The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, also called the Deming Cycle, is an important project management tool. How can this tool be used in a typical engineering project?
This step involves identifying and analyzing the problem. Planning is consistently underrated in most engineering projects. I’ve been involved with multi-billion dollar oil sands projects as well as small projects and I’ve seen planning fall by the wayside time and time again. Spending a few hours planning may seem like a non-productive task but could be the single biggest way to improve your projects. It will probably pay for itself too.
Develop and test a potential solution to your problem. This step is straight forward and most engineering projects have it covered. We engineers are great problem solvers and great at dealing with the technical issues, but developing a prototype is often overlooked.
When was the last time you looked back at your project deliverables and implemented some type of check for their quality, actual cost or acceptability against some criteria? Engineering projects are by definition big. We can usually afford this, even for “small” projects, but rarely have I ever seen it. For every engineering deliverable, there should be some sort of checking step, and this should be built in (i.e. planned at the outset).
Once your potential solution has been developed and checked, it can be implemented.