The Big Picture – Taking a step back to get a big picture perspective.



Contributed by Chris Chandler – Design Coordinator


The Big Picture – Taking a step back to get a big picture perspective.

Engineering projects are comprised of multiple parts, basically, just many components intertwined together. Projects include any possible combination of disciplines such as process, civil, structural, mechanical, piping, instrument, and electrical.  Each has their own segments that include calculations, design, drafting, and so on. On top of that, each department must keep track of documents, the latest revisions and the most current design of the other disciplines. There is an enormous amount of items to keep track of. Taking a step back and making sure you have a clear understanding of the big picture will increase the success of the project completion.

Steps to see the big picture:

  • Support Communication – Keep the team on the same page.
  • Set Clear Project Parameters – Steer the team in the right direction.
  • Develop a Strong Project Team – Align the skills of team members to match the project.
  • Encourage Self-Motivation – Make sure the team is engaged.
  • Schedule Milestones for Project Checking – Be reactive throughout the project.
  • Be Flexible – Expect the unexpected.

The process of pulling together an engineering project is much easier if you are able to step back and view the project as a whole. Communication between all disciplines is key to this. It is sometimes easy for that to fall through the cracks. If we cannot foresee the needs of other project members, we may be shooting ourselves in the foot. Without clear and supported communication, other members of our team could be backed into a corner which could lead to costly rework.

When working on an interdepartmental team, it is important to be clear about goals. It is also vital to clearly understand each part of the project, consider flexibility with the project plan, and take into account the other members on the team and what your decision means for them. When you are trying to charge forward to meet your particular schedule and budget, taking a step back may not be possible. In reality, though, it can help the effectiveness of the project team. While setting parameters and goals, take time to develop the right team to get the job done as efficiently as possible. Once the appropriate team is established, team engagement is an important next step. Encourage the team to speak up, reward the team for a job well done, focus on collaboration and clarify responsibilities.

A lot of seasoned designers like me want to do a big part of the designing and drafting on projects ourselves because we are comfortable knowing that “we did it” and feel less back checking will be needed. By actively looking at the project as a whole, we can keep the composite rate of design minimized if we utilize less costly drafters where appropriate. Project milestones are important to, in a way, force the group to check back with other parts of the team. It is better to be reactive and catch something now, rather than later. When things come up, flexibility can save the project and the team morale. Team members must be held accountable but changes should still be an option if applicable.

This write-up focuses on engineering projects but the importance of looking at the “big picture” is as equally true for EPC projects. If the engineers and designers cannot see the desired final product and foresee the needs of the fabrication shop or field installation crew, then costly downtime or rework is probable.  Using these steps and maintaining the ability to look at the overall project from a high level will save time and money, on any size project, in the end.


Chris Chandler H+M Industrial EPC

Chris Chandler – Design Coordinator at H+M Industrial EPC 

Chris has more than 30 years experience in piping design, coordination, and project management in industrial settings. His project design and supervision responsibilities have ranged from small capital projects to multimillion dollar projects. Chris has worked at H&M for ten years, with previous work experience at Jacobs, CDI, Enterprise Products and Mustang Engineering.