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Engineering Projects: Identifying, Prioritizing and Managing Risk

July 16th, 2019
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Risk is an inherent component of all engineering projects. To successfully undertake engineering projects, you need a reliable and effective risk management plan. An engineering project management plan that factors in risks helps you to plan for uncertainties besides enabling you to prioritize and mitigate the risks.

When undertaking an engineering project, you should take note of the fact that risk is part and parcel of the project’s makeup. As soon as you start designing the project, one of the most pertinent questions that you should ask yourself is; what could go wrong?

To some project managers, this might sound negative, but in reality, it isn’t. Pondering over this question will enable you to have a preventative approach as you embark on the project. Issues will undoubtedly come up, and therefore, you must have a mitigation strategy that allows you to manage risks in the course of your project.

What Does Risk Management in Engineering Projects Entail?

In engineering projects, risk management entails the identification and evaluation of things that could go wrong in the course of the project. After that, you need a response plan that will help you address the impacts of the risks.

This doesn’t mean that risk management is reactive. It should only be a component of the planning process, which helps you to figure out what could happen during the life cycle of your engineering project. Similarly, it enables you to control that risk if it recurs in the future.

If risks become a reality, it will undoubtedly affect your project’s performance and timelines. Generally, risks are potentialities. If they become realities in an engineering project management context, they will undoubtedly be classified as “issues” that ought to be addressed. Therefore, risk management in engineering projects involves identifying, classifying, ranking, and planning for risks before they morph into real issues.

Since engineering projects differ, risk management may mean doing things differently. When undertaking large-scale projects, the most pragmatic strategy includes detailed risk identification, prioritization, and planning for every risk. When overseeing smaller engineering projects, risk management might entail drawing a list of low, medium, and high priority risks. This will ensure that suitable risk mitigation strategies are in place in case issues arise

Identifying Risks

Any incident, small or large, can be regarded as a risk if it can negatively affect the budget, scope, or schedule of your engineering project. There is great importance in examining all programs that run simultaneously with your project and within the project. This will help you identify the possible effects of these programs on the project.

To identify potential issues going forward, you should look at the past and how past risks affected the outcome of your project. This will help you prepare for similar problems as you embark on a new project. Moreover, you will avoid repeating comparable mistakes in the course of the new project.

Even if you have the best laid-out plans, design errors, unforeseen circumstances, owner scope revisions, and slight omissions are likely to occur. To identify risks that arise from this, you should work with stakeholders who have handled different projects. This will make it easier for you to access areas where problems may arise. Ultimately, risk identification enables you to address responsibility and liability ahead of time instead of waiting for risks to become realities.

Prioritizing Risks

Since every engineering project is unique, some risks have more urgency than others. To prioritize risks, list all of them according to the potential impact that they might have on your project. For instance, a lost-time accident might occur in any project, but with proper safety precautions, it is rare. Likewise, change orders resulting from unforeseen conditions are inevitable in almost all engineering projects. With proper precautions in place, the cost of these changes can be minimized.

Prioritizing risks involves having a list of risks that you think can harm the project. From this list, you should differentiate risks that are seemingly minor and don’t require further attention from those that seem to be severe and require follow-up and active mitigation. Risk prioritization requires you to undertake a qualitative assessment of the seriousness and magnitude of each identified risk.

Controlling and Mitigating Risks

Most engineering projects begin in a highly-organized manner. Nonetheless, it becomes harder to manage the projects effectively as more risks come into play. The failure to control and mitigate these emerging risks is the reason why some projects grind to a halt. For you to implement a suitable risk management plan in engineering projects, risks should be controlled and mitigated as they arise.

Priority should be given to risks whose impact is likely to be high. However, you should keep in mind that mitigating and controlling the highest calculated risks doesn’t deter them from recurring. Instead, it merely established contingencies and workarounds that go a long way in lessening the impact on the project.

For instance, to mitigate the risk of lost-time accidents on a building project, a project manager will ensure that all parties undergo safety training and will design their schedule in a manner to have minimal or no trade stacking. Continuous job site safety audits is an example of a way to mitigate risks that typically arise from unforeseen situations. In engineering, ensuring that your engineers are trained up on basic security policies is a way to build resilience into the project and mitigate risk further down the project’s pipeline. 

In the course of an engineering project, regular stakeholder meetings are advisable since they enable you to discuss any new design issues or problems that arise from outside team code pushes. If you want to minimize the impact of risk events, the entire project should be designed in a way that makes it consistent with the schedule and contingencies in its budget.

During engineering projects, risk management is inevitable. Likewise, it is a complicated process that needs to be expertly handled. Various tools can facilitate the whole process while providing you with real-time information and insights. Regardless of how robust your risk assessment and management plan is, risk events will occur. What makes a good plan stand out is its ability to keep the risk factors low while ensuring that you complete your project within schedule and with the allocated resources dedicated to it.

If you want to find out more about how Waydev can help you, schedule a demo. 


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