Sondex A/NZ managing director, Mark Jones, explains how projects are sold 'at cost' forcing operators to re-engineer profits.

Engineers are increasingly engaging in 'unprincipled' bidding just to win an order in today's highly competitive environment.

The owner or end user will nearly always be oblivious to the degree of creative engineering that has taken place in order for the builder to make a profit and it seems there is no real watchdog (with the exception of some very adept consultancy companies) that monitor the this process.

Engineering of course can be subjective, however, the physics of combustion is not negotiable. It is only the way we harness or employ the combustion that is within our power to engineer change.

Equally we can transfer heat efficiently or inefficiently but either way we cannot change the basis of heat transfer physics.

In today’s construction industry we concentrate so hard on creating high efficiency buildings with 6,7 or even 8 star ratings, but when the tender process is over the gloves come off and the engineering shifts from efficiency to economy.

The new designs are no longer tested or examined as rigorously as it was in the design phase. The construction goal now is to comply to the specifications as economically as possible. “I see nothing wrong with this I hear you say”, well I completely agree with you - that is until you discover there are one or two exaggerations.

It is at this stage of the project that creative engineering is usually employed.

As soon as its “all systems go” we are reminded that cost saving is crucial, time is critical and orders for long lead equipment must now be placed. This is where a “little tweaking or playing with designs” can go unnoticed.

If your eye is focused on the savings and the buyer is not an engineering expert (which is generally the case) a little poetic license can be credibility is simply assumed but not tested. After all who will ever know?

There are however distinct protection measures & programs that do exist which are gaining popularity due to a greater awareness of whole-of-life cost analysis.

While consulting companies offer a reasonable degree of general knowledge and best principal engineering across a wide range of industries, each industry sector can harbour their own “tricks of the trade” that can avoid detection.

So if this behaviour can be so covert, how do I know its occurring ? Well the answer is really quite simple…. when the dollar value is obviously different between suppliers - alarm bells should ring.

When the equipment’s weight or physical surface area varies noticeably between suppliers – then alarm bells should ring and when the degree of technical information being provided on the equipment data sheets is lacking in detail so as to inhibit a direct comparison between suppliers, then the alarm should definitely be ringing.

So how do we protect ourselves against this cost saving or economising engineering? The answer is quite simple by utilising independent industry bodies like the US-based AHRI (Air conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute).

This organisation will carry out independent operational and performance testing of both the product and the software that designs it.

If it passes a certificate will be issued to the applicant, and they will be registered with the AHRI program. AHRI then carry out ongoing testing and maintenance of the subscriber's products and design software.

Strict monitoring of behaviour and compliance to the program is also undertaken.

This type of independent certification affords the highest level of protection to the owner and when employed, excludes all forms of unprincipled engineering from a project.

AHRI covers a wide range of product & equipment certification programs from Liquid to Liquid exchangers to air to air applications or even refrigeration packages, plus there are many other applications available to select from.

Industry certification provides protection when performance matters.

CCN Magazine's annual heat exchanger feature appears in the upcoming July issue, which is available at the end of June.

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