Lead Time and Experience: The Driving Forces Behind Engineering Projects

by | Jun 24, 2024 | Firm Spotlight

In the realm of engineering, particularly within construction and renovation, two factors often emerge as critical determinants of a project’s success: lead time and experience. These elements, while distinct, are intricately intertwined and complement each other in ways that can both surprise and significantly impact project outcomes. Insights from Ryan Baker, Senior Business Development Engineer, shed light on the dynamic interplay between lead time and experience, and how they shape the engineering landscape.

The Crucial Role of Lead Time

When considering the top priorities for clients, lead time ranks high on the list. “Given recent supply chain disruptions, lead time for materials and equipment is crucial for construction and renovation projects,” explains Ryan. “In a list of the top five most important things to a client, lead time would easily rank within the top three.”

For instance, in a scenario where a client’s HVAC system is failing, the preferred replacement product might have a lead time that’s twice as long as usual. This situation necessitates creative solutions such as incorporating temporary heating and cooling systems, relocating spaces, or exploring alternate system designs to minimize disruption. Such scenarios underscore the critical nature of lead time in maintaining project timelines and client satisfaction.

The Benefits of Good Lead Time Management

Lead time serves multiple purposes in project management. It doesn’t just save money but also opens doors for creativity and strategic planning. “The construction industry has long grappled with the cost of delay, which typically drives up material and labor costs over time due to inflation,” Ryan notes. “Essentially, the longer you wait to start a project, the less you can accomplish with your available funding.”

Delays in lead time can exacerbate this issue by preventing work from commencing until all necessary equipment is available. This highlights the importance of proactive planning and robust risk management. AFP’s team, for instance, is adept at implementing mitigation strategies and collaborating with customers early in the planning process to navigate these complexities effectively.

Experience and Its Correlation to Lead Time

Experience plays a pivotal role in managing lead times. Familiarity with suppliers and manufacturers, the ability to anticipate and mitigate risks, strategic planning, and problem-solving skills all contribute to shorter and more efficient lead times. “Experience undoubtedly enhances one’s capacity to navigate lead time challenges,” Ryan says. “However, continuous learning, adaptability, and proactive risk management are also crucial for successful project execution.”

Interestingly, introducing new personnel with fresh perspectives can inject innovative ideas and solutions into the mix, keeping the approach dynamic and responsive to evolving circumstances. This balance between experienced professionals and fresh talent ensures that projects remain innovative while adhering to stringent timelines.

Training the Next Generation of Engineers

Balancing the need to meet deadlines with the imperative to train young engineers is a challenge in the engineering field. “Getting young engineers into the field with real-life deadlines and challenges is essential,” Ryan emphasizes. “This hands-on experience is the best classroom for professionals seeking practical examples and learning opportunities.”

While the temptation might be to rush through tasks, it’s crucial to take time to discuss opportunities, approaches, and overall solutions. “By neglecting this step, you’re doing a disservice to your firm, especially when grooming future leaders,” Ryan warns. He references Zig Ziglar’s famous question, “What if we train our employees and they leave? But what if we don’t, and they stay?” This underscores the importance of investing in employee development for long-term success.

The Dichotomy of Lead Time and Experience

The relationship between lead time and experience is both complementary and dichotomous. While experience can significantly reduce lead times through efficient planning and risk management, lead times themselves often provide the context in which experience is gained. The surprising element here is how lead times can force even the most experienced professionals to innovate and adapt continually, while also providing learning opportunities for less experienced team members.

Lead time and experience are pivotal in driving engineering projects. Their interplay determines the efficiency, creativity, and success of a project. As Ryan and the AFP team demonstrate, balancing these factors through proactive planning, continuous learning, and innovative thinking is key to navigating the complexities of modern engineering projects.