Canadian Consulting Engineer

MAILBOX: “Bundling” trend is just a symptom of larger problems

The following was received in response to an article, "Bundling, skills shortages, loading of risk, creating concerns for consulting engineers at ACEC summit," posted June 22. Click here.

August 22, 2013   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The following was received in response to an article, “Bundling, skills shortages, loading of risk, creating concerns for consulting engineers at ACEC summit,” posted June 22. Click here.

The skills shortage among public sector managers, the infrastructure deficit, and project bundling, are all related issues.

The problem is that the need for infrastructure renewal is challenging the most skilled of public sector managers, let alone those without the “real life” experience required to understand these issues. Bundling is a symptom of the problem. As municipalities in particular struggle to find ways to approach the infrastructure deficit there is a general failure in the understanding of how such approaches will affect the availability of services. For example, as more projects go to larger firms, smaller local firms will eventually be forced out of the market place. While this may reduce costs in the short term, the lack of competition that is created by the failure of many firms will likely eventually lead to increased prices due to the resulting competition deficit. Add to this the skill and understanding deficit that results from younger, less experienced public sector managers making decisions, and you have a recipe for long term decline in both infrastructure and the engineering industry that traditionally services its needs.

Two factors further complicate the issue: declining prices for engineering services resulting both from the lack of appreciation for the value of experience by less experienced public sector managers, and our industry’s willingness to accept and go along with the low price trend.

The bottom line here is that if we as an industry do not promote the value of our services and begin to refuse to devalue our own worth, we will eventually become irrelevant. This will in turn lead to an eventual reduction in quality of the infrastructure that we are now renewing, leading to earlier failures of these systems and compounding the problem we now face.

The industry as a whole has a responsibility to understand these issues and come together to stem and reverse these trends for the good of both society and the engineering industry.

W.R. (Bill) MacMillan, P.Eng.

Hatch Mott MacDonald, Moncton, N.B.


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