Our previous article introduced the concept of engineering quality control, and why we at Carmagen Engineering think that it is an important activity to undertake on capital projects. Briefly stated, engineering quality control is the periodic sampling of a contractor's or vendor's engineering performance during the course of a job to ensure that it meets technical specification requirements. This article provides some suggestions on how to implement it.
An owner company will have a project management team (PMT) assigned to a capital project. Theirs is primarily a project engineering function (i.e., cost control, schedule, execution planning, etc.). They will typically not have the technical depth and experience to effectively assess the technical capabilities and performance of the contractor's and vendor's engineering specialty areas (e.g., pressure vessel design, pipe stress analysis, pipe specifications, etc.). The owner company can provide the technical assessment capability to the PMT by assigning appropriate technical specialists to it, on a part or full time basis, depending on the size and complexity of the project. These owner company specialists act as consultants to the PMT in their specialty areas, and provide recommendations to the PMT based on their assessments of contractor and vendor performance.
It is important that the line of communication among the PMT, contractor, vendors and owner technical specialists be clearly established and understood by all so that there is no confusion. Official recommendations and instructions to the contractor should only be through the PMT, not the owner technical specialist. The owner technical specialist could certainly get information from his contractor and vendor counterparts, but should not give official directions. With this approach, the lines of responsibility are kept distinct and misunderstandings are minimized.
We've briefly described an approach which may be used to implement engineering quality control on a capital project. Our next article will provide some ideas for how the technical specialist can perform this function.