Day in the Life of a Project Engineer
Have you ever wondered what our engineers actually do all day?
This year, we’re continuing our “Day in the Life” series started in 2014. Each quarter, we will feature someone in a different position within the firm who will provide insight into their typical day. This quarter showcases recent IUPUI graduate, Trey Smith. Trey started at Applied as an IUPUI co-op in 2011, and officially joined the firm after graduation last year.
Arrive at work and review e-mail.
I make a written list of my ongoing projects and their due dates. Tasks that I plan to complete today I list in red ink. Tasks that can be put off for another day are written in blue. This allows me to prioritize my work load and stay focused throughout the day.
A project manager approaches me and informs me we have just received the latest electrical drawings for an ongoing project from another firm. He asks if I can update our arc flash model and put a report together before the day’s end. The model is fairly small, so I decide to take care of it before I begin working on my other tasks for the day. First, I check the one-line diagram to see if anything has been modified from the last submission. Nothing has changed, so I move on to determining the approximate feeder lengths between equipment and enter them into the arc flash program. When finished, I can run the arc flash analysis, coordinate breaker settings, and combine my findings into a report. The finished report is sent to the project manager, who then forwards it to the necessary parties.
I shift gears to work on a replacement study for a hospital in the southern region of the state. My responsibility is to provide a cost estimate for the replacement of key electrical equipment. I can’t seem to find a reasonable price for some of the large distribution equipment after several Internet searches and referring to similar projects we’ve done in the past. I decide to ask a more experienced engineer for assistance, and am directed to a representative who handles this sort of equipment on a daily basis. When I get back to my desk, I send a brief email to the representative explaining the details of the project and the issue I’ve run into. While waiting for a response I continue working on the cost estimate, focusing on some of the smaller equipment and light fixtures.
I eat lunch at my desk today, which allows me to check the latest news in the sports world.
After lunch I prepare for our visit to a water treatment plant. The client would like to upgrade the existing 400 amp service to 600 amp for future replacement of their booster pumps. Also, we need to find a suitable location to install three new VFDs. Unfortunately, we are not provided a site plan so one must be made from scratch. Using pictures taken from a previous site visit, I am able to develop drawings that should provide a basis for me to work off of during our visit. During our visit I plan to fill in missing information that couldn’t be determined from the pictures. To prevent me from forgetting, I make a list of items that still need to be addressed while we’re at the job site.
We leave the office and head to the site.
At the job site, I am introduced to the client and a representative from the local utility company. Before we head down to the underground vault, I take pictures of the existing electrical equipment found on the surface. It is important to find nameplate information, conductor sizes, and the existing condition for the equipment that will be affected during construction. While doing this, I discuss some of the details of the project with the project manager and possible solutions to meet the client’s requirements.
Inside the vault, I again take pictures of the equipment and make notes of existing conditions. I find that the drawings I created prior to the visit do not accurately depict what’s actually inside the vault, so I do my best to markup the drawings so that I can make corrections when I return to the office.
I listen and contribute to conversations between the client and the project manager about possible ways to reach the expected outcome. Mentally, I try to visualize the sequence of construction and determine whether or not the discussed plans are practical ways to go about this project. After everyone comes to an agreement on a possible solution it’s time to head back to the office and get to work on developing drawings that show our plan for construction. The client would like to receive our plans in exactly one week.
When I return to the office, I upload my pictures to the project directory and get to work updating the CAD drawings with my findings. Again, I speak with the project manager to make sure we’re all on the same page before I get too far along. During our brief discussion, I bring my concerns to the project manager’s attention and we work together to find resolutions. Once the minor details are ironed out and I feel comfortable with the design, I return to my desk to continue working on the drawings.
I try to find a good stopping point for the day and make a note of where I left off for when I come in tomorrow morning. I quickly develop a list of questions and concerns for other engineers working on this project for discussion tomorrow. Looking back at my list I created at the beginning of the day, I notice there was a project that I was unable to get to. Fortunately, I still have a few more days to work on it. This will be priority number one when I come in tomorrow.
Time to sign out and head home.