[Posted on November 2, 2015 by Bil Stewart]
Things to Look for When Hiring Engineer Consultants
There may come a time when your firm needs outside help from a consultant. More than likely this is good news in that you have landed an account or a project that is sizable in scope and is more than your team can handle efficiently. When that day comes, you need to be aware of what to look for in a consultant or an engineering consulting firm. At STA, we want to help you in your search, so we have put together some tips and advice to help you make an informed selection. Here are our thoughts on the matter:
It Starts With Research
There are many ways to find a suitable consultant. Usually, it is a combination of a few things. You can speak to your colleagues in the industry, you can search the internet, and you can advertise in the online trades and journals. Once you settle on some names, there are some things that you should find out that should facilitate a choice:
• How long have they been in business?
• What services do they offer?
• What are their credentials?
• Are they licensed?
• How large is their firm?
• Review client testimonials.
• Check their references.
• See where they stand with the Better Business Bureau.
These are by no means the only questions to ask or items to look for on their resume, but they provide an excellent starting point.
Unusual versatility – Example of seismic analysis of a mat-supported jack-up in the time domain using ABAQUS. This work was performed by Sage USA for Stewart Technology Associates.
Partial Resume for Bil Stewart:
PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS AND AFFILIATIONS:
Professional Engineer, Registered in State of Texas, 1983, retired 2006.
Chartered Engineer, Registered in the UK and Europe, 1977.
Member of Royal Institution of Naval Architects.
Member of Society for Underwater Technology.
Member of Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME).
Member of IMarEST, Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology.
Member of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
Member of American Society of Civil Engineers, D. OE (Diplomate of Ocean Engineering, ASCE) 2013.
Member of Society of Petroleum Engineers.
Past Member of Marine Technology Society.
Associate Member of the United States Naval Institute.
Technical Editor for Society of Petroleum Engineers (1982-1987).
Secretary & Past Chairman, Houston Chapter, Offshore Mechanics & Arctic Engineering (ASME).
Member, SNAME Offshore Committee, Chairman 1993.
Member, SNAME Technical and Research Committee, 1993.
Member, SNAME Panel OC-1, Stability and Motions, Chairman, Liftboat Task Group, 1991.
Member, 1990 to 1993 OTC Program Committees.
Member, 2002 to date NOSAC (USCG National Safety Advisory Committee).
Member, 2007 to date API RP 2RD Geotechnical Sub-Committee.
Chairman, 2009 to date, ASCE COPRI Marine Renewable Energy Committee.
Board Member ASCE COPRI 2014.
Vice President COPRI Board, 2016, President-elect for 2017
Member IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) US TC 114, 2012.
The Fee Should Not Be the Main Issue
You want to hire the best engineer that you can find. Trying to shop for the least expensive may be asking for trouble in the long run. Whatever you save initially, could end up costing more in time and effort. You are in the market for a professional engineer to assist your project and help deliver it on time and budget. You likely have a lot riding on the job, including your reputation. You take your car to the best mechanic. You want your kids to go to the best schools. You may be under the gun financially, and budgeting concerns could drive the hiring process, but if you can, don’t let the final decision be about the fee.
Uses the Latest Technologies and Software
The firm or individual consultant that you are considering should be well-versed in the latest technology and software that relates to your project. He or she should be able to train your staff in any new software that will be used, and get them up to speed in an efficient manner. They should be aware of the latest trends and the best way to implement the tools required for the job.
Knowledge in a Specific Discipline
Clearly, the consultant must have a background in the area of engineering that is needed for the project for which you hire them. They should be an expert with plenty of experience working within the confines of the particular discipline. They should be able to show a demonstrable knowledge of their field as well as ongoing education. You wouldn’t hire a Marine Engineer to consult on a onshore structural job. However, as we show in the next section, they should have a broad knowledge of other disciplines.
General Knowledge of Other Disciplines
A good consultant will know their field in and out. A superb consultant will be able to talk intelligently about a broad spectrum of issues. This is essential to thoroughly understanding the client’s needs. To better serve the potential client a consultant should be able to guide them towards completing the project, even if it means recommending that the client goes in another direction. Typically a mid-sized to a large firm is better equipped for multi-discipline abilities and can offer more than a sole proprietor.
Confidence in Their Abilities
When you have narrowed your list to a few firms and are in the interview process, look for confidence in their abilities. If they are confident in their work, it will show through when you talk to them. You are looking for poise and a level of self-assurance that is obvious. You may be asking yourself ”what does this have to do with their abilities?”. The answer to that question is that pragmatic and cool-headed individuals can think on their feet during crisis situations. They will not be afraid to tell you what they think instead of what they think you want to hear. These are the type of consultants that you want on your team if you run into trouble, and every job has its share of problems.
A Problem Solver
A consultant should be positioned to make critical decisions and be able to provide you with multiple problem-solving options. They should also be willing and able to go above and beyond the scope of the job they were hired for and make recommendations for solutions beyond what you ask them to do. They should be capable of “seeing the big picture.”
The Right Consultant for the Right Job
If you have a particularly large project, you may need to engage the services of a sizable firm. If, on the other hand, you are adequately keeping up with the job but could use the additional expertise, then a single consultant might be appropriate for your needs. A mid-size company is often the best overall option for your requirements. They typically cover a broad range of engineering disciplines and are staffed well enough to respond to your needs promptly. The point is that most consultants and consulting firms don’t provide a “one size fits all” solution so keep that in mind as you search.
It will take time to find the right engineer or firm. As we mentioned above, it starts with research. As long as you do your homework and implement the suggestions as we have outlined them above, you should find a more than satisfactory consultant. Once you do, you will have a relationship that you can turn to whenever you need extra help.