One Company, 3 Engineering Organizations

By Harry Forbes

Industry Trends

“We want the latest technology for our plant systems, provided that everything we buy has been proven in the field for 3-5 years and is supplied and supported by one of our approved vendors.”

How often have we heard that?  While that line is often the punch-line of a joke, it reflects the real dilemma every engineering organization and plant faces when choosing plant equipment; equipment that must serve reliably for an operating life of 10-30 years depending up the industry. The dilemma is a trade-off between “field proven” and “potentially superior”.  That evaluation can be difficult.

It’s not the only difficult choice that process industries face.  New plants and the improvement projects for plants in operation also demand the careful allocation of scarce human resources.  Typically a large firm (for example a chemical company) organizes its technical people into central, project, and plant-oriented organizations.  Each of these has different responsibilities and goals. 

Engineering Organizations

Central or “corporate” engineering is concerned with maintaining common corporate-wide standards for equipment and vendors, so that the firm employs a suitably common installed base of equipment and services.  Project engineering organizations need to deliver a project on time and within capital budgets, and need to get new plant equipment into a state of reliable and quality production so it can be “turned over” to the operating staff.  The operating engineering groups need to make sure that new equipment is well integrated with existing operations, and coordinate production and maintenance activities at the plant to fulfill business objectives. Though all 3 types of engineering organizations may work for the same company, their goals and objectives can be in conflict.

ARC is conducting research into the ways that different manufacturers organize and divide responsibility among these organizations.  We’re also interested in how their organization and policies manage the introduction of new equipment and technology to their production plants.  As part of this research ARC is conducting a survey of process manufacturers, EPC firms, and suppliers. The major topics of this survey are:Engineering Organizations

Vendor Management – how companies qualify and choose vendors for various types of equipment
Project Design Reviews – how engineering organizations work together during project design and construction
Internal Consulting – how engineering organizations collaborate during operation and projects
New Technology Adoption – how new technology is adopted and deployed
Company Standards – how companies develop, revise, and maintain their internal corporate engineering standards

To participate in this ARC web survey, you can find the questions here. You'll receive a report of the results from ARC.

If you’d like to speak directly with ARC about it, please feel free to email ARC at

Happy engineering to you!

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