I work as an [tag]Engineering[/tag] [tag]project[/tag] [tag]Planner[/tag]. I plan, schedule and coordinate activities for a task force of 60-80 engineers. Primary responsibility of my work is to monitor the [tag]schedule[/tag], resolve the bottlenecks and make sure the tasks are executed on time. Here is a typical conversation between a lead engineer from Mechanical Engineering (LE) and me.
Snapshot from ‘[tag]Primavera[/tag] Project Planner (P3)’… P3 is the software all planners swear by. ‘Microsoft Projects (MSP)’ comes next.
Me: Can you release the technical recommendations by Monday?
Me: Why not? We have received the final offers for all the pumps.
LE: Your schedule says Friday.
Me: The schedule is indicative. If the offer receipt is delayed, don’t we extend the duration for tech recos accordingly? Similarly here…
LE (interrupts): But I can’t allocate [tag]manpower[/tag] all of a sudden.
Me: Let’s allocate XYZ to this task. Currently he is working on the Blowers, which are not [tag]critical[/tag]. (The planner is usually aware of what the engineers are doing.)
LE: But I still can’t proceed. I have to get inputs from Process Engineering.
Me: What inputs?
LE: I just spoke to the Project manager. Ask him.
Me: Is it a major issue? Tell me again please.
LE: It’s regarding pump hydraulic network calculations.
Me: Oh, I already spoke to Process Engineering about it. Surely not all pumps undergo hydraulic loop checks. How many are the critical pumps?
LE: umm 5, I guess
Me: So can we work on the balance 20? (I try to bring him on my side by saying ‘we’)
LE: Ok, but I will need 2 clear days after I get the calculations for the balance pumps.
Me: Fine. So can we target Monday?
LE: Ok Monday is fine. The critical ones may be a day later.
Me: Okay. I’ll issue the [tag]forecast[/tag] schedule with those dates. Thanks
See, the problems are simple to address at a local level instead of dragging them into the interdisciplinary meetings. Half of these would never arise should the concerned people speak to each other. But they never do.
Here’s another situation.
LE (utterly frustrated): Is this planning?
Me: uh… what’s wrong?
LE: The schedule says I have to finish piping study by Friday next week. But the [tag]Project Manager[/tag] says I’m holding up Civil Engineering work, and I should finish it a week early.
Me: Oh. Is that possible? You are also working on the Layouts simultaneously, isn’t it?
LE: Yes. That’s the philosophy we agreed with.
I rush to the PM with him.
Me: Sir, the Piping LE says…
PM: Yes, he is working on the studies too slowly. We should finish it earlier; else it will delay Civil work.
Me: Sir it won’t. The civil contractor mobilization at site is not until next month. The site will require the foundation drawings at least a fortnight after mobilization starts. That’s a long time away.
PM: But he can finish early, can’t he?
Me: He is doing some other activities parallel to the studies.
LE: I’m also working on the layouts simultaneously. Although this is slow, it will avoid the rework at a later stage.
Me: Plus, we have sufficient time with us. Even if the guys finish a week later, we keep a 10 days [tag]float[/tag] for civil activity.
PM: Then why not give them another week?
Me: That would affect the 3D model work which is already on the [tag]critical path[/tag], and also passing of loads to Civil for preliminary column and beam calculations.
PM: Okay then Let’s stick to the schedule.
People sometimes have this nasty habit of interfering in others’ work. If my schedule has been checked thoroughly and approved, let me handle it from there. I may not know the invoices, costing and client relations – something that the PM looks after, or technical engineering work – which the disciplines do, but I know what goes in, what goes out and the sequence of operations surrounding any activity in the project.
Ah how dearly I am going to miss these wonderful days.