26 years old. 15 people. SFC Engineering Partnership has forged a reputation for responsible and responsive service. Our portfolio features hundreds of successful projects in many communities. Technical skills, attention to detail and a commitment to schedule are the backbone of our company. Keeping those core values during the next 25 years is very important to us; and it poses quite a challenge since the rules have changed. Today ,the engineering community must address more comprehensive regulations, a greater array of solutions, and higher demands of property owners that have risen right along with the value of their property. Emerging from this evolution are even greater expectations of engineers.
Education and current technologies help our engineers to be among the finest, but maintaining excellence demands more. SFC has turned to a greater reliance on the team approach rather than the individual engineer to meet our goals. In January 2020, SFC launched a program to bolster our design approach. That program features two critical initiatives: quality control review and structured communication.
First, SFC established a rigorous and formal quality control system. Each project, and each document is still carefully prepared in the tradition of SFC, but now it is improved with two-stages of collaboration. A completed document is first peer reviewed. A second set of eyes always helps, whether to correct spelling or to suggest an alternate solution path. That document is then revised as appropriate. Additionally, before release to the client, the project is held for 24 hours for a second stage of review. Principles of the company review the document during this phase for global alignment with SFC’s vision of excellence, but more importantly, the authoring engineer is given the opportunity to reconsider. How often do people regret the afterthought “Oh, I wish I had …”. This second phase of review is a passive activity when the completed project is at rest. It has the sole intent of allowing SFC engineers to deliver their best work, every time, taking full advantage of conscious or sub conscious thoughts that arise. This second stage does not always yield changes, but it does always affirm our confidence, and eliminates the regret of an idea unexploited.
In addition to the rigorous document review, a regular schedule of meetings called ‘project health clinics’ has been established. A project health clinic (PHC) is an opportunity to review proposals, projects, and situations. As a routine matter, soliciting feedback to ensure a holistic perspective of a project is always beneficial; when schedules are full, it is an especially good idea because numbers, details and specifications can mesmerize an engineer; minutia becomes reality. PHC’s afford regular scheduled time to re-focus. It gives us permission to look up from the urgency of matters and assess the surroundings. During PHC’s we look at projects from 30,000 feet. We consider risk assessments, budgets, design assumptions and client intents. We talk about details. We talk about the big picture.
During these past twelve months, PHC’s were held two times per week. Without regret, I can tell you that some PHC’s were mundane. At times discussions were old news or no news at all! It became the right time to seek out other ways to improve. Effective implementation of any program needs to evolve. January 2021 has brought that change to the PHC. We have adjusted the frequency and the agenda for each meeting, still maintaining the core intent. Although the PHC started pre-pandemic, the value has been fully realized during SFC’s work from home phase, allowing our staff to remain effective and keep their families and loved ones safe.
Quality control and structured communication are by no means new ideas. These matters are universally accepted but too often ignored because “we need to get back to work”. SFC’s preparation for the next 25 years is not just based on our introduction of quality control and structured communication, but on our commitment to them. These two programs, originally intended to bolster technical expertise, have accomplished that and more. The shift to a ‘team’ approach has afforded staff the chance to learn from each other on matters of engineering and the business of engineering. SFC is evolving into a better version of itself.
Bring on 2050!
SFC Engineering Partnership is a fire protection and civil engineering firm servicing clients in New England and the Northeast.