New Project Engineering and Estimating Department

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A message from Lee Kaiser.

I am excited to officially announce a new department! We have been working on the concept and laying the foundation to begin the Project Engineering Department since the fall of 2020. Their function is to work on new project opportunities with the Sales team to handle more complex opportunities, create more accurate cost estimates, and improve the handoff of successful quotes over to the project and design teams.

We have been planning the functions and tools for the department over the last several months and piloting the program with the assistance of Don Carlsness and Tim Cosson who are both currently performing this role part time. Through the pilot program we’ve learned that the functions of pre-sales design help and cost estimating can enable us to be more responsive to our customer’s timing and allow larger projects to be quoted more easily.

Last week Heather Randles and Matt Thawsh joined the department as full-time Project Engineers. Immediately their role is to orient themselves with the company and start to refine the tools and processes we will use. The department now looks like this:

Project Engineering Org Chart

Project Engineering is part of the larger Engineering Department and sits next to the Design Department led by Cory English. The new arrangement is for the Project Engineers to work with an opportunity before the quotation has been accepted then for the Design Department to take “won” opportunities and create detailed drawings for the project. Beneficially, the two functions will work together to make sure we are offering the best technical solutions to our customers with the most accurate parts lists included in the pricing. 

Admittedly, we get involved in some pretty complicated projects. The Project Engineers are there to help the Sales Account Manager with early engineering support, system selection, and documenting the details of the opportunity. When estimating costs, the new department will focus on these components of the quotation:

  • A written scope of work of the project
  • A thorough review of the project documents, specifications, and general requirements
  • Writing pre-bid requests for information forms (RFIs)
  • Scope statements for any subcontractors 
  • An accurate list of the materials required for the project
  • An accurate tally of labor hours to complete the job
  • An initial quote letter for completion by the Account Manager

At this point, the Project Engineers are not being directed to finalize the pricing for an opportunity. We expect the Account Manager and Operations to determine the final price based on the competitive nature of the situation and the risk of the project. We also expect them to finalize the quote letter and deliver it to the customer. 

Some new opportunities will require site visits to gather information and Project Engineers are expected to accompany the Account Manager to document the information needed. They will have tools to help do that and add what they gather within our new CRM system so the information can easily be passed on to the design and project teams.

Strategically, the Project Engineering function ties into the PMO initiative and our increased focus on our project management acumen and capabilities. Project Engineering will help ensure that large projects are well quoted and documented, and Project Management will help ensure we have a good plan for the projects we win (adjusting it as needed) and monitor their financial status. Together we expect to see a healthy return in increased margin and decreased risk.

We aren’t ready to fully turn on the faucet of work to the Project Engineering Department yet, we still need time to build processes and tools, but later this year we should be fully operational and seeing the benefits of this new department. Please reach out to me with any questions you have about this and feel free to introduce yourself to the new members of the Project Engineering Department, Matt and Heather! 

About the AuthorLee Kaiser

Lee is the Vice President of Engineering and Training for ORR Protection.