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Don't Be An Engineer At The Expense Of Common Sense

Don't Be An Engineer At The Expense Of Common Sense Dear All,

Happy New Year to all of you and I start off with a blog entry which you may find quite interesting.

Being an engineer is justifiably a matter of pride since engineers have made an immeasurable contribution to the betterment of the world we live in.

However, as Homo sapiens, who are the considered on the top of the chain of living beings we must understand that our basic intelligence is the attribute that distinguishes us from other species of the animal kingdom and gives us the hallowed status we have. We have evolved from the stone-age to today's world of gadgetry and gizmos because we have used our intelligence or in other words our common sense more than any other species of the animal kingdom.

While the meaning of common sense can be debated from various perspectives of the human society, I am only going to specifically dwell on common sense from the perspective of a design engineer. Wikipedia has a long article on the various aspects of common sense, which can be read at the link below:


Coming to specifics, I would like to discuss how common sense and the ability to question and challenge should be used by a design engineer:

1. Certain documents like design basis are prepared at the start of the project. Subsequent engineering design work results from the status quo of the design basis. In other words, the design basis needs to be frozen at the earliest and should not remain dynamic throughout the project unless there are some compelling circumstances. Often, design basis provides listing of future engineering documents that will be prepared during the course of the project. Many of these future documents are identified by an alpha-numeric code and description which is established at the start of the project. A number of such documents identified in the design basis by this code and description are dynamic in nature till the end of the project. An example would be P&IDs for the project. While listing the documents by the alpha-numeric code and the description makes perfect sense in the design basis, providing the revision status of these dynamic document does not. There is absolutely no prudence in revising the design basis because the revision status of the dynamic documents has changed. Engineers must realize that when a listing of a dynamic document is made in a frozen or status quo document, they have the responsibility to refer the latest revision of that document. This is what I mean by common sense.

2. While I do not condone gramatically incorrect or misspelt language, it is important to note that documents such as design and sizing calculations with formulas, equations, sketches do not diminish in stature just because of a few misspelt words or grammatically incorrect language. Anybody rejecting the document solely on these grounds, does need to have lessons in common sense. Obviously, if time is not of essence, which normally is, you can decorate the document with Queen's English and make it as glossy and slick as an advertisement billboard.

3. In a majority of projects either the client or his PMC (Project Management Consultant) checks the engineering deliverables provided by the engineering contractor. Often it is seen that the client or his PMC will put multiple question marks on a particular section of the document, or ask vague and unrelated open-ended questions. I consider this behavior as trying to insult or humiliate the engineering contractor and would treat it with the contempt it deserves. Obviously, people indulging in this kind of antics need extended lessons in etiquette and common sense. It also puts a big question mark in terms of their capabilities as an engineer.

4. E-mail communication betweeen various parties during the project has to be very carefully scrutinized before being sent. Being a client does not give license for using uncouth, foul and patronizing language to the service provider in written communication. As a client, I have had my fair share of grievances with the service provider and many a times I have given them a piece of my mind, however, only on telephone and never by written communication. Remember, the written word has far more grave consequences, specifically when it is bad, than the spoken word. This is one more thing which relates to common sense.

5. Engineering contractors earn revenue and profit based on time management of their skilled personnel. This time management is in terms of their budgeted manhours for the project. From a strictly technical view point, any over-run over the budgeted manhours means a loss of revenue and profits for the engineering contractor. Most clients have little or no concern about the time management of the engineering contractor. They have an expanding wish-list over the tenure of project where they want the engineering contractor to explore all kinds of possibilities and permutations-combinations for the project. If the client is willing to pay for such kind of research and development work, then there is no argument. However, in a majority of cases clients are unwilling to do so and the contractor is burdened with work which is far beyond the scope of work envisaged at the start of the project. While this is undoubtedly unethical on the part of the client, it is also the responsibility of the senior management on the engineering contractor's side to ensure that the client pays for the extra work demanded by him. Businesses do not survive on freebies and charities. This is again common sense for both the client and the service provider.

Well it is time to conclude this somewhat descriptive blog. However, this is not the end of it. I may come out with a Part 2 on the same topic with more common sense related points. Meanwhile, I request the readers of my blog to come out with points related to common sense from an engineering perspective, which they feel can make the world a lot better place for engineers to work.


PS: My spouse and a majority of women think that most men have ridiculously low levels of common sense related to home affairs and in managing children. I have no logic to disagree. Do you have a logic to counter this charge? If yes, please share.

Ajay S. Satpute
Jan 05 2015 11:34 PM

Wonderful article indeed!!!


I totally agree with you. The problem is perhaps due the fact that from client side, scope is prepared by one team, project is handled by another and solution/recommendation is reviewed by third team. The consultant has to deal with three different school of thoughts. It gets annoying at times, but still one has to manage somehow.


For the second part of your article, I too believe that women are better managers, not just in homes, but in offices as well. I have many examples to cite. :)





Jan 06 2015 01:05 AM

Great article, Ankur Sir.

I agree with you. It is the tendency of client to treat EPC contractors as their servants. Mostly time delay is from clients side but blame is on contractor.




dear ankur,

  great article, and i totally agree with you especially point no 3.

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