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A Day in the Life of a Project Engineer

Updated on February 19, 2010
Yours truly on a construction site - project engineer extraordinaire!
Yours truly on a construction site - project engineer extraordinaire!

Alarm goes off at 4.45am

(Attempt to) wake up, trudge out of bed and take a leak or sink battleships (depends).

Grab my high visibility clothing (long sleeve high-viz shirt, long trousers) and take them to the bathroom. Shave (if I feel like it), shower and get dressed.

Have some breakfast, surf the net for a bit (limited access to websites at work - surf control)

Pack some lunch. (Option: buy lunch if I can't be bothered)

Put on my steel cap boots.

Make sure I have my prescription safety glasses and leave for work at 5.45am.

Drive for an hour and arrive at work by 6.45am.

Make a cup of coffee. So far so good.

Prestart Meeting at 7am sharp

Watch latecomers in the workforce arrive, they are still half asleep, while prestart is taking place.

(Prestart meetings on a construction site are held first thing in the morning and involve everyone in the workforce. The supervisor and engineer go through the day's activities. Particular focus is made to safety - incidents from the previous day or hazards they should look out for that day, any deliveries expected on site etc. This way, everyone knows what will be happening around them so accidents can be minimized.)

Workforce rolls out to work around 7.15am. However, there is a new starter today - a rigger.

I give him a safety induction, covering topics such as the minimum site requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE), safety rules for working at heights, rigging, using power and electrical tools, scaffolding, drugs & alcohol policy, emergency procedures, dehydration, dispute resolution process...among other things. I make sure he has the right PPE and that I have seen a copy of his rigger's certification before I let him go out onto site.

There is a concrete pour about to take place shortly, so I go over to the unit with the supervisor and make sure that the formwork is of the correct size, the steel has the correct cover and all the embedded cast-in items are installed in the right location as per the engineering drawings. I check all of the items on the concrete pre-pour checklist and advise the supervisor that the concrete pour can proceed.

The concrete trucks are early

They were not due for another 15 minutes. The laborers whinge a little bit but direct the truck as it backs up in line with concrete pump, which had luckily arrived on time today. I grab the concrete docket from the truck driver and start filling out the pour records (when the trucks arrived, when they started discharging, how much water was added to the mix etc - all very important quality records).

Halfway through the first truckload of concrete, the pump breaks down. Not too much of a crisis but more of a bloody inconvenience. I had previously made sure the subcontractor had access to a kibble which can be filled up with concrete and lifted with the crane as a contingency. The supervisor makes this happen. I ring up the batch plant and tell them to give us a bit more space between trucks because now we are not discharging as quickly as we planned with a pump.

The pour continues until completion, taking a little bit longer than expected due to the pump breaking down.

Before we know it, it's "smoko" time - a half hour break for "morning tea".

Chase up materials

After smoko I get on the phone with our procurement department, who are not site-based. I chase up a purchase order for a material requisition I sent them a couple of days ago. I finally get it and am on the phone with our supplier to order a surface retarder that is applied to the formwork to expose the aggregate on the internal face of the concrete units. I am told this will be delivered in a couple of days - just as well, that's about as far as we can stretch current stock.

We have to despatch a precast unit tomorrow morning, so I print out a copy of the lift study and take it outside to discuss it with the crane driver and riggers & make sure everyone knows what is planned and that they are happy with it. The crane driver is helpful, unlike our first one. He suggests a minor change: one of the shackles I've prescribed don't go through the hole in the spreader bar, so we'll need to use a larger one. This isn't a problem, because we have larger ones available on site.

Technical Queries

One of the steelfixers came in to see me with a construction drawing - always a great sign, it means they're actually reading the drawings!! He said that there are starter bars coming up from the base of a unit and starter bars sticking out of the walls of the same unit. These starter bars intersect, meaning we can't install the internal shutters without bending the bars. He wanted to know if this was ok.

I told him we'd need to get approval from the client before we cut any bars, but I didn't see a problem with it as long as there is sufficient lap length for the insitu reinforcement. I quickly wrote up a technical query and sent it off. I rang the guys to get a verbal approval that will be followed up with the paperwork I sent in writing. it is the best way for site to pick up a phone and get things done, otherwise you have people standing around unable to progress with their work which gets very expensive!

Subcontractor Progress Meeting

After a lunch break that I decided not to miss today, I prepared my subcontractors progress claim for submission to accounts for payment. I had received a bill for the works undertaken over the previous month and had to check that the work claimed for had actually been done. After checking the invoice and preparing the progress claim, I got our subcontractor and project manager to sign off on the documents then I sent them through to accounts. Normally I'd be looking after multiple subcontractors so you can imagine "month end" can be a bit hectic getting all the claims finalized in time before the cut off date.

After this it was time for our weekly progress meeting with the subcontractor. I went out to ask the supervisor to join us for this also. We all made some coffee - I made mine in my special project engineer's mug - and sat down to go through the minutes of meeting.

In progress meetings we discuss everything - safety on site, quality and technical issues, construction planning and commercial issues. All the parties are involved: the subcontractor representative, project engineer, supervisor and sometimes the project manager. Everyone needs to be on the same page and have goals which are aligned, otherwise the schedule slips, you spend more money than you have to and it all goes downhill from there.

Next thing I know it's 5pm already. But I stay back a little bit to catch up on all the paperwork...

Famous Engineers

Rowan Atkinson - qualified as an electrical engineer, but obviously makes more money from comedy.

Dilbert - Everyone's favorite project engineer. I think he has been promoted to Chief Engineer actually!

MacGyver - he's a bit of an all rounder so I probably shouldn't pigeonhole him as an engineer. He's also a scientist, history buff and a very quick thinker. Any engineer's favorite TV show!

Comments

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    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom Rubenoff 8 years ago from United States

      Fascinating. I worked a miniature construction project as a kid. Since then I have been a sub of a sub on several jobs. Thanks for sharing.

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      Was it putting Lego pieces together Tom? :)

      Thanks for reading!

    • Pest profile image

      Pest 8 years ago from A Couch, Lake Odessa, MI

      Just what I was thinking!! LOl!

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      I always wondered about a day in the life of a Project Enginere! This is so way cool. I had no idea about Rowan Atkinson. He's one of my favorite actors. Very interesting. I'm a lego enginere myself, well, I used to be. It was much too hecktic and demanding so I took early retirement.

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      LOL!! All the Lego engineers should get together and start up a company. Your clients will be little kids who can't follow the instructions in the box! :)

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      We could write on hubpages while we wait for that sorry wrong number call. Then we can have a meeting about the wrong number caller and decide to reconvene at 2pm sharp to go over crank calling strategies to get back at the wrong number caller for wasting our time. Then we can re-reconvene at 4pm sharp for crank call practice, pulling out the little lego directory. After which we can all go home, get a good night's rest, and get together at 11am SHARP the next morning to call back the sorry wrong number caller (since that was the time they originally called we'd be sure to catch them home). And then, when we get the answering machine, we curse and hang up; the sorry wrong number caller wasted our time yet again. Sounds like a plan. =D

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      I think I have to re-read that again Freida! haha, but it's a business plan!

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      By the way, great photo of you at the top there. Looks like it would be in an ad. I wish I had a Simpsons character that looked like me. Too lucky. Which character is that?

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      It's actually a character I made up to look like me!

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      You're kidding!!!!! How did you do that? I want to do it too! Share!

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      http://www.simpsonsmovie.com/main.html - follow the link at the top to create your own simpsons avatar. Enjoy!

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      Let us know how you go!

      It's after 5.30am in Australia - time to go to work again! :)

    • Dink96 profile image

      Dink96 8 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      I absolutely LOVE construction and the bigger the project, the better. I love the smell of diesel, oil and dirt all mixed up together, and ANY heavy equipment: D-8, scrapers, cranes, Terex rock haulers, you name it! I notice no REAL women have ventured over here, Marco! You should be the next "Hot Hubber" just on the content of this blog alone. Let me write a change order on that right now!

    • goldentoad profile image

      goldentoad 8 years ago from Free and running....

      Marco, I need the take offs for that Change Order all ready for the additional excavation required due to the pumping soil conditions that were not in the geologists report, quit screwing around on hubpages and get that to me asap

    • profile image

      jjrubio 8 years ago

      MY oh MY toad...you sure know a lot about that...** wink wink!!

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      LOL Dink96, thanks for the feedback! And fair dink-um, no REAL women venture over to construction. Usually the few that do are taken or just love the attention!

      GT I've just discovered I have access to HubPages from work, so I'm a little distracted today but i'll be sure to have those TPS reports on your desk first thing tomorrow mornin'.

      JJrubio, don't be caught up in the engineer techno-babble by GT! He "talks the talk", but can he "walk the walk"?? LOL.

    • goldentoad profile image

      goldentoad 8 years ago from Free and running....

      marco, the safety inspector needs the calculated boom and weight plans along with the soil conditions in which the crane is to be operated from, now quit screwing around and go probe the damn dirt, make sure its stable and don't forget to give him that boom distance, also we need the certs of the operator

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Tried the Simpson's thing and it is soooo fun! I'm still fooling around with it. Glad I commented on that or I'd never have known!

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      But I did that already Toadster. The ground is limestone, and it is fairly level, so the crane just needs to make sure it has timber supports under it's outriggers. I got the certificate of competency for the crane driver and for the rigging equipment. They also have a copy of the lift study. By the way, aren't you a project engineer as well? Stop delegating! A project engineer does all the leg work! Go get me that purchase order number so I can buy a cattle prod to "motivate" the employees! :)

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      Frieda, I wanna see that new avatar!

    • goldentoad profile image

      goldentoad 8 years ago from Free and running....

      I was a project manager, but now I'm back to being a superintendent since the last company I worked for went down the tubes. I hate it. I can't wait until the economy picks up and people start getting projects again.

    • sheenarobins profile image

      sheenarobins 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      I love Engineers. LOL. thanks for the sneak. great hub.

    • Dink96 profile image

      Dink96 8 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      Marco, I may be "taken," but I've always been "TAKEN" with construction. I hope you continue with this subject matter. Thanks.

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      Will do :)

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      How do I show you? Something is glitching on it when I try to e-mail it to myself. I'll keep trying and maybe get it as an avatar.

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Here, this is the best I could do for now. Let me know what you think.

      http://friedababbley.blogspot.com/2009/04/blog-pos...

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 8 years ago from New Zealand

      LOL constrution - you call that real men's work hah! Real men work down the mines -that was my first real job - in Broken Hill- not as a fairy engineer who spent all day in the office on their sliderules - but a real geologist underground doing some real work!

      Sorry had to react to comment re lack of real women in the comments :-) My brother is a chemical engineer but all he does now is manage people not actually do any fun stuff. I quite like the idea of managing a concrete pour that could be fun - but not the 5am start you can stick that where the sun don't shine!

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      A real geologist working underground? Cool Lissie! So you'd probably understand how our work could involve us being stuck between a rock and a hard place. :)

      Yeah I'm looking into management at the moment as well, I've done enough of the sh!tkicking work!

    • profile image

      Bart Pair 8 years ago

      Man, I just spent 15 minutes going through the article and comments. Very much needed on a friday.

      I'm a civil engineer who spends very little time on construction sites these days, so it is nice to read and remember.

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for dropping by Bart, I just moved back in the office for a short stint. I wonder where I'll be posted to next!

    • 02SmithA profile image

      02SmithA 8 years ago from Ohio

      Always interested to read these types of accounts.. nicely done!

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 8 years ago from Australia

      Thanks champ!

    • profile image

      wordscribe41 7 years ago

      You are cute, Mr. Fratelli. I love a man in a hard hat, I really do. Interesting hub, we have engineers in my family, but the chemical engineer type. Interesting hub, my friend. G'night.

    • marcofratelli profile image
      Author

      marcofratelli 7 years ago from Australia

      Aww shucks! *blushes* *looks at feet*

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