What is Project Engineering – all you need to know about it

December 12, 2019by Victor P.

  In an IT company, where most of the employees have actual IT experience, still frequently arises the question ‘What is Project Engineering about?’. So, I decided to explain to my colleagues and other interested persons what’s the role of a Project Engineer in a logistic company and why I decided to join it?

What is Project Engineering and a Project Engineer?

  ‘Project Engineering’ is a pretty generic term, that among the logistic world can be considered commonly used sub-division such as:

  • Mechanical engineering;
  • Electrical engineering;
  • Controls or PLC engineering;
  • Software engineering.

  Generically speaking, Project Engineers are those who give the best solution for the customers by improving their logistics processes.

  Shortly, they are responsible for translating sold systems into detailed system designs. Long-windedly, the work involves the design and delivery of material handling systems, warehouse automation. Also, parcel sortation systems for warehouses, distribution centers, airports, and support on-site commissioning and delivery to the customer.

Inther and ISD’s Project Engineering Department

  At Inther and ISD, Software engineering and PLC are already separated departments, where the Project Engineering Department incorporates the first two sub-divisions – mechanical and electrical.

  There’s no ‘success formula’ for becoming a Project Engineer – one may have an electrical background, but is willing to learn mechanics. In my case, I had a mechanical background and I was willing to learn about electrics.

  Project Engineering’s entire work includes the next 6 phases:

  1. Start of the Project;
  2. Design phase (Mechanical and Electrical designs);
  3. Engineering phase;
  4. Work preparation phase;
  5. Installation phase;
  6. Documentation phase.

  Each category has its specifications, so let’s explain every single one a little bit.

  (1) The Start of the Project begins with a takeover from the Sales Department of the Business Proposal with project specifications. Engineering Planning is based on general sales concept and building layout, project-specific calculations.

  (2) The Mechanical Design phase means generating the system layout – a complex procedure that verifies if building layout and concept system design matches it. Verifying concept is to check if:

  1. the system design matches with the system’s requirements;
  2. the required Transport Unit (TU) can be transported over the system;
  3. checking and recalculating, when necessary, material flows and capacities;
  4. selecting third party systems and equipment when necessary (like Shuttle system, box erectors, and closers, label applicators, etc.);
  5. designing (or checking) mezzanine layout floors;
  6. designing supports plan for conveyor system;
  7. designing (or checking) racking layouts;
  8. verifying the layout with all suppliers and customers.

  The Electrical Design phase, on the other hand, includes:

  1. separating the system in multiple zones (if applicable);
  2. defining cabinet locations; designing emergency stop (E-stop) system and areas;
  3. defining E-stop positions; designing safety fence layout; defining the network architecture (IP ranges, VLAN, VPN);
  4. defining used electrical components (like barcode scanners, HMI, connection to external systems, motor starters, inverters, servo drives, safety components, etc.);
  5. verifying third party machine specifications and interface.

  (3) The Engineering phase is divided into 4 main activities:

  1. CAD engineering, which means further detailing the project layout by creating separate system zone layouts (if applicable), assigning position numbers; generating Sensors and Actuator Layouts (SAL) by adding cabinets, sensors and actuators, scanners and addition IO, emergency stop components;
  2. Electrical engineering, which includes designing 400VAC motor groups, incl. cable calculations; designing 24VDC groups, incl. cable calculations; designing Profinet network groups; creating the decentral IO overview; creating the E-stop IO overview and Scanner overview; creating the IP network overview; creating the VLAN overview; creating the E-stop Matrix; calculating infrastructure requirements (like power, air, and network) for system zones;
  3. E-plan engineering, that involves generating electrical drawings from field positions; generating electrical drawings from control cabinets;
  4. Mechanical engineering, where next actions are performed: detailing mezzanine floors; detailing racking system; designing steel structures (conveyor supports); designing stepovers; designing cable trays; detailing the safety fence; designing project-specific mechanical parts.

  (4) After the Work preparation phase starts, it separates instantly into 3 different phases of preparation:

  1. Preparation Cabinet assembly is where engineers check the components list and order cabinet components, followed by the order of cabinet stickers and printing cabinet drawings and labels.
  2. Preparation Mechanical Installation onsite, where engineers will check and order steel structures, order mounting materials and safety fence, check required tools for mechanical installation, print position labels, and mechanical installation documentation.
  3. Preparation Electrical Installation onsite, where engineers are busy checking and ordering required cables, filed components, printing labels for field components and electrical installation documentation.

  (5) The Installation starts immediately after work preparation phase is ready and here we have the:

  1. Assembly Cabinet (support cabinet assembly, execute cabinet test protocol, process notes, and remarks in cabinet assembly drawings and arrange transport to the site);
  2. Mechanical installation onsite (support mechanical installation onsite, quality control of mechanical installation);
  3. Electrical installation onsite (support electrical installation onsite, quality control of the electrical installation, onsite check for machine safety according to regulation, process notes, and remarks in onsite installation drawings and SAL) and Test onsite.

  (6) The Documentation phase includes the activities of modifying the documentation to As Build documentation (electrical drawings, SAL and E-stop Matrix).

Who do we interact with, during our activities, as Project Engineers?

  Project Engineers interact with persons from several departments and Project Engineers such as PLC Engineers, Mechanical and Electrical installation team, Purchasers, Vendors and Suppliers of equipment and parts and the client. All this handful of skilled persons is also under the supervision of Project Managers and Site Supervisors.

  To reach a project’s complete design, we will maintain close contact through all the project processes and improve their ability to work with different team members, as well as directly with the customer and suppliers.

  The real challenge in this position is to achieve the right balance between the customer requirements, a practical/manageable/realistic solution, the available budget, and the right scheduling.

  It’s an important aspect that truly develops an Engineer’s skills.

Why do I love being a Project Engineer?

  In every project, I especially value the spirit of cooperation between our departments and the new challenges that allows me to learn new things and stay current on the latest technology’s progress.

  As a team, we methodically aim for perfection and we even get to discuss through the steps that need to be taken for better success over lunch.

  The thing that inspires me the most about Project Engineering is the puzzle-solving aspect of it:

  • to figure out how to take the available tools with our internal and/or external broad range of equipment;
  • what can I use to get this TU from point A to point B;
  • make sure that it gets there 100% of the time.

  To be part of Project Engineering department gives me a sense of belief that I’m making an impact and driving our customers’ business forward.

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