Q&A – What you need to become a more valuable graduate Engineer

Besides the straight curriculum leading to your engineering degree here are some things every new Engineer (Piping, Mechanical, Electrical, Civil, Structural or other) needs to know after graduation.

• You need to know about Codes, Standards, Specifications and other documents that have jurisdiction on projects.  You do not need to memorize them, but you need to know that they exist, where there is a copy and which one takes precedence over another?

• You need to know the Language and Terminology of the other disciplines.  Every segment of the engineering profession has its own jargon and you need to know and understand what is meant when you or others are talking, reading or writing. Don’t use “Text Talk”.

• You need to know who the other engineering and design groups are on a project.  What they do?  What do you need from them and what do they need from you?

• You need to be able to read Drawings.  This includes all project drawings, client drawings, vendor drawings and other disciplines drawings.

• You need to have an understanding of the basic economics of a project.  What may be the “Cheapest” may not be the most “Economical”.

• You need to recognize that any project you work on will to be built, will be operated and will need to be maintained.  Learn some basics about “Construction”, “Operations” and “Maintenance”.

• You need to learn the basics of Procurement.  This means you need to know how to identify and establish quantity requirements of discrete items (a pump) or bulk items (pipe, valves, conduit, anchor bolts, etc).  You need to understand the process of requesting quotes, selecting qualified bids, developing purchase orders, inspection criteria/activities, expediting activities and traffic (the process, manner and route) for getting the items to the jobsite.

• You need to learn about “Contracts”.  Specifically the types of Contracts and the types of Sub-Contractors associated with major EPCM (Engineering, Procurement & Construction Management) Projects. This includes the development of the Contract’s Scope of Work and all of the required instructions and documentation defining the work.  You also need to understand that a “Contracts Manager” stands between you and the sub-contractor.  All communication to and from you and the Subcontractor is through the Contracts Manager.

• You need to learn some basics about the “politics” of the corporate culture.  Remember if you plan to swim with sharks you want to be able to tell when they are well fed and happy vs. when they are hungry and mean.

Knowing how to use a CAD system is recommended.  There is no single “right” answer for which one you may need to learn how to use.  You may have used one in your studies and let’s call that one Brand “A”.  The first company you get employed by may be using Brand “A” and they may not.  You may be hired by a company that is currently using Brand “B” which you will need to learn.  Six months to a year later the company may switch to Brand “C” and you will need to learn that system.  How many systems are there? Listed below are just a few of the most popular CAD and Analysis systems in use.  Take your pick.

While we are on the subject of CAD systems, it is important to understand that CAD systems were originally developed over forty years ago.   Over these past forty years the number of systems that have disappeared is equal to (or greater) than the number currently in use.

Don’t get tied too tight to only one CAD system.  CAD is a “Tool” just like a hammer.  Lots of people make hammers.  It’s the person behind the hammer that counts.

CAD & Engineering Analysis Products (Partial List)

• Autodesk (20 products)
• Bentley (MicroStation – 21 products)
• Bentley: STAAD products
• CADRE Analytic: CADRE
• CATIA products
• CadWorkz
• CEI: Advanced Pressure Vessel
• Intergraph: COADE, Inc.: CAESAR II
• Intergraph 3D PDS (Smart Plant)
• Microsoft (Office Products)
• AVEVA: PDMS (20 products)
• Rebus products
• SolidWorks 3D CAD products
• SolidWorks: Simulation/FEA (COSMOS)

This text is an extract from questions gathered from numerous queries of anonymous people in the Piping Engineering and Design profession. The answers or discussion of the topics were provided by James O. Pennock. Images obtained from www.coastalflange.com