CivilStructural.com.my 25 Aug 2013
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Dilemma of civil and structural engineer(Beginner)

Our country is toward to developing country. In order to develop our country, we need a number of engineers to contribute to their efforts. Civil and structural engineers are one of the main contributions. Somehow, throughout their contributions, it has generated certain unhealthy scenarios to civil and structural engineers. Fresh graduate engineers may not observe these scenarios; but senior engineers who have gone to hard time on their services to country feel the scenarios.If you have change of talking with them, most of them will discourage you from persuading civil engineering study. Even some of them may not encourage their children to take over their business. Below are some cases that are happening in our country.
  • More responsibilities
.
Throughout 12 years of engineer life, the responsibilities of engineers are getting more and more. As for example, with the introduction of MSMAM (Urban Stormwater Management Manual for Malaysia), there is increase in scope of work in storm water. And current introduction of Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC), it also increase the scope of work for civil and structural engineer. With such new implementation, civil and structural engineer has more responsibilities and works in engineering field. They may based on previous professional fees or even less to serve private section. No doubt, government has recommended that engineers can increase their professional fees accordingly. As a result, civil and structural engineers have to spend more time in performing a common task as what had been done previously. Engineer has unlimited timeframe of professional liabilities on his service.
  • Clients are getting more demanding.

Remember 10 years ago. If an engineer has ready one of his design; and he has issue drawings to client, there will not has any comments from client regarding to the drawings. Client will proceed with construction work. What mean that are the comments on “over design” issue. Now days, if similar case happened, engineer may be faced problem on the complaining about “over design”. Client may come back with a number of comments stated that the design are costly, client wants engineer to review his design to cut cost. If engineer is refused to change, he may face problem of losing current or coming business from current client. As an engineer, he has to always be prepared to answer these kinds of queries. This scenario wasn’t happened in early time and now is getting common. Client may take this engineer’s design to other engineer for comment. No doubt, it is against professional practice. It is really happening in our country. Furthermore, client is think that the engineer just only rendering his service to him only. The engineer has to always standby to serve this client. Most of clients are free all the time, they mainly handling on one or two projects. Somehow, the situation is difference for engineer. Most civil and structural engineers are handling multiple projects in their daily working environmental. Except those are working on large consultancy firm, the situation may slightly difference. When client think of something, he will call engineer to meet up with him. Engineer has to perform his duty of rendering his service by meeting up him. Sometime, the issue discussed is a minor issue and engineer has to spend his time for half a day of discussion. Even engineer has to joint client for lunch or dinner. This may even “waste” more time to this client. If engineer has few clients like this, then most of his time is on dealing with client and he may not has enough time on performing his engineering practice. How to engineer to perform his professional practice on this scenario? It is a very challenging work. If engineer not serving these clients, clients may think that this engineer service is worst. Finally, clients will look up for another engineer. Normally there will not have any appreciation or acknowledgement from client. Client will not say that you are good and thank you for your service.
  • Unsecure of projects.

Most of engineer has to provide “FREE” service on a new or “virtual” project. It has become a common practice in our country. Whenever a client has an ideal on a project, he will look for engineer for advice. The engineer may help client to propose some initial proposal, engineer may use his own transport to have site visits. He may go to authorities to gain necessary information for client. These kinds of service are free because most of client will not pay any cents to engineer. Even though client has agreed to award this project to engineer, the letter of award will not get on time of awarding. Letter of award will be given during project is under construction. Sometime, even project has been completed, the award still not received yet. This situation may make engineer unsecure on his professional fees. Certain time, a project has been followed by engineer for few years; but it ended up the project was awarded to another engineer.
  • Unstable on professional fees

Since our country is open market, and professional services are getting competitive and business opportunity is getting lesser. In order to secure a project, engineer will lower down his professional fees. It is going toward pure business. Some time it will go to stage of surviving. When in stage of surviving, do you think engineer still can uphold his professional practice? Event though, engineer has secured on project, he still has problem on the fees collection. Certain client will say that client will start payment when project is start selling. Some may say that if client obtain collection, client will start pay engineer fees. Where should engineer to get money to cover his overhead before first collection. It is a difficult task for engineer to overcome this matter. It can consider as a common practice. Assume client successfully has sales; there will be another problem on engineer about the amount of fees collection. It common that engineer will not get full amount of his fees proposal. He may only get less than 100%, sometime 50% or less. It wills more problems in contra basic; he may end up with a unit of properties which will not be saleable. Even some unreputable developer will pay engineer in term of food vouchers. It will end up with nothing for engineer. What engineer will gain after a long period of professional service? Engineer has to humble whenever he requesting on payment. There also has pro and cons on getting small and large scale of project. For small project, engineer will able to collect fees faster but is a waste of servicing; because he has to do one unit and gain one unit fees. Where else, large project he will able to earn better income; because he can gain income based on multiple units with same effort on one unit work. However, he may face problem on maintain office overhead when fees is not able to collect.
  • Not follow professional practice.

Certain engineer may face problem on unethical properties developers or contractors who do not want to follow engineer advice. They keep on cut corner of material and construct property based on their own knowledge. End up with a number of defects. Engineer may not aware of construction work because engineer himself is handling a number of projects. Or when engineer adware, the work has been constructed. When issue is published, engineer has to stand forward to answer to public. He becomes a victim. Certain case of engineer is advised on something for not doing so, developer or contractor does not follow. When problem happened, they will come toward engineer and seek for engineer help. Engineer has become a problem solver.
  • Many deadlines to meet.

Engineer is always facing on deadlines. Client wills always asking when a project can be ready. If there is amendment, client may expect the revision will be ready by tomorrow. Client is not known that an amendment to engineering work is so tedious and time consuming. Engineer is always handling many projects. Whenever engineer gives a due date, it always that client will ask for shorter time frame. Works priority is always changing even in every hour. Therefore, the work team for the engineer must always alert about the change. If deadlines of client cannot meet, slow and sooner engineer may lose current client. In this competitive market, client can anytime get replacement.
  • Difficult to get experience workers

Experience engineers and draft persons are difficult to obtain. Either these engineers become a boss of consulting firm or they have gone to other country to work because of higher wages. Even though engineer has successfully recruited experience workers. He may face problem on retaining good workers. These good workers can easily move to another firm because they in high demand. Especially they have certain special scale such as can operate engineering software. Somehow, our country is full of fresh graduate engineers. If engineer is engaging them, engineer will face problem in servicing demanding client. Fresh graduate engineers are not in position of ‘Fight’. They are in ‘Traning’ position. Due to lacking of experience worker, a lot of work must handle personally by engineer himself. Come to end, the engineer will be very busy all the time.
  • Long working hours.

Due to difficult to obtain trained staff and more guild lines introduce by government. Engineer is busy all the time. In day time, he has to entertain clients, authorities, other professionals such as architects, M&E engineers, surveyors, quantities surveyors. He only has time to work in the nighttime. For one-person firm, the engineer has to work long hours. Even he has to sacrifice Sunday where he can stay with his family.
  • Lots of pressure
Due to above listed issues, as an engineer, he is always with many pressures. In order to survive in engineering business, he has to always be strong, passion, pride, proactiveness, proficiency, independent and positivity. Engineer has become a kind of supernature person. He has to always know how to balance with income and expenditure. Externally he has to face how to retain existing business or explorer new business. Internally he has to face how to manage office operation.
Written by scchee
Disclaimer: the above article is based on writer personal opinion on civil and structural field. It will not represent any ultimate solution of any mention subjects. Writer will not responsible for any causes arise.

Reading level: Beginner.
(Updated 19/8/07)
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