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Knowledge Transfer Tips for Engineering Contractors

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

Experienced contractors have discovered foolproof ways to transfer solutions, methods, procedures and designs over the course of an engineering assignment.

Naturally, they follow the firm’s protocol for archiving drawings and recording design-related information and changes. But savvy veterans take additional steps to leave a navigable trail for future engineers to follow.

Knowledge Transfer

“Don’t keep notes in your head,” says Rutvij Kotecha, a material science product development engineer currently on assignment at Amgen. “Even small design changes create dependencies that have to be managed, so document every change to components, prototypes and products.”

Here’s a list of knowledge transfer tips from veteran engineering contractors:

Start on Day One

Make sure you understand the company’s knowledge transfer protocol and systems from the outset, Kotecha says, since the documentation process at an oil refinery might be completely different from the process at a biotech company.

Be organized from the start. Otherwise, it may be difficult to recall critical details if you wait too long to document changes or notes. What if you miss a day or can’t finish an assignment?  Drawings are helpful, but they’re not enough, Kotecha adds. Create a chronological history of decisions you make and why, including the tools you used.

Share Documentation

Menno Gazendam is a big fan of collaboration tools such as MediaWiki and Evernote. The civil project engineer who is a knowledge transfer aficionado and blogger says, “It only takes a couple of minutes to enter a note about something that happened that day. Everyone on the project can read the threads in real time, so they encourage collaboration.”

Plus, unlike emails, notes entered into a collaboration tool can be tagged with keywords so they’re searchable long after a project ends. If the firm doesn’t provide a collaboration tool, use Basecamp or see if there’s a repository for notes or a chat room in the project management software.

Contribute to Closeout and “Lessons Learned” Reports

Gazendam reviews the lessons learned by previous engineering teams when starting a new assignment. Their tips and insights help him avoid previous mistakes and save money, especially when working on large civil engineering projects that have lump sum contracts.

For instance, he was able to save millions in equipment rentals during a recent assignment by heeding the advice and recommendations of previous engineering teams.

“I’ll contribute components such as checklists, communications and documentation for the closeout and lessons learned report during an assignment,” Gazendam says. “After all, no engineer wants to make the same mistakes when you’re brought in to revamp a major piece of equipment or drainage system.”

Your efforts may help future teams save time and money, which will definitely add a feather to your contractor’s cap, he adds.

Note Successes and Failures

Don’t just focus on problems and solutions; document best practices and things that helped the project go more smoothly so they can be repeated in the future.

Communicate with Colleagues                          

Make a habit of sharing key insights with teammates, project managers and coaches as they occur, Kotchea says. You never know where a water cooler exchange may lead. You may be asked to participate in a lessons learned meeting or outline your findings in a video.

Finally, leave your contact information so engineers who follow in your footsteps can reach out to you with questions. After all, knowledge transfer is a learning process that never ends.

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Other information of potential interest

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Want a Raise? Top Paying Cities for Contract Engineers

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2 thoughts on “Knowledge Transfer Tips for Engineering Contractors

  1. These suggestions are so outside of the reality of the engineering office environment. In reality when you’re working for a company especially a small company consisting of maybe 20 or 25 people in the whole company, companies like this don’t have collaboration tools or blogging sites or even well experienced project managers to say the least, most companies out there that engineers contract for will hardly throw a black and white composition folder that you can buy for a dollar at a drugstore at you. That is usually what you take to meetings and put all your notes in and when you are let go usually it either goes in the trash nobody will ever read it or you might as well just take it home with you, if you are lucky as an engineering contractor which I have been for 20 years or more all you can do is create your drawings and create your models and leave them in their data management system and be done with it. Usually the moment you’re out the door you are forgotten, your desk is completely cleared of everything that ever existed about you is thrown in the trash by the janitor and the next guy moves in and wants to start his own ideas with his own imagination and creativity, that’s the reality of Engineering contracting, so all this feel good stuff written by arts majors has absolutely no bearing whatsoever to the reality of an engineering contracting position, I recommend that any engineer who wishes to become a contractor and do short term assignments Fly-Lo , stay under the radar keep your nose clean , clock in and clock out exactly on time and then leave the company exactly on your last day and don’t look back…… don’t try to stay in touch with anyone because you will be the first person that gets blamed for anything that goes wrong and everything that goes wrong it will always be the last guy who worked on the job it’s completely his fault and now we’ve got to fix it that’s their mentality in the real world….. good luck to all you engineering contractors and don’t be fooled by this feel good and worship and praise the employer because it will not be reciprocated back to you….

  2. These suggestions are so outside of the reality of the engineering office environment. In reality when you’re working for a company especially a small company consisting of maybe 20 or 25 people in the whole company, companies like this don’t have collaboration tools or blogging sites or even well experienced project managers to say the least, most companies out there that engineers contract for will hardly throw a black and white composition folder that you can buy for a dollar at a drugstore at you. That is usually what you take to meetings and put all your notes in and when you are let go usually it either goes in the trash nobody will ever read it or you might as well just take it home with you, if you are lucky as an engineering contractor which I have been for 20 years or more all you can do is create your drawings and create your models and leave them in their data management system and be done with it. Usually the moment you’re out the door you are forgotten, your desk is completely cleared of everything that ever existed about you is thrown in the trash by the janitor and the next guy moves in and wants to start his own ideas with his own imagination and creativity, that’s the reality of Engineering contracting, so all this feel good stuff written by arts majors has absolutely no bearing whatsoever to the reality of an engineering contracting position, I recommend that any engineer who wishes to become a contractor and do short term assignments Fly-Lo , stay under the radar keep your nose clean , clock in and clock out exactly on time and then leave the company exactly on your last day and don’t look back…… don’t try to stay in touch with anyone because you will be the first person that gets blamed for anything that goes wrong and everything that goes wrong it will always be the last guy who worked on the job it’s completely his fault and now we’ve got to fix it that’s their mentality in the real world….. good luck to all you engineering contractors and don’t be fooled by this feel good and worship and praise the employer because it will not be reciprocated back to you….

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