by their very nature, experience a diverse sampling of engineering
and product development cultures. The terms "CONSULTANT"
and "CONTRACT ENGINEER" are often used interchangeably
and the perception of the difference between the two varies from
person to person. They are sometimes expected to be independent
problem solvers (consultants) bringing new skills, experience, or
ideas into an organization; other times they are expected simply
to implement a well defined idea (contract engineers) performing
the detailed design implementation function that would otherwise
be performed by directly employed personnel under the direction
and guidance of engineering or project managers. Quite often the
same person finds themselves filling either or both role as the
situation requires; flexibility is key. I offer these two definition
suggestions so we can easily come to an understanding of our mutual
Being able to
work in either environment requires confidence and flexibility.
Most of all it requires experience in dealing with all sorts of
situations and working in a wide variety of organizational structures.
The reasons for
engaging a consultant or contract engineer are as varied as the
organizations that hire them. Whether it is to fill a temporary
staffing shortage, or to acquire skills/experience not currently
existing in-house, consultants can be the answer to your temporary
The best time
to bring a consultant into a project depends on the nature of the
project. If you are simply filling a temporary staffing shortage
the timing is usually a matter of your project schedule and how
the availability of the additional resource fits into the overall
scheme. If you are expecting to gain new skills or experience through
the use of consultants they should be engaged as early in the project
as possible; during product conceptualization is not too early.
The impact of new skills acquired late in a project may ripple back
through work that has already been completed. If a consultant is
brought in toward the end of a project and their suggestions aren't
implemented because it would be too costly to revisit completed
work you have wasted your money and the benefit of hiring a consultant.
This is seldom
more true than in the case of EMC compliance. Bringing a consultant
or contract engineer in at the beginning of a project can help gain
appropriate early focus on EMC issues when everyone else is naturally
focused on what appear to be more pressing issues.