An Introduction to Project Management for Civil Engineers

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Project management is rarely as complex as it is in the civil engineering sector, but there are more ways than one to get from point A to point Z. Creativity is key to time saving and financial economy, but that doesn’t leave managers without guidelines to work with. By manipulating best practices to their needs, they’re able to hone their tactics in a customized way. Working with the basic framework of documents, licensing, and government requirements simplifies strategy creation.

A Hazardous Journey

Management tactics depend on a plan that works around the risks involved. Dangers are rooted in the need to work below the ground, replace rocks or soil with structures, and overcome flowing water around constructions. Every site is at the mercy of the catastrophic effects of the natural environment. Climates, flooding, and river training are subject to whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at the site, so conditions are impossible to predict.

Every project must be planned for the specific location involved. No risk comes without financial cost. Contracts must thus make room for the additional work that may arise. Ground level conditions are one of the principle hazards. It can take more than two years to design and complete a project, which means technology might evolve to suit construction needs better than they did before. Compliance with government requirements can be a boon as well because they provide a ready-made framework.

First Thing’s First

Flow charts are used to determine the project’s scope. This phase is imperative because if it’s poorly implemented, failure is likely. Procedures must be planned according to a prioritization matrix. The most basic facets needing quality control are:

  • Manpower including operator reliability and timing.
  • Machines, interpretation of tests, and comparing materials data.
  • Materials and the way they’re affected by age, time, and the environment.

Purists try to create a textbook scenario to follow strictly, but, of course, few projects advance that predictably. If they did, top-level managers would spend much of their time relaxing over coffee instead of committing to every phase of their projects.

Dotting the ‘I’s’ and Crossing the ‘T’s’

Documentation keeps all information on record and is used to reassess and adapt the project as it progresses. This task can be passed on to specialists to add an extra layer of protection to reduce the risk of losing important authorization documents. Before letting and tendering paperwork can even be considered, a few decisions must be taken off the table:

  • Studies of the feasibility of the project.
  • Preconstruction and design: Feasibility reports usually change the project formulation, so they need to be reassessed.
  • Investigation of the site’s ground conditions.
  • Breakdowns of the contract packages related to tenderers, suppliers, and other intermediaries.
  • The approval of planning submissions.
  • Construction supervision: Site visitation, contract reviews, and modification support must be matched to initial goals.
  • Financial planning.
  • Maintenance and operation: Inspection, reparation, and repairs are carried out by federal authorities according to the project operation agreement. Modifications occur throughout the project.

Once those choices have been made, the most suitable contracts can be chosen.

Blueprints: In-depth

Design work gives engineers the chance to put their creative and problem-solving talents to good use. Blueprints are designed by blending mathematical formulas and problem-solving skills. Architectural designs, maps, and models can be created with software these days, which improves accuracy and time efficiency enormously. It’s the civil engineer’s duty to sign infrastructure plans and finances, even if third parties are used.

Worker Bees

Constructor sites need sub-agents, section engineers, and site coordinators. Tradesmen and third party foreman with plenty of experience create the perfect team. These personnel are optional, though, and usually used when a large, complicated job is underway. Every project needs seven essential employees:

  • The agent
  • Section engineers or sub-agents
  • Plant managers
  • Office managers
  • General foremen
  • A quantity surveyor

Infrastructure needs to be designed with consideration to roads, sewers, and other utilities. The site must be assessed with the help of computerized hydro logic modeling. Public and regulatory meetings are held to finalize construction around structures like traffic and landscape architecture. Successful completion is a thankless task, even though most projects are completed on time and within budget.

Dollars and Cents

The ‘bill and quantities method’ is the go-to contract form for those who prefer classic methods, although the FIDIC Conditions contract is used internationally too. Both allow for the administration of an independent engineer. This lifts much of the load off the management team’s shoulders while drawing from the specialized skills of a third party.

Standard forms allow the financial outcome to adapt as conditions evolve. Contractors must make sure that their profit margins are adequate, and contract alterations tend to weigh down budgets. For this reason, managers often use cost reimbursement and ‘design and build’ systems to help them to adapt when unforeseeable events complicate construction. Government funding is inseparable from any budget, which means finances are generally limited. Political pressure also restricts the freedom to create a strategic design.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

Observing the way the project is executed identifies the problems that pop up before they become expensive crises. Controlling and monitoring is done in four ways:

1) Project progress analysis.

2) Schedule: Difficulties can stretch out projects’ schedules, which becomes expensive. If time sequences are poorly carried out, they must be corrected.

3) Cost increases: When technical difficulties arise, resources must be increased. If the price has been underestimated, corrective action is of the essence.

4) Quality Control: There are a range of different ways to control construction and lift staff morale. If employees are happy, they will put their best workmanship skills to work, which ultimately leads to a better product.

The finest top management champions leverage their middle management by giving them with enough quality control knowledge to achieve a near-perfect end. For this to happen, middle management needs to know its tools and systems well enough to run projects with very little help.

Finished At Last

Final touches, cleaning, and final inspection tie up the ends of a completed project. It’s not enough to simply handover the system at completion, though. It must keep functioning optimally long after the last engineer walks away from the site. Maintenance must thus be planned and tariffs levied. Licenses and maintenance manuals are delivered, and any stakeholders must be appointed to offer the necessary services. A consultant will need to be hired to levy extra services to the client. A consulting engineer is not always able to manage the full load, so extra staff are sometimes needed to monitor and visit the site.

The contract must also be completed and settled, but declaring it complete is done using processes that differ between contract forms. Risks of damages become the employer’s responsibility when the project is over, so contract completion must be carried out in good time. If there are penalties for delays and late completion, documents will outline all interim payment certificates.

Money: An Engineer’s Best Friend

Managers usually accept interim payments during execution, but deposit procedures vary from contract to contract. FIDIC short contracts and GCC 2004 are the most commonly used ones, and both are payable within 28 days of statement delivery.