I am Sandeep Rao Gopalam. After my Bachelor of Civil Engineering and Master of Science in Infrastructure Engineering and Management currently I am working in the Middle East as Planning Engineer.
Who is a Planning Engineer?
A Planning Engineer is the one who studies the contract, refer drawings and specifications and develops the following :
- project schedule, duration and cost
- allocate manpower, machinery & materials
I monitor performance, update schedule and control the project progress and ensure that the project will be completed on time. We also highlight if any delays are forecasted and create recovery programs when project is affected. We also report to all stakeholders regarding project progress.
Why projects need Planning Engineers?
We, in our daily lives, plan ahead and execute them. If in case, things don’t go according to the plan, we again re-plan it or change the plan.
Similarly the planning engineers plan for the entire project.
- which activity will be executed on which date
- how long will the activity be performed (duration)
- what are the resources required for executing that particular activity. How much quantity of material is required? When do we need it? Has it been ordered for project? When will it reach? etc.
What software knowledge does the Planning Engineer need to have?
- PRIMAVERA – Useful for Complex Nature of Projects (for Countries like USA, Middle East and Asia)
- MS PROJECT – Cannot use for Complex Nature of Projects
- ASTA POWER PROJECT – Mainly used in Europe and UK (depending on the company)
What are the challenges of being a Planning Engineer?
It is a very demanding job, as the decisions made can affect the entire project. You should be ready to work even at odd hours to generate reports and analyse project progress.
Late Works – Sometimes you will have to stay late or work from home after working hours, inorder to get the work done during emergency.
What type of companies normally hire Planning Engineers?
- Oil & Gas
- Civil & MEP
- Offshore and Onshore Construction
- Pipeline Works
What do you love about your job?
- Being the first to know the progress of the project.
- People reporting to you regarding the progress.
- Being on the Top – This feeling will always come and when people realise that you are one of important person of the project or office.
Although the nature of work may be similar, every project is unique in their own ways. Hence you will be bombarded with different situations which is unique/new problems and you will have to make decisions and provide suggestion/advice to Project Manager and/or Management. Everyday you will face new problems or issues. There are times where you need to think out of box and deal with such situations.
What are the skills and education required to be Planning Engineer?
Degree in particular field pertaining to that career. For instance – to work in Oil & Gas, you need to have Bachelor/Diploma Degree in Mechanical/Civil/Electrical Engineering.
Likewise for IT, Degree in IT would be preferable.
Have experience in that field – for instance I am a Civil Engineer and began my career as Site Engineer. Experience is a must because it is better to have knowledge about field experience rather than relying somebody for preparing the program/schedule.
- Learn and Practice Primavera. The more you practice on Primavera, the better you become when issues arise.
- Good communication skills. Communication is an important part. One may have lots of experience and degrees, but those will not be complete without good communication skills. Practice a lot in order to improve your communication.
What steps did you take to land into present Job?
- Knowledge of Primavera
- Experience in Construction Field
- Knowledge of Contracts – FIDIC
- Trained in PMP (will attempt Exam for certification soon)
What was your Career Path?
- Site Engineer from 2007 to 2009 (Middle East)
- Assistant Planning Engineer from 2009 – 2010 (India)
- Planning Engineer from 2010 to 2014 (Initially as Asst. Planning Engineer and then promoted to Planning Engineer 2014) [Middle East]
What do you do and how do you do it?
- End of the day, list down the tasks to be done for tomorrow and aim to complete those tasks.
- Prioritize the list of tasks.
- Beginning the new day at office- stay calm for 10 mins. Relax. Check the list of tasks (prepared on previous day), think of ways to execute the tasks.
- Check the construction program and update the program based on the daily reports and site visits.
- Forecast and plan for delayed activities and prepare recovery program.
- Prepare the baseline construction program for new contracts or projects based on the contract documents, specifications and drawings, and discussion with execution team.
- Read the contract documents (for new as well as existing projects).
- Respond to the letters when received from client/subcontractors.
- Attend progress meetings.
- Discuss with construction team with regards to progress.
- At the end of the day – site visit (Evening Times) and jot it down for any notes.
- Plan/Prioritize the tasks for tomorrow.
- Coordinate with all departments (Finance, Procurement, Safety, Contracts,QA/QC, HR).
What have been the most surprising elements of this career?
Although the nature of the projects are same, every project is unique and has its own set of unique problems. You can never predict when primavera is going to cause you trouble. Not having the knowledge on how to manage the software is like a driver knowing to drive a car without having knowledge of changing the tyres.
The toughest part is to be able to forecast/predict based on site conditions. If a planner is able to predict/forecast at least 10%-15% (in tough scenarios/situations/tough/complicated projects) then that is a great achievement.
Why are your future aspirations?
Initially, I took the path of Project Manager. Later I realised the importance of Planning Manager and now focusing to reach the post of Project Controls Manager.
Will there be enough demand for Planning Engineers in the future?
As long as there are projects in respective fields, there will always be scope for Planning Engineers. Earlier the planners were using Excel and Reporting.
What do you wish you knew before you started preparing for this career?
As I come from construction background, my only regret was not working along side with skilled men (labours) such as mason, tile fitters, electricians, painters etc. If I had done this, then my project planning would have become perfect.
What are the steps one have to take to become a Planning Engineer?
- Work in field (gain practical experience)
- Develop communication skills
- Learn Primavera /MSP (Primavera is more suitable). Practice more and more. Learn to resolve issues (software related)
- Predict/Forecast and learn to resolve issues (field related)
- Write PMP or PMI-SP exam (believe me, this will help you)
- Refer books related to Primavera & how to relate it to the field
- Join or work as Assistant level of Planning Engineer. Learn from Senior – seek their advices and grow
What do you think everyone leaving higher secondary school should know?
You should choose your career based on your interests, if you like something – then go for it. Don’t go behind money. With determination and dedication, money will soon follow. Learn to accept failure because you will learn a lot when you fail.
Any recommended resources for aspiring Civil Engineers?
- Project Management – Online Courses
To know more about Oracle Primavera, Project Management and Delay Analysis you can visit Middleastech where he shares his knowledge about Project Planning.
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