Canadian Consulting Engineer

B.C. consultant urges engineers to refuse work when the price isn’t right

"I believe we are now entering an era in which the supply and demand curves for engineers will cross, and we will e...

September 18, 2003   Canadian Consulting Engineer

“I believe we are now entering an era in which the supply and demand curves for engineers will cross, and we will experience a sustained period of excess demand over supply,” says Neil Cummings, P.Eng., president of Consulting Engineers of B.C. in the most recent issue of Innovations.
Mr. Cummings, who is also president of Levelton Engineering, was writing about the need for consulting engineering firms to raise the level of their fees and not undercut each other in competition for work. Low fee levels, and the “commodification” of engineering services whereby firms are hired according to price as opposed to the quality of service they provide has been a continual thorn in the flesh of the industry. It sees its profit margins eroding as a result.
“We now face a golden opportunity, in the face of rising demand, to place upward pressure on our fees, but it will only happen if we recognize the opportunity and take action,” Cummings writes. “The role of industry organizations over the next few years is to deliver the message to their members and to work with them to improve their own sense of self worth. Only then will we make progress.”
He also gave his fellow consultants a harsh knock of reality:
“It is a fundamental fact that we will never increase our fee levels until we are prepared to lose a few jobs on price. Think about it — it can’t happen. We must therefore rid ourselves of the notion that we must win every proposal, and [instead] focus on those that bring value to our businesses, and that provide remuneration that reflects the value of the services we provide and the risk we take on. It is actually okay to occasionally say “No, we won’t do it for that price.”
Innovations is published by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. (APEGBC).


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