Jun 08, 2012
The buck should stop with the project managerBack
Construction|Cable|Consulting|Industrial|Petrochemicals|PROJECT|System|Systems|UPS|United States|Petrochemicals|Systems|Harry S Truman|Power|Cable
© Reuse this
We all know what ‘passing the buck’ means – to pass responsibility for a matter to somebody else – and ‘the buck stops here’ means that a person is facing up to that responsibility.
This article is about project managers. In general, there were no project managers in the commercial world when I was a young engineer – the architects did it (for an additional fee) and the engineers did what the architects told them to do. There were some project managers but they were mostly in the industrial world related to industrial or petrochemicals project construction. But, somehow, the architects were ousted and the modern project managers arrived. Now, on every contract, there is a project manager. Some are good, some very good and some just plain awful.
My practice gets work from project managers. If I bad-mouth them in print, they might not send us work. So, all you out there, assume that, if I have been under your guidance or on your project, I regard you with a reverence close on adoration. However, I have some general thoughts that I would like to get off my chest and hope you will not be too offended.
Firstly, on an electrical project . . . please remember that I have been an electrical engineer for 34 years and a professional engineer for 28 years. What this means is that my opinion on an electrical matter should have a lot more weight than that of an electrical contractor, a young engineer or a design technician. They may be able to argue better but, in general, in a dispute, I am right.
Secondly, it is not all simple. If I recommend a certain electrical contractor, usually it is not because the contractor’s fees are the cheapest – it is normally because the contractor is the best for the contract. And it is not my function to do quality assurance for a contractor. If I say: “Use this firm”, it is not because that firm will give me a back- hander; it is because it will produce, with a minimum of fuss, good-quality work that lasts. Ignore my recommendations and . . . you will be sorry.
Thirdly, in electrical work, there are very few ‘nice to haves’, apart from types of light fittings. If some smart person implies that the design can be done more cheaply than my design, he or she is usually right – only it will not work as well.
Unfortunately, electrical systems are deviously cunning. They lie in wait and take time to fail and, when they do, they do so in pairs, with one failure having nothing to do with the other. So, if you use cheap plastic distribution boards with cheap plastic circuit breakers, jammed with wiring since they are too small, the whole thing will fail– often on a long weekend, when the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system has gone down.
Fourthly, in general, inte- rior designers know nothing about lights, light fittings, socket outlets, wiring, data points, cable trays, cable terminations, UPS systems, power poles or the SANS 10142 standard. Similarly, consulting electrical engineers know nothing about interior paint finishes, wall cladding, tile types, carpet finishes, counter tops, bathroom taps or sanitary fittings. Thus, in the same way that you do not give the consulting electrical engineer the interior design, do not give the interior designer the electrical design.
Then there is the impossible we do immediately. Miracles take a little longer. Nope, I’m being sarcastic. But do accept that, in my life, I have (as have many others) worked through nights, had very early starts and worked over weekends. Trust me, very little of it has been necessary or of value in the long run. If there have to be changes to a design, then allow sufficient time to make sure those changes are not a stuff-up.
Finally, if things go wrong . . . you are the project manager. The sign on the US President’s desk read: “The buck stops here.” For some project managers, the sign should read: “The buck stops here . . . very, very briefly.” Don’t you be one of the latter. Think about it.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Terry Mackenzie-Hoy News
Recent Research Reports
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the automotive industry over the past 12 months, including an overview of South Africa’s automotive market, trade figures, production and the policies influencing the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Construction 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the construction industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the sector and includes details of employment in the sector, infrastructure and municipal spending, as well as insight into companies’...
Real Economy Insight: Electricity 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the electricity industry over the past 12 months, including details of State-owned power utility Eskom’s generation activities, funding and tariffs, independent power producers and prospects for the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Road and Rail 2014 (PDF Report)
This six-page brief covers key developments in the road and rail industries over the past 12 months, including details of South Africa’s road and rail network and prospects for both sectors.
This Week's Magazine
South African State-owned defence industrial group Denel has announced its fourth consecutive year of profits. The group's results for the financial year 2013/2014 were recently announced at its head office in Centurion, south of Pretoria. Revenues grew by 17%, net...
There is little opportunity for JSE-listed infrastructure company Group Five to grow shareholder value in the domestic market, says CEO Mike Upton. He says value can still be found in the private sector, in the renewable and industrial power sector, as well as in...
The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) has announced the event dates of the 2015 Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS). The event will take place from October 14 to October 25, 2015, at the Johannesburg Expo Centre, Nasrec.
UK engineering support services provider Babcock is set to deliver the largest order of global truck manufacturer DAF’s truck tractors in Southern Africa to bulk carrier road-based logistics company Ngululu Bulk Carriers (NBC), with 133 trucks to be delivered in...
Digital radio communications in the African local government space can open up the world, but have many challenges to overcome, notes integration and migration of legacy radio communications infrastructure with digital mobile radio company Emcom Wireless head of...
Next ArticleNew system produces poor designs