Engineering Project Managers play a pivotal role in the success of any engineering endeavour. They take on a lot of responsibility, often managing large-scale engineering projects worth millions of dollars in investment. They have to confidently lead diverse teams of engineers, administrators and skilled workers through high-pressure situations. Plus, they diligently ensure that projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the client's satisfaction.
Luckily, with big responsibilities come big rewards with starting salaries for Engineering Project Managers of around $115,000 and high-end salaries of $175,000 or more.
If you get into this field you’re also sure to be in high demand in Australia. In fact, the current shortage of Engineering Managers is so great, it’s now on the ANZSCO list of in-demand occupations for migration.
To really understand the role of a Engineering Project Manager, it’s important to start at the beginning. Let’s take a closer look at what constitutes an engineering project, some of the key tasks of an Engineering Project Manager, and the skills and qualifications needed to perform this important role.
What is an engineering project?
The core definition of an engineering project is any project which uses engineers to design and develop a new product, system, or structure. An engineering project can range in scope from the design of a small product such as a stapler all the way to the design and construction of a subway system, a bridge or a dam.
So, as you can see the Engineering Project Management role can mean working on projects that are quite different in size, scope and objective, depending on the industry and the intended outcome.
Engineering Project Manager's role and responsibilities
Safety and quality control
One of the most important tasks of an Engineering Project Manager is ensuring that projects and working conditions comply with all national safety regulations and quality standards. Engineering projects must meet these strict standards to ensure that they are safe and reliable: not just for workers, but also for the public or any other end-user of the structure or product.
An engineering project manager is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all work meets these standards and that the final product is of high quality. This involves setting up quality control processes, reviewing work regularly, and ensuring that any issues are addressed promptly.
Writing progress reports
When the project is underway, they will also often be expected to write progress reports or reviews for stakeholders, often on a quarterly, half-yearly or annual basis - depending on the scope and timeframe of the project. These reports will contain key information such as:
- Timelines and targets
- KPIs and performance against measurables
- Feedback from engineers or staff
- Notable changes
- Budget and finance information
Writing budgets and reports is a key skill that all Engineering Project Managers need to develop because it’s a big part of the role.
Delegating and collaborating
Within organisations, engineering managers need to be collaborative team members as well as project managers. This requires soft skills such as communication, leadership and delegation in order to effectively manage an often diverse team of professionals.
Delegation is a key leadership skill required in the Engineering Project Manager role. Project managers must collaborate with other teams, and delegate specific tasks and key areas of research and development to engineers and other members on their team
Tracking and analysing progress
One key task required of an Engineering Project Manager is tracking and analysing progress, throughout the entire project life cycle. There are a number of ways that Engineering Project Managers do that, such as:
- Tracking and reporting against key deliverables and milestones
- Setting measurable goals and key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Meeting regularly with team and stakeholders
- Having a clear deadline and timelines to measure progress against
- Supporting transparency
- Delivering regular progress reports
Planning and budgeting
An Engineering Project Manager will often write budget proposals in the early stages of a project when their company is seeking public funding or private investment for the project. In addition, one of the primary responsibilities of an engineering project manager is to develop plans and timelines for their project.
Planning and budgeting are collaborative tasks that involve working with the client and engineers to understand their requirements, determining the scope of the project, and developing a project plan that outlines the tasks, timelines, and resources required to complete the project.
The budget, plan and timeline are all essential documents that will shape how the project unfolds, and allow for the manager to measure success against key milestones further down the track.
Leadership and team management
Engineering project managers need to be great leaders. They are responsible for managing a team of engineers, administrators and other staff, ensuring that they are working together effectively to complete a project: often under significant pressure. This involves assigning tasks, delegating, setting deadlines, communicating effectively at all times, practising active listening and monitoring progress to ensure that the project is on track.
Plus, the Engineering Project Manager needs to make sure that the work environment is supportive and inclusive, to ensure that staff are happy. The happiest teams are the most productive teams, after all.
Engineering projects are complex, and there are always risks involved: both financial and in terms of safety and design. An engineering project manager is responsible for identifying potential risks and developing strategies to mitigate them. This may involve developing contingency plans, setting up risk management processes, and ensuring that the team is prepared to handle any unexpected issues that may arise.
On any given day, an Engineering Project Manager needs to communicate with the client, the engineering team, any additional outside teams or staff hired to assist and other stakeholders. Good communication skills are essential to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This involves providing regular updates on project progress, addressing any concerns or issues that arise, and ensuring that everyone is aware of any changes to the project plan.
Post project review
Projects don’t end when you meet your deliverables. Once a project is completed, it needs to be analysed and assessed in order to discover further areas for improvement.
At the close of every engineering project, the Engineering Project Manager is required to submit a ‘Project Closure Report’, which measures a project's overall success. This document is crucial for the company to understand what they can improve in their processes, moving forward. Typically, a Project Closure Report will contain information such as:
- The original project guidelines, including stakeholder requests, budget and timeline
- Proof that the clients have received their deliverables
- Invoices from suppliers, stakeholders or other sources
- Release or transfer records of remaining resources
- Detailed performance reviews on each phase of the project
- Feedback from senior management, team members and stakeholders
- A separate folder with all project files and communication for archival purposes
- A request for project closure approval
As you can see, as well as being an essential leadership, planning and team management role, the role of Engineering Project Manager also involves writing of important documents such as these closing reports. Fortunately, like all the other skills listed, report writing is a skill that can be learned and practised.
Considering a career in Engineering Project Management? There are a range of different options to get the skills and qualifications to step into this in-demand role. View here for more information on the Masters of Engineering Management.