WHAT IS AN OPERATIONS MANUAL?
Your Operations Manual is the “Guidebook” to your engineering practice. It will be unique to your practice and, if thoughtfully prepared and well organized, will be a major ingredient in your firm’s success. Every Consulting Engineering firm needs an Operations Manual.
The Following is the table of contents that I used:
A Office Forms & Procedures
B Technical Procedures
C Codes & Technical Issues
D Approval Letters
E Coordination Sheets
F Forms & Form Letters
I Private Clients
J Office Policy
Office Forms & Procedures
This section was most helpful to train new employees to the basics of our operation. Included here are fundamentals like weekly duties, time cards and expected attitude.
This section is intended to organize the technical step-by-step approach to managing an assignment. Many seasoned project managers who joined our firm discovered steps that they had been skipping. Don’t assume that those with experience are doing things the way that you expect.
Codes & Technical Issues
Most code requirements are clear. But, some are subject to interpretation; and it is important that a firm be consistent. Also, some rules are specific to certain types of projects and require extensive research. Time can be saved on future similar projects by carefully documenting the code research and including it in this section.
Consulting engineers are expected to get “pre-approvals” from utility companies and inspection authorities. Unfortunately, some engineers ignore or fail to document this important step. After preliminary contact, follow through with a copy of the final plans and specifications to document your coordination. The associated forms and form letters (relating to your disciplines) should be kept in this section.
Coordination sheets are a series of forms used to coordinate major systems and equipment with the other project consultants, vendors, and the architect. These forms are intended to avoid duplicating or overlooking requirements, by stating who is responsible for related items. This is a doubled edged sward; it affixes the blame if the drawings and specifications of the various disciplines conflict. For electrical, items to be coordinated include: generator; elevator; HVAC; plumbing; and fire alarm. Prepare forms for your specialties.
Forms & Form Letters
All consulting engineers use many of the same forms & letters over & over again. Save time, be consistent and don’t re-invent the wheel each time. Prepare forms & form letters for your disciplines.
As with form letters, all consulting engineers use many of the same calculations over & over again. Prepare calculation forms for your disciplines. Include code references where appropriate.
These are organized lists of questions to ask at meetings/conversations with utility companies and clients. Not all questions need apply to all projects, but it saves time and avoids overlooking important questions.
When you work for private clients you assume the role of the “prime professional” and you are responsible for many additional tasks. The forms and other materials that will assist you in this increased responsibility are filed in this section. Partially fill out these forms with information that is standard for your projects.
Items in this section explain to your staff the general policies of your office. Examples include: not specifying any one vendor too often to avoid the appearance of collusion; definition of the standard-of-care that is expected of engineers; and ethical issues.
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Excerpted from The “Complete Guide” to CONSULTING ENGINEERING © 2015 John D. Gaskell. Used with permission of Professional Value Books, Inc. All rights reserved. Order from http://www.TheEngineersResource.com. Use discount code “paperback” and save.