What Is a Consulting Engineer Firm? (With Pros and Cons)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published August 25, 2021

When businesses need help completing complex projects, they may hire a consulting engineer firm to receive the answers, direction or expertise they need. Consulting engineer firms pair qualified engineers with clients in order to assist them with their engineering tasks. Understanding how consulting engineer firms work can help you make informed decisions as a project manager. In this article, we define consulting engineer firms, discuss what consulting engineers are and provide a list of advantages and disadvantages of working with a consulting engineer firm.

Related: What Is a Mechanical Engineering Consultant?

What is a consulting engineer firm?

Consulting engineer firms are organizations and businesses that have partnerships with consulting engineers. They partner with consulting engineers in order to pair them with clients who need their engineering expertise in various fields. Consulting engineer firms may assign an independent engineer to work with a client or assign a group of engineers to work as a team on more complex tasks.

Clients can hire a consulting engineer firm to receive advice, training or expertise on a variety of engineering issues. Clients can also hire consultant engineer firms to complete entire engineering projects.

Related: Guide to Consulting: Definition and Skills

What is a consulting engineer?

A consulting engineer is a licensed professional who works as part of a consulting engineer firm. They may have expertise in civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, environmental and chemical engineering. They offer their services on a consultant or as-needed basis and accept client projects that their firm assigns. Consulting engineers may provide knowledge, expertise, feedback or advice to clients in a variety of industries. Architecture firms, construction companies and manufacturers are among the most common types of businesses to seek the help of a consulting engineer. Consulting engineers may specialize in certain areas of engineering or provide general engineering services.

Related: Q&A: What Is a Consulting Firm?

What does a consulting engineer firm do?

A consulting engineer firm completes the following four steps to meet the engineering needs of their clients:

1. Discuss needs with clients

Consulting engineer firms often work closely with their clients to fully understand their needs. They may have a preliminary meeting or briefing to gather all the basic information about the project. Then, they make partake in more detailed discussions to gain a comprehensive understanding of the type of project and the engineering services their clients are most likely to benefit from.

2. Determine scope of work

After fulling understanding the assignment, consulting engineer firms use this information to determine the scope of work. The scope of work can include timeline, industry, type of engineering, budget and project requirements. These items can influence which engineer is best suited to the tasks, the amount of engineers needed and how long they may provide their services.

3. Assign appropriate engineer

Once a consulting engineer firm understands their client's needs and the scope of work, they may assign an engineer or team of engineers to complete the task. The engineer they pair with the project may depend on their area of expertise, their current availability or their certifications and licensing. If a project requires a team of engineers, the consulting firm may select individuals with varying skills and who have a history of working well together.

Related: How To Become a Construction Consultant

4. Monitor progress

Once a project begins, consulting engineer firms may use various methods of monitoring progress and measuring success. They may have regular meetings with the client to understand their satisfaction with the engineer or engineering team so far. They may also meet with the consulting engineers to gain their perspective on the project's progress and to ensure they have access to all resources necessary for successful project completion.

Pros of a consulting engineer firm

It may be helpful to understand the benefits of working with a consulting engineer firm. There are a few advantages of hiring a consulting engineer firm to advise or complete complex projects:

Expert opinions

Working with a consulting engineer firm can give you access to expert opinions on complex projects. Often, consulting engineers receive advanced, specialized training in their field. They can apply their knowledge and experience to your project to solve issues, offer advice or lead your team when completing tasks that are outside of their usual responsibilities.

Enhanced quality

Because of the advanced knowledge of consulting engineers, your projects may benefit from an improvement in quality. Working with industry experts can help to ensure your project's results reach their fullest potential. Working with a consulting engineer firm can also ensure that larger, structural projects produce results that are safe, functional and compliant with industry guidelines.

Decreased recruitment efforts

When you work with a consulting engineer firm, the firm does the recruitment process for you. If you were to hire an independent consultant for your engineering needs, the recruiting and sourcing efforts would be your responsibility. Recruitment can be a costly and time-consuming task. You can rely on a consulting engineer firm to pair you with engineers that are best suited to your projects, without having to spend time and money on recruitment.

Cons of a consulting engineer firm

Understanding the disadvantages of working with a consulting engineer firm can help you determine whether it's the right choice for your project or organization. Below are some potential disadvantages of consulting engineer firms:

Cost implications

There may be cost implications associated with hiring a consulting engineer firm. First, you'll likely need to pay an upfront consultation fee for their services. Then, depending on the scope of your project, you may need to cover a portion of the consulting engineers' labor costs. Before finalizing an agreement with a consulting engineer firm, be sure to conduct research on fair prices and negotiate the terms of your contract to ensure you pay a reasonable and appropriate fee.

Project delays

The process of hiring and communicating with a consulting engineer firm may take some time. This can cause project delays, which may impact your performance. To avoid this, begin researching consulting engineer firms as soon as you know you'll need engineer consulting services.

Limited company knowledge

Because consulting engineers are not regular employees, they may not fully understand your organization. Limited company knowledge could result in poor communication, misunderstanding or further delays. To avoid this, be sure to brief your consulting engineers on your company's processes and policies for project completion.

Explore more articles