Did you know that statistically 85% of Projects go over budget!  Why?

Genae Valecia Hinesman, posted an interesting article “10 Reasons Why Projects Go Above Budget” (www.chron.com) and there are thousands articles with similar story lines. A common theme through these articles is poor communication and lack of detail, is often cited as the leading cause for a project to run off the road.

The challenge: can this statistic be reduced and project target budgets achieved?

Let’s look at one of the inner blame centres: Engineering;

Engineers/Engineering departments often get invited to look at a hand sketch drawing idea from a client, requesting help to bring this idea into reality.   The thoughts develop; conceptual drawings are thrashed out further to create possible options:

Ove Arup: famous quote, articulates this process beautifully:-a-pen-drawing-light-150-211

“Engineering problems are under-defined, there are many solutions, good, bad and indifferent. The art is to arrive at a good solution. This is a creative activity, involving imagination, intuition and deliberate choice”.

In every project, there is a cross road point that requires a decision; for the idea to progress to the next level; a commitment and investment to formalised plans and schematics will be required. Without this commitment a true technical analysis and costing evaluation will not provide the project with the right foundation.

At this stage the technical input is quite often broken down into four or five key categories, for example:

  • Industrial Design – what is it going to look like?
  • Mechanical Design – how is it going to function?
  • Fluid Power Design – how is it going to be driven?
  • Electrical Design – how is it going to be controlled?
  • HMI (Human Machine Interface) Design – how is the operator going to work it?

Each category requires specific skills to prepare the required drawings. It’s these documents that ultimately setup a successful project; sadly many projects that lose money can often be traced back to the lack of detail in the planning and design documentation.

The first value proposition that a well prepared schematic brings to the table is it is a “Communication Tool”.

“The end goal of an engineering drawing like a fluid power circuit schematic is to convey all the required information that will allow the engineering department(s) to implement the solution to drive the required function”

Further analysis of why there is a lack of detail in plans can often be attributed to:

  • Lack of time to prepare detail plans
  • Lack of experience to contribute to the design plans
  • Lack of resources (money/personnel) to ensure design plans are adequate.

In fact, researching the question why do projects fail? There are literally millions of articles describing the pain of why projects were unsuccessful. These 3 points summarise a core theme.

Applying this thought to the area of Fluid Power Circuits is a great example of a specialised skill and where many projects budgets come up short, because the amount of detail that is easy left out of the equation is high, due to the lack of understanding.

The skill of a fluid power technician provides important knowledge and understanding of fluid power physics and the relationships between a mechanical function of how an actuator is going to move/operate.

Identifying the Engineering function of a project as an easy blame target for projects to overrun is a little unfair. As described, the engineering function is a complex and very broad responsibility.  If the Scope of Works is short of the necessary funds/time to enable the team to prepare the necessary details into the plans, of course the project will overrun its budget and time frame projections.

A summarise theme of this article; can the statistic “85% of project budgets overrun” be improved. The answer is a categorically Yes, but it does need two key principals to be followed:

1. A tremendous commitment and focus on making sure detail plans are prepared.
2. Willingness to approach projects with a Collaborative thinking.

Engineering drawings /plans/schematics are key communication tools