their history in similar foreign countries.
A successful consultant must have managerial skills to match the size and type of project objectives. Consultants need to marshal skilled manpower and adequate resources, maintain schedules and ensure the work is planned efficiently, and they will need to deal competently with contractors, suppliers, loan agencies, government agencies, and the public during the course of the project.
The client can assess the managerial ability of the consultant team by examining:
• Past projects performance record.
• Documentation and project control procedures that guide the performance of the consultant’s services.
• The success record of the proposed project manager on previous projects.
• Project management and quality control approach proposed for the new assignment.
• Progress reporting and client communication techniques proposed for the assignment.
• The success rate on previous projects of the consultant in transferring technology.
Availability of Resources
When selecting a consultant, it is important to establish whether the firm has sufficient financial and manpower resources to carry out the project.
Clients should have the assurance that a consultant is competent and has a sufficient Code of Conduct. Consultants must approach all assignments objectively, exercise sound judgment, prudent economic principles, and provide solutions that serve the client’s best interests.
Fairness of Fee Structure
The fee structure should be adequate to achieve the objectives of the project and meet the expectations of the client. At the same time, the fee must generate a reasonable profit for the consultant so the client is served with a well trained, experienced staff and the latest in innovative approaches.
Mutual trust and integrity represent the oil in the machinery of the relationship between client and consultant. If absolute trust exists between the client and the consultant, then the project will run more smoothly, the results will be better, and both parties will be much happier.
Selection procedures that allow a consultant to use creativity, innovation, seasoned judgment and best practices in return for fair and adequate compensation, is in the best interest of the client. In an environment where investment money and loan funds are in short supply, it is in the interest of all concerned to focus on quality and value.
Terms of Reference
Draft the terms of reference with an assessment of the physical magnitude and resource requirements of the project, under the following headings:
• Areas of expertise and categories of service
• Statement of work defining the project
• A time schedule
• Location, language, logistics, allowances, duration of commission
• Type of contract proposed
• A project budget
Request for Proposals
Invite the most suitable consultant to negotiate an agreement on project scope, fee and contract terms. A request for proposals should contain:
• Statement of work, terms of reference, and supporting documentation
• Submission or closing date
• Basis of evaluation
• Statement of information
• Expected selection date
Assessment of Proposals
Once the proposals are received, the client should evaluate and rank each proposal against the basis for selection outlined in the request for proposal. This assessment helps to maintain the integrity of the selection process. Clients may also use an independent consultant during this evaluation.
Selecting a qualified consultant has a major impact on the overall cost of the project. The decisions made by consultants in the first five percent of their involvement have the highest leverage on the life cycle cost of the project.
Forms of Agreement
When drawing up the contract for consulting engineering services both the client and the consultant should protect their interests.