So the UK Summer is now officially over… well not quite, but that’s the decision I came to while standing shivering in a park over the Summer bank holiday weekend. The reason I felt this meteorological tit-bit was worthy of a mention in a blog, was that it made me think about the fact that on a number of occasions over the last few summer months I have heard the same phrase from a number of engineering consultancies, detailers and CAD technicians.
“Well it’s holiday season so we might not be able to hit that deadline”.
Now I always appreciate people’s honesty when it comes to their ability to deliver but from a business perspective I found it really surprising to hear. It was perhaps the fact that I heard it multiple times that made it stand out more in my mind. Now I appreciate that Apple may sell fewer iPhones over the summer; Estate Agents less houses because of a dip in demand while people are away; and Parisian Boulangeries taking a well-earned break from ‘pain production’. However, the incongruity in our situation is not that there is a fall in demand but that ‘we’ as an engineering industry aren’t meeting the demand that exists because of a lack of available resource. So I’m interested to know – Is this something that’s common in other professional or design services? I’ve mainly been dealing in AEC industry and would be interested to hear if a similar issue exists in other engineering sectors.
To stretch my analogy (in a somewhat laboured way I know), could you see Apple stores closing or refusing to sell product during the holiday? So do we then turn work away needlessly? Should we ever turn away work as engineering designers, draughtspersons or modellers?
My tip of the week for businesses in our industry then… grow your resources flexibly in the months between June-September and see it as an opportunity to get your foot in the door with that client you have been nurturing all year. Even if you outsource a significant proportion of the work, or if you collaborate with other similar companies or partners in your sector, you can still be earning a percentage, you can be still be earning money while you’re sat on that beach. And isn’t that what we all aim to do when we set up our own businesses?
I think it should go without saying, that if you see outsourcing or collaborative working as an effective way to gain a competitive advantage, you will need to set in place procedures and mechanisms so that any work issued matches your standards, quality requirements and your overall brand and style. However, from very simple business principles, the higher fees (if everyone else is on holiday) you should be able to charge should cover any additional time spent sourcing resource, scoping, checking and reviewing the work.
Now I try (wherever possible) to give the same advice face-to-face with the people and contacts I reference in our blog. Mainly for fear of being branded a ‘keyboard warrior’ for writing behind their backs but also to glean any feedback or opinion. Many of the engineers and draughtspersons I deal with, often working in smaller design studios steer away from collaborating, outsourcing or even offshoring for two main reasons (in my experience).
- They think by outsourcing the quality of design is reduced. I think this is to do with connotations people have with the term ‘outsourcing’, which in itself people often use when they mean ‘offshoring’. Yes, I have heard horror stories of poor design or quality of work when things are sent out of the in-house environment. However, larger design firms outsource and offshore to great effect, and have been doing so effectively for a long time, because they have invested the time and money to build, develop and maintain their supply chain. You don’t have this luxury if you’re an SME, micro design or draughting company though and the horror stories I hear are when a company finds an offshore partner themselves from a limited, often Internet based search and a few calls. This is where we see just one of the values of EngLancer. That is, we spend a lot of time finding, working with and recording the performance of the possible design engineers, CAD guys and detailers out there. Knowledge in crowds has been much written about in the digital age and it provides very effective data rich information for making an informed decision about who to partner with or outsource to. Why don’t you make use of the experience, views, opinions and findings of engineers, just like yourself, when considering growing your engineering resources to capitalise on the current market upturn.
- Engineers are nuts and bolts people. We can’t help it. After all, nuts and bolts are more synonymous with our industry than any other. A lot of directors and other higher management designers in engineering and draughting companies still see value, or that it’s essential, for them to be involved in the detailed design and project delivery. In no way am I saying that it’s below a chartered engineer or company director to be RC detailing a pile cap for example. I just don’t think it makes sense to be doing work that you can only charge out at a lower rate, when you can be carrying out the reviews, project bids or that essential business development that is worth ten times more than that detailing fee. Just because you’re a smaller engineering practice, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working like, and competing with the larger engineering companies or market leaders.
So here’s to the British summer. We are a famous here for making the most of it regardless of the weather. Ask yourself though, are you making the most of it from a business perspective? EngLancer would love to help you do this. Why not come and see how here.