Practical Information
What is a Consulting Engineer?
Updated:  Monday, December 14, 2015 04:46 AM

What is a Consulting Engineer?  -- What is a P.E. License?  -- Correspondence to other Consultants     
So You Want to Be a Consultant    --    Consulting Methods & Practices   --     Dave's Business Journal

Consultants are individuals who typically work for themselves but may also be associated with a consulting firm. They,  for a fee, gives advice or provides a service in a field of specialized knowledge or training. Most consultants carry their own life and health insurance, pay their own taxes, most have their own tools and equipment. The consultant can work alone or with the client's staff.
Consultants can play a multi-faceted role. They can, for example function as advisors, fixers, bosses, generalists,  stabilizers, listeners, advisors, specialists, catalysts, managers or quasi-employees. The actual work that consultants perform for one company to another may vary greatly, i.e. tax account to office decoration. However, the typical underlying reasons that a consultant is hired are universal. A problem exists and the owner or manager of the company has decided to seek the help of an expert.
Bringing in an expert can save time, effort and money. It has been estimated that approximately 3/4 of all companies call upon consultants at one time or another. Many companies claim that they receive a higher return for their invested dollars by using consultants for specific tasks.
Most companies have experienced the problem of needing short-term technical expertise. Perhaps the company's existing staff is already working to capacity. In many cases, the engineering skills required for a project can be satisfied with a full time employee. When they can not fully justify bringing someone on board full time, their answer is to hire a consultant. By doing so, the businessman solves his immediate problem without permanently increasing his payroll and payroll taxes.
Consultants can be hired when the company may not have anyone on staff capable of solving the specific problem. At such times, a costly learning curve on the part of the engineering staff is associated with the project. One example is using a consultant as a viable alternative during the development stages of new products. Hiring a consultant with experience in a given area can then cut days, weeks or even months off a project schedule. In addition, he can help the staff avoid mistakes they may otherwise make. When the project reaches a certain point, the permanent staff can then take over.
Consultants can deal directly with owners and upper management. In this role, consultants can provide an objective third-party view point. Critical objectives can then be identified and advise given in confidence.
Consultants are a viable alternative in assisting in feasibility studies or in proposal preparation. Perhaps the manager cannot justify shifting the duties of existing staff members.
Another time that consultants become useful is when a company is just starting a business. The development of the company's new product can be begun by the consultant while a full time permanent technical staff member is being hired.
Finding the right consultant can be difficult. Managers can rely on referrals from their friends or hire the consultant who happens to call at the right time. Once the decisions is made to hire a consultant, the need is immediate and one may not have the time to shop for a consultant. As a part of planning ahead, it is wise to meet various consultants on an informal basis before the need to hire one arises. Then when the time comes, you will know exactly who to call for you have already established an informal relationship.


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