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The Engineering and Project  Management Function in TCI

The Engineering Function


Every company all shouts the same thing, “We are waiting for engineering.”  This is typical in non-TCI functioning companies.  As is the case in production where companies will look for the next equipment idea to make everything more efficient, engineering departments look for the next software idea. The problem is rarely the cause because most companies are, at least, using AutoCad. 

Under TCI, this is the correct engineering process:

  1. Estimating closes the project and immediately sets the kick-off meeting.  The meeting is attended by the estimator, the project manager, the purchasing clerk or manager, the production manager, possibly the installation manager, and the engineer.  The engineering manager and other managers may attend. 

  2. It is at this meeting that the critical path report is filled in.  The CPR is critical to the process, and works backward from the General Contractor’s schedule.  If there is no schedule, estimating and sales have not done their job since a project should only be accepted for estimating if it fits into the needs of the company.  That means there must be some information regarding a schedule. The CPR is made to change, and we will discuss this in more detail under project management.

  3. The estimate, when properly itemized, allows for the long lead items to be identified. The purchasing clerk or purchasing manager works with the project manager or designated take-off person to arrive at the proper quantity, and orders the product immediately, unless the item must be engineered first.  If no engineer is available the item must be engineered by an independent engineer. This decision is often resisted by engineering, because it possibly reduces the necessity for some engineers.  However, a production floor that is not running efficiently is far costlier than a drafter with nothing to do. 

  4. Any slack in engineering allows for training and movement within the company.  This is known on the production floor as, “Demand-Flow Manufacturing”. The same principle applies within sales, estimating, purchasing, and project management. Engineers with down time need to assist in all other office departments.  This also allows for training time in new software products. 

  5. All parties review the project for access of elevators, stairs, door widths, etc.  Parameters are placed upon the sizes of items, and field joints vs. full assembly. 


As the kick-off meeting continues, the itemization as established by the estimating department is discussed.  Estimating prioritizes items for the project manager, who then dictates what items get drawn first.  Always there is an eye toward optimization and value engineering, combining items together if needed. 

The Project Manager and purchasing prioritize materials that need to be ordered. The engineer draws according to itemization, with some value engineering discussions.  For example, there may be a group of cabinets in one item, that is like a group in another item.  In this case both items are drawn at the same time.  Once the drawings are completed, the project manager must check these and red-line as needed.  Once red-lined they must go back to the engineer for revising.  Once the project manager approves the drawings, the project manager then oversees the transmittal of the drawings.


The Project Management (PM) Function


The TCI methodology names the project manager as the supreme head of the project.  Anything that goes right or wrong on the project is his/her fault.  Consequently, the PM must be authorized to act with the authority needed to carry out his or her responsibilities.  Also, this position, like purchasing, is known as a “Free Position”.  As a free position, the PM can prove his or her worth to the company.  Because of this a top job requirement should be the ability to motivate people to perform the task that he or she dictates.  I did not say work with people; I said motivate people.  These are two different elements and are taught under the TCI methodology.  

As a “Free Position”, the PM is given the responsibility of saving the equivalent of his/her salary per year on his/her projects.  The PM must then have complete and total access to, and understand completely the estimate, knowing the itemization and making changes as needed for more savings. 

Everything starts with the kick-off meeting, which is set as soon as the project is won.  The meeting is scheduled by the estimator, but the PM is heavily involved in every aspect.  The contract is reviewed with all parties in the room to identify opportunities as well as landmines.  If your company is working with a LOI, the standard contract a GC has sent must again be reviewed.  If there are some major landmines that have not been addressed by estimating, the kick-off meeting can be re-scheduled when those landmines have been reduced or eliminated. Kick-off meetings can fatally harm a company if not correctly performed.  The elements of a kick-off meeting are:

  1. Contract Review (ITB if so negotiated)

  2. Project Schedule Review

  3. CPR Review by Department

  4. Itemization Review

  5. Long-Lead Items 

  6. Shop Production Schedule

  7. Engineering Review

  8. Purchasing Review

  9. Production Review

  10. Identify new processes for dealing with the items.

  11. Communicate forward and backward production issues to the other departments. 

  12. CPR finalization by department with commitments to meet the schedule.

  13. Invoicing Review for Senior Management.


The PM brings a CPR and fills in dates based upon the GC schedule, assuming it was agreed to by the company.  If the GC schedule changes and this results in a production problem or added costs, it is the responsibility of the PM to evaluate a charge through a change order.  The CPR is verbally and electronically communicated when there are any changes.  There is a taught distribution list under TCI.  

The PM, with the aid of the estimator, dictates the sequence of engineering. Engineering always begins with the long-lead items, and follows the itemization established by the estimator, and/or changed by the PM. The engineer at the meeting can offer suggestions for a smoother and quicker completion of submittals. But the PM is in charge ultimately.  


The PM works with the estimator and dictates the material needs to the purchasing manager or clerk.  First, long-lead items are identified and it is decided if purchases can be made before submittal.  This can be achieved by SOS, submitting out-of-sequence.  


Once drawings are completed, and as they are completed, the PM must review and red-line for changes.  The engineer must be good with this.  A primary responsibility of the PM is to manage the drawings and other submittals.  Once drawings are red-lined, the engineering department must be immediately available to make the changes.  Lack of availability because of chaos in the department is also counterproductive to the needs of the company.  If engineering cannot make the changes, the PM must find other means for accomplishing the changes, such as an independent engineer. 


At this point we always hear that this will slow the process.That is true in the beginning. But as time passes the speed of engineering increases because the kick-off meeting and engineering begins much earlier. And, the engineers, using the estimate and instructions from the PM, learn more about what happens in the shop. Forward and backward thinking must occur with all departments (see number 6, definitions).


This is only the beginning of training under TCI for project managers and engineers.  But in summary, great responsibility is placed with the PM.  The PM must have cooperation throughout all parts of the process, from all departments within the company. 

Total Company Integration

Stationary Manufacturing,

and now


Demand -F low Manufacturing, 
- The Future in
Company Profit
and Efficiency -

To order a TCI Review please email Dave Creech at
or call 719-755-8897. 

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