A Simple Engineering Process

Introduction

This paper aims to discuss an engineering process in connection with the following concepts: 1) Theory of Constraints (TOC) that was worked out by Eliyahu Goldratt, 2) Total Quality Management (TQM), a method for improving performance and monitoring; 3) the importance of scheduling, and 4) budgeting. The project, which I would like to describe, is taken from my personal experience. For privacy, I would not like to disclose the names of the companies, contractors, and subcontractors who took part in it. The names of the clients also should not be revealed. The key purpose was to design a four-story commercial building that could be used for the needs of office premises and small retail shops, which had to be located on different floors.

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On the whole, this process consisted of five major stages. The first step was to examine the requirements of the main stakeholders: 1) entrepreneurs or businessmen who wished to open their sales outlets and workshops in the building; 2) community; and 3) governmental organizations, for example, BIS (US Bureau of Industry and Security). So, the team of engineers needed to pay careful attention to the safety standards set by federal institutions. The second part of the project was to define the problem: namely, how to make this four-story construction combine all the facilities necessary for the mall and office building. It was necessary to allocate the space for storehouses, car parks, public conveniences, and so forth. The next task was to research and analyze similar projects as some of them could be quite useful to this case. When the research was done, the group began to evaluate probable designs which could lay the groundwork for the final decision. Only after, testing and independent assessment of the solution, the plan was put into practice.

  1. At this point, we need to apply the theory of constraints (TOC) to this project. Overall, it can be understood as a technique for determining and eliminating obstacles, which can prevent the company from achieving a certain goal. One of the most difficult barriers was the conflict between the quality of the project and the deadlines, set by the customers. The process of engineering had to be completed in less than six months and this period was not enough for the team. Another problem that had to be solved was the unwillingness of the city board to provide territory sufficient for future building. The thing is that the team had to know the exact area that would be available for the construction. Without this information, the entire project could be fruitless.
    According to TOC, it is vital to elevate or even exploit constraints. In other words, the company firm or team has to avoid any unnecessary waste of time and continue working on the relevant tasks. This is the reason why the team had to work out two alternative solutions, depending on the size of the building. In theory, both of them could be adopted as the final plan. Additionally, the firm had to negotiate timelines with the customers and ask them for an extension of three weeks. They needed to explain that the initial schedule had not been realistic, and it could have significantly downgraded the quality of the project. It could even result in re-design and additional expenses.
    Fortunately, the investors admitted these arguments and agreed to give extra time to the team. In this case, the major objective was to keep a balance between the throughput (or the final design) and the inventory (information, time, and resources). This theory is of great value for engineers because it enables to increase the performance of any team, enterprise, or organization despite all kinds of restraints and pressures.
  2. Another topic that can be discussed in connection with this project is the so-called TQM or Total Quality Management. The essence of this method lies in improving every part of the engineering process. This includes not only the product but every organizational activity. Apart from that, this business strategy focuses on the importance of continuous improvement of employees skills. So, at the first stage of the process, the firm had to conduct in-depth research of clients demands and expectations. For example, it took the team much time and effort to learn how the customers had wanted the building to look like, and what were most crucial criteria for them. It should be borne that the engineers had to reconcile and satisfy the demands, made by different stakeholders, 1) those who wanted to open sales outlets and 2) those people, who required room for offices and workshops.
    When speaking about TQM one should also pay attention to the way duties are divided among team members. For example, engineers wanted to reduce the loss of time to a minimum. This is why the team had to be broken into several parts: 1) the first group, which dealt with clients and the representatives of governmental organizations; 2) the research team: 4) coordinators and 5) decision-makers. This strategy gave a chance to find the most applicable to the skills of each employee

The major idea of TQM

The major idea of TQM is that the quality of the product or services, offered by the firm can be improved only if every production process within the company or activity is developed into perfection. This case is relevant to our discussion because it demonstrates how the principles of TQM can be implemented in a real-life situation. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this topic is one of the most important ones in such a discipline as engineering.

However, other questions are of no less value, for instance, budgeting. The point is that while developing the final design the team had to estimate financial resources, which the clients possessed at that time. Each part of the plan had to be discussed with the customers. Apart from that, the team had to estimate the costs that could be involved in the process of construction, namely the cost of materials, delivery. Before the submission of the budgeting plan, the company had to evaluate all possible risks such as unexpected price fluctuations.

The importance of budgeting

Again, we have to set stress on the idea that effective budgeting is impossible without in-depth research. To make any predictions about the expenses, one should study the similar projects which had been carried out previously. Besides, budgeting can be efficient only if there is a detailed WBS (work breakdown structure). It is a tool that is used to show every activity according to its priority and chronological order. Risk assessment is one of the essential elements in budgeting. This is why the team had to mark out the cores sources of risk and evaluate their probability and impact. The company had to ensure that its clients could make a fully informed decision.

Certainly, no one can deny the importance of budgeting but it seems that this topic should be discussed only in connection with other concepts, like risk assessment, scheduling, finance management, and so forth. The examples, which have been presented in this paper, prove that an engineer should have a vast variety of skills and competencies. They cannot be viewed only to the knowledge of technologies and exact sciences. These skills also include economics, finance, accounting, statistics, and many other areas.

The ability to draw a schedule

One of such skills and competencies, which we need to analyze, is the ability to draw a schedule. This schedule must meet several requirements: for instance, it has to allow for unpredicted delays. The thing is that even the most careful planning cannot eliminate the possibility of untimely delivery or the damage of building materials and other accidents. Secondly, the person who makes out the schedule must make sure that the tasks are relatively independent of one another. This means that the failure to do one part of the project should not hinder the whole process. The team of engineers had to solve such a problem during this project; especially when they lacked specific data about the area that would be available for the construction of the building. This is why they needed to develop two alternative designs. In addition, they had to classify tasks according to their urgency and importance.

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Yet, scheduling is not only the question of timing. The group of engineers also must pair assignments especially if they are related to one another. For example, during the project the company had to organize them in this manner: 1) defining the problem and information gathering: 2) research, analysis, and evaluation of the projects, which have already been done; 3) testing and implementation. Some of these tasks were performed at the same time. The main characteristic of a good schedule is that it can be changed and updated throughout the whole process. Most importantly, it has to be realistic. This is why the team had to ask the customers for an extension of three weeks to provide a high-quality design.

Conclusion

Thus, in this paper, we have tried to show how theoretical concepts such as TOC, TQM, budgeting, and scheduling can be applied in practice. TOC helps to avoid or minimize the effects or the problems arising in the course of engineering. This approach allows the team to work further despite various obstacles: such as lack of information or disagreements with the clients. Total Quality Management is a powerful tool that gives us a chance to improve every production process. Furthermore, TQM urges engineers to take into account the demands set by the customers. It is one of the best methods to boost the performance of any team or company. We have also discussed budgeting to show how complex this topic is. It covers risk assessment, scheduling, economics, statistics, and many other fields. Finally, scheduling is one of the vital skills for an engineer and it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to learn it. Only understanding all these concepts can help the company or the management to reach success and complete the projects on time. The case, which has been described in this essay, shows how this knowledge can be used in real-life situations.

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