Image Credit: The Snell Group | ECE Global | GPAllied

 

Engineering consulting firms provide engineering services and expertise to companies in need of a specialized skill-set. Generally, the consulting service company has experienced engineers able to provide short-term technical advice for a fee. Consulting professionals work with clients to define solutions to problems or to help determine and recommend the best course of action for a given initiative. Engineering consulting services can save time, effort, and money for companies that do not have the knowledge or expertise for handling a specific task.

 

Consultant Selection Process

The process for selecting a consulting firm usually involves three steps: problem identification, response, and negotiation.

 

Project Identification

The client company must first define the project or task that requires the assistance of the consultant. This involves:

  • Describing the purpose, objectives, and needs of the project.
  • Setting a project timetable.
  • Identifying potential problems.
  • Determining project budgets and estimates.
  • Selecting consulting firms that offer the required services.
  • Providing the project information to the clients, along with an invitation to submit a proposal.

Response

The consulting companies then respond with a proposal for the project. A quality proposal will:

  • Include a letter of interest.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the project.
  • Provide evidence of the firm's ability to perform the work.
  • Include profiles of the staff who will be assigned to the project.
  • Provide references.

Negotiation

Finally, the client company selects the most suitable consulting firm to the project and negotiates the business contract. Steps in the negotiation process include:

  • Evaluating the responses and selecting the appropriate firm.
  • Finalizing the Scope of Services Agreement (SSA).
  • Negotiating a fair fee and contract.

If agreement on a price can't be made, the client should then select the second most qualified firm and repeat the negotiation process.

 

Selection Tip: The technical qualifications and experience of an engineering consulting company should be the first priority in the selection process. Reputation and price are secondary factors to decide between qualified candidates.

 

Often it is important for a client company to establish an informal relationship with consulting firms or individual consultants before their services are required. This is because consulting needs are often immediate when they arise, and finding the right consultant can be difficult.

 

Categories of Services

There are many types of services that engineering consulting firms may advertise to offer. Some of the categories of services include:

  • Process Development - services designed to help companies improve customer satisfaction and marketing productivity.
  • Industrial - services designed to improve the operation of a facility.
    • Factory layout
    • Lean manufacturing
    • Process design
    • Process control
    • Production flow
    • Safety analysis
  • Finance / Labor 
    • Cost analysis
    • Feasibility analysis
    • Negotiations
    • Procurement
    • Recruitment
  • Software / IT
    • Database design
    • Data mining
    • Networking
    • Web development
  • Engineering
    • Product design
    • Product development and prototyping
    • Engineering analysis
  • Research and Development (R & D)
    • New product development
    • Packaging design
    • Simulations
    • CAD design
    • Reverse engineering
    • Patent disclosures
  • Technical Support
  • Legal Services
  • System Integration

Consulting Expertise

The expertise and knowledge that consultants can offer a company spans the entire range of engineering disciplines and practices.

 

Research and Development

  • CAD design - Computer Aided Design (CAD) is used to design products quickly and accurately.
  • Ergonomic design - Ergonomic design services, also known as human factors services, are suppliers offering services that apply human-needs theory, principles, data and methods, to improve human well-being and performance, both inside and outside the workplace.
  • Industrial design - Industrial design service suppliers develop and enhance the appearance, usability, and value of many types of products. Design considerations include product styling and architecture, and ergonomic and safety considerations.
  • Machine design - Machine design companies specialize in the design and fabrication of custom machinery.
  • Materials research - Materials research service providers undertake scientific study of the properties and applications for materials of construction or manufacture including ceramics, glass, metals, polymers, and composites.
  • Modeling - Modeling service suppliers develop conceptual representations to design, analyze, and predict responses and interactions for applications such as materials, structures, chemical and biological processes, electronic system performance, etc.
  • Packaging D\design - Packaging design service providers utilize design experience, industry knowledge, and technology in the creation of consumer and industrial packaging containers, shipping fixtures and packing supplies.
  • Process design - Process design or development service suppliers develop new processes, run process research and development programs, perform optimization studies, improve current processing methods, and provide other assistance in process development activities. Process designers optimize interdependent tasks, transforming input elements into products.
  • Product design - Product design is the process of generating an idea, developing a concept, and then testing and producing a physical object or intangible product or service.
  • Scientific research - Scientific research, also known as "basic research", is a technical service where providers perform creative work on a systematic basis in order to increase knowledge and understanding of fundamental scientific principles and their application.
  • Simulation - Simulation service suppliers mimic a process or a system (e.g., electrical, optical, or mechanical) for the purposes of testing or calibration.
  • Software development - Software development service providers create new software for the expressed purpose of managing a particular job function or operational procedure. The new software may be for a computer, an embedded system, a programmable logic controller (PLC), networking equipment, or for any other device requiring programming logic. Firmware and ladder-logic developers are included in this category of service provider.
  • Systems design - Systems design is the engineering service of defining architecture, components, modules, interfaces, and data for a system, to satisfy specified requirements.

Testing, Inspection, and Certification

  • Condition evaluation - Condition evaluation is performed by firms with expertise and resources for objective testing of a client's products or resources pertaining to performance and/or conformance.
  • Environmental compliance - Environmental compliance testing is performed by firms with expertise and resources to ensure their clients comply with all government and industry environmental regulations.
  • FDA & regulatory compliance - FDA and regulatory compliance testing is performed by firms with expertise and resources to ensure their clients comply with all government and industry regulatory matters involving food and drug production and handling.
  • Investigative studies - Investigative studies companies engage in investigations, forensic analysis and studies to understand the unique capabilities of a client, their needs and/or the needs of their customers.
  • Laboratory testing - Laboratory testing is offered by firms with expertise and resources for objective testing of a client's products or resources pertaining to performance and/or conformance.
  • Materials testing - Materials testing is offered by firms with expertise and resources for objective testing of a client's materials or the physical properties of their products.
  • Reverse engineering - Reverse engineering is performed by firms that engage in understanding the design, manufacture and performance of competitive products.

Facilities

  • HVAC - HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning), sometimes referred to as "climate control", is important in the design of commercial and industrial facilities where humidity and temperature must be regulated in order to maintain a consistent and healthy work environment.
  • Maintenance - Maintenance firms engaged in the upkeep of property or equipment.
  • Quality assurance - Quality assurance programs are implemented for the systematic monitoring and evaluation of projects, services, or operations to ensure that standards of quality are met.
  • Recycling - Recycling is the reprocessing of materials into new products. Recycling generally prevents the waste of potentially useful materials, reduces the consumption of raw materials and reduces energy usage compared to virgin production.
  • Remediation - Remediation deals with the removal of pollution or contaminants from environmental media such as soil, groundwater, sediment, or surface water for the general protection of human health and the environment.
  • Surveying and mapping - Surveying companies measure areas of the earth's surface, noting lengths and directions of bounding lines, mapping the contour of the surface, and accurately delineating their findings manually (on paper) or digitally.
  • Water & wastewater - Water treatment describes a process used to make water more acceptable for a desired end-use. These end-uses can include drinking water, industrial processes, medical and many other uses. The goal of all water treatment process is to remove existing components in the water, improving it for subsequent use.

Management

  • Business consulting - Business consulting services include high-level business endeavors such as strategic planning, market positioning consulting, business plan development, enterprise architecture, and information infrastructure planning and development.
  • Communication services - Communication services are specialty or proprietary services related to voice and data communications.
  • Financial services - Accounting, finance, and banking services are focused on providing/investing capital and properly recording the exchange of money. Investment and venture capital specialists are included in this group.
  • Human resources & staffing - Human resources services administer a company's employee policies, compensation plans, and benefits such as vacation time and health insurance. They may also evaluate management performance and oversee employee relations.
  • Legal services - Legal services consist of lawyers, law firms, and providers of services related to intellectual property (e.g., patenting, licensing, and trademarking), incorporation, contract development, law suits, and other legal matters.
  • Marketing & sales support - Marketing, advertising, and sales support service providers assess client's needs, develop strategies to reach markets, create branding plans, design advertisement schemes, and prepare sales literature.
  • Project management - Project management of engineering projects related to construction, R&D, production scale-up, and more.
  • Systems integration - Network system integrators install and setup computer networks for information systems; automation equipment and system integrators provide equipment and solutions for manufacturing processes.

Industries Served

Engineering consulting companies cater to all types of engineering projects. Some engineering industries include:

  • Aerospace - Companies have particular expertise to serve the aerospace market, including avionics, aerospace design, assembly, operations and more.
  • Agriculture - Companies have particular expertise to serve the agricultural, farming and related markets.
  • Automotive - Companies have particular expertise to serve the automotive and vehicular markets.
  • Building / Construction - Companies have particular expertise to serve the building and construction markets.
  • Chemicals - Companies have particular expertise to serve the chemical manufacturing and processing markets.
  • Computer Systems - Companies have particular expertise to serve the computers, systems and data processing industries.
  • Electrical / Electronics - Companies have particular expertise to serve the electrical and electronics markets.
  • Environment - Companies have particular expertise to serve the environmental market including water, wastewater, air, sea, ground, and local surroundings.
  • Food / Beverage - Companies have particular expertise to serve the food and beverage market.
  • Health & Safety - Companies have particular expertise to serve the health and safety industries.
  • HVAC - Companies have particular expertise to serve the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and related markets.
  • Manufacturing - Companies have particular expertise to serve the general manufacturing operations that serve all industry.
  • Marine / Naval - Companies have particular expertise to serve the marine and naval markets.
  • Medical - Companies have particular expertise to serve the medical, healthcare, and related markets.
  • Mining / Geological - Companies have particular expertise to serve the mining and geotechnical markets.
  • Network / Communications - Companies have particular expertise to serve the telecommunications and networking industries.
  • Oil and Gas - Companies have particular expertise to serve the oil and gas industries.
  • Pharmaceutical - Companies have particular expertise to serve the pharmaceutical and biotechnology marketplace.
  • Utilities and Energy - Companies have particular expertise to serve the utilities and energy providers.

References

 

Consulting Engineers of British Columbia (CEBC) - Appointing Your Consulting Engineer (pdf)

 

Imagineeringezine.com - What is a Consulting Engineer