The Future in the Planning Office
Quite frequently, the application of state-of-the-art pipe systems is determined by the know-how and experience of the planning office. Against this background, egeplast-Managing Director Dr. Ansgar Strumann had a conversation about the challenges awaiting planning firms in the future with Dr. Heinrich Bökamp, the President of the German Chapter of Engineers as well as owner and Managing Director of the engineering firm Thomas & Bökamp in Münster.
EXPERT INTERVIEW The Future in the Planning Office:
Dr. Ansgar Strumann: What are the major challenges faced by an engineering company at present?
Dr. Heinrich Bökamp: One of the major challenges is recruiting young engineers. It starts in the schools, where MINT subjects often play a subordinate role, which results in students’ interest in obtaining an engineering degree not being awakened with the required vigour. Accordingly, far too few young people consider pursuing an engineering or, more specifically, a degree in civil engineering. Statistics show that currently there are seven vacancies for one civil engineering graduate in Germany.
For the graduates, versatile tasks, an open corporate culture and an attractive work environment are the most important priority. At Thomas & Bökamp, young engineers are thoroughly influenced by planning projects they performed together with more experienced colleagues in the first two years of their professional career. Staff shortage is a phenomenon which, rather than exclusively affecting the offices, has also public management of municipalities and districts. In the years to come, competing the limited supply of engineers will continue to be a factor to deal with for all employers alike and will occasionally necessitate some willingness to cooperate.
How does your planning office manage to win over junior staff nevertheless?
In addition to that, have there been any significant changes related to how engineering firms have come to operate compared to 10 or 20 years ago? What is it that particularly matters today?
The scope of tasks has become significantly broader. With our headcount of approx. 100, we have access to a highly diversified team. The increasing market demand for multidisciplinary approaches in the context of major tender processes required a diversified and very capable body of employees. Every subject requires to be handled by specialists in the field. Tender processes in particular have come to require a much broader scope of knowledge both with both technically and legally speaking. A large part of the assignments associated with tenders has come to be published on the market via special awarding platforms, which can only be utilized successfully with a certain degree of practice. At its core, however, our task related to planning, construction and construction supervision. What principals expect from engineering offices is a flawless, approvable design and ultimately a type of execution which ensures a safe operation of the structures for its envisioned useful life.
Engineering offices need a broad network in municipalities, construction companies and suppliers, but also among colleagues. What everyone expects is the best solution possible, as promised. Quite frequently, the executing companies share their wealth of experience with us and provide us with information on the reliability and security and even on the suitability of previously tendered products. Based on these experiences with our partners, we have been able to assess and continuously improve our own performance in the context of the tendering and award of contracts. In the building industry, successful project realisation thrives on the team spirit and trusting cooperation of all parties involved. Their common purpose must be a cost-efficient and viable implementation of the planning on site. What matters, how things actually play out on the construction site.
And, looking at the favorable development of your company, what is your recipe for success?
What kind of support do your employees then expect from suppliers, e. g. a pipe supplier?
In the context of planning, our employees rely on key data and guidelines related to the various products or manufacturers respectively. What is vitally important are positive previous experiences with the product, since reliability is a valuable commodity in the context of infrastructure measures. There is not ‘conversion right’, the very first attempt must be successful. Another significant element is regular communication between the specialist on the manufacturer’s side and the planner. Here, too, reliability comes first. Easy accessibility of the supplier’s technical specialist by phone or the possibility for shortterm video exchange must be guaranteed.
In the age of digitalisation, BIM (Building Information Modeling) stands for interlinked planning processes of all parties involved in the construction industry. BIM offers the opportunity for cooperation based on a jointly used model. One valuable component of BIM is that it enables all parties to have access to the same amount of information. Building with BIM is the future. At this point in time, however, we are still quite far away from consistent planning with BIM in some places. In many areas, consistent planning based on BIM has not taken a foothold yet. Instead, the results are more or less combined in a model after the fact. Some parties, though, most of them on the execution side, have already begun to apply BIM consistently and with success even today. The application and further development of the BIM approach will greatly depend on the motivation and skill of the so-called BIM manager, who serves as the “good spirit” in the process to be initiated. On the construction sites, in particular, there continues to be a very widespread request for printouts of the planning documents. This can only be expected to change once electronic devices such as laptops and iPads suitable for use on the construction site have become more widespread.
There is a lot of discussion about BIM currently. What role has BIM come to play for planning at this point?
Authors contact details
Dr. Heinrich Bökamp
Tel. +49 2534 610-0