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3 Reasons Every Solar Design & Engineering Firm Needs a Certified Project Management Office




Utility-scale solar projects involve complex and large-scale operations, requiring meticulous planning, coordination, and execution to ensure projects are completed on time and on budget. It is customary for solar engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firms, developers and utilities to rely upon project managers to manage and execute projects. However, EPCs, developers and utilities that work with outside solar design and engineering firms that have certified project managers in-house can further mitigate project risk, avoid costly mistakes, and improve their bottom lines. Below we cover three reasons why solar design and engineering firms need Project Management Institute (PMI) certified project managers to lead their firms.


#1 PMI is globally recognized for setting project management best practices 


Founded in 1969, PMI develops and maintains globally recognized standards for project management, such as the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide). These standards serve as a foundation for best practices in project management and are widely adopted in various industries and sectors interionally. PMI’s standards have been tested and proven over the course of five decades and provide a shared understanding of the optimal methodologies for project execution among EPCs, utilities, developers, engineers and other project stakeholders. 


Additionally, all PMI certified Project Management Professionals (PMP) are required to have at least five years of project management experience as well as complete 60 hours of continuing education every three years. All PMP certified project managers are required to take and pass a thorough exam after taking courses focused on topics such as planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, communications, as well as cost, risk, quality, time and procurement management. As a result, EPCs, developers and utilities can rest assured the PMP certified project managers at design and engineering firms are leveraging the latest knowledge and tools and consistently applying top methodologies to efficiently execute high quality projects.


#2 Mistakes due to disorganization are often very costly 


The cost of relying on a solar design and engineering firm that is not led by a PMI certified Project Management Office (PMO) can be great, as critical project details are more likely to go unnoticed. For example, on a recent project Castillo Engineering supported, the EPC wanted to bury the cables, but thought they were required to dig deeper to bury the cables. This EPC is active in many states and assumed the local codes were the same as some of their recent projects in other states. However, since all project communications were streamlined through Castillo Engineering’s PMO, its project managers were able to immediately spot the issue and route the EPC project team to Castillo Engineering’s in-house expert to ensure proper interpretation of the AHJ’s requirements. As a result, the EPC learned from Castillo Engineering that they didn’t have to dig two feet deeper than they originally believed they were required to, saving them thousands of dollars in the process. Due to the firm’s PMO catching the EPC’s assumption in advance, they drastically reduced the time it would have required to dig much deeper, preventing unnecessary project delays. The PMO also reduced the time it would have taken to resolve the challenge by efficiently routing and streamlining all communications between the relevant stakeholders.


Additionally, disorganization reduces efficiency and therefore the total volume of projects that can be handled in a given time frame. Since adding the PMO, Castillo Engineering has been able to double the number of 30 percent design set projects and triple the number of 100 percent design set projects it is able to manage. The more projects Castillo Engineering has been able to take on, the greater the returns have been for its customers.


#3 Utility-scale solar projects involve close coordination with many stakeholders 


Large-scale solar projects require effective communication and a high level of responsiveness with a wide range of stakeholders, including utilities, AHJs, SME engineers, EPCs, developers, subcontractors, and equipment suppliers. Castillo Engineering is led first and foremost by its PMO precisely because of the critical need for streamlined and efficient communications on utility-scale solar projects. Effective communication and coordination with stakeholders continues to provide cost savings to customers by expediting project solutions when challenges arise, and also by enabling projects to meet key deadlines. 


Castillo Engineering’s PMO always ensures that the firm will pick up the phone and call when an urgent issue arises. Additionally, all phone conversations are followed up with an email communication to provide utmost clarity in terms of how and when the challenge will be resolved. The PMO also plays a particularly key role when approaching the end of a project during the permitting phase. EPCs, developers and utilities often come to Castillo Engineering with many comments to be incorporated in a short period of time. The PMO is able to swiftly reprioritize and shift the firm’s work to ensure permitting deadlines can be met for each customer. 


As a result of Castillo Engineering’s PMI-certified PMO, the firm was able to finish eleven design set projects ahead of schedule for an industry-leading national developer. The PMO accomplished this by receiving all required information upfront and managing the workload and resources efficiently with clear and consistent communication with all stakeholders. As a result, the firm then received twenty-seven more projects from the same customer in a single month.


If you have questions or would like to learn more about how Castillo Engineering’s PMO can help you reduce project risks and costs while efficiently meeting deadlines, get in touch with an expert today.

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