My background in the Marine Engineering field gave me responsibilities in the engine rooms of some of the largest ships in the world. Being on those ships and being a part of those engineering teams taught me many valuable lessons when it came to communication in the field. Communication comes in many forms; the two primary forms are formal and informal communication. Examples of formal communication are reports, business letters, and orders. Informal communication can be boiled down to a casual conversation, a phone call, or a quick email. In my experience, both forms have their time and place.
Cornerstone’s primary way to stay organized and on top of processes is through software called BlueRithm. BlueRithm has proven to be a powerful tool for tracking issues and punch list items. The software allows parties on the project to constantly communicate with the commissioning team and be notified of problems that fall under their jurisdiction. Additionally, different issues or observations can be tagged with modifiers showing progress, priority, and the estimated effort to close out that particular item.
BlueRithm also tracks progress in the Commissioning Process. It allows us to look at all phases at a glance and see what items we have completed, what items are in progress, and what still needs to be completed or has not been started. This allows full transparency between the client and us and provides them with realistic timelines and schedules.
Meetings allow for facetime between all parties, which can sometimes be more effective than reports or other forms of formal communication. You can go through many different topics rapidly and even build rapport with the other team members. This is especially important in the construction industry as it takes many team members for a project to come to fruition. The stronger the team, the better results you will get.
Albert Mehrabian conducted a study in the 1960s on different forms of communication. He concluded that communication is much more effective when you introduce body language and visual aid rather than spoken or written words alone. This brings me to my following form of informal communication.
Communication on-site is my favorite form as it is the quickest and sometimes the most effective way to solve a problem before it becomes an issue that goes on the commissioning issues report. For example, if there is a discrepancy with a specific system, my typical practice is to go to the contractor that performed the work to discuss the perceived issue. Sometimes the issue can be resolved in a quick back-and-forth conversation which allows us to develop rapport as we brainstorm how to resolve the issues. Even when the issue can’t be fixed with a brief discussion, notifying the responsible party before documenting the problem allows for a better understanding for both parties of what needs to be done to solve the problem.
When discussing issues on-site, you can relay more information and reference exactly what you are trying to convey. This type of communication tends to limit miscommunication and confusion.
As a Commissioning Engineer, problem-solving is one of the main things we do. To be a successful problem-solver, communication is a vital tool to be used effectively and efficiently.