Budding engineers are too busy learning about technology at university to receive much meaningful teaching about money matters. For many, financial fundamentals are learned on the job, and that can produce some painful lessons.
A new book – Engineering Money, by Richard Hill and George Solt – has been published to help fill this gap in an engineer’s education.
It aims to deliver an approachable view of finance that will give engineers the resourcefulness to account for every pound.
The authors have certainly got the required credentials. After a career as a technical director in the process-plant sector, in 1996 Solt pioneered a course on financial matters for civil engineering students at University College London, to be joined by the similarly well-experienced Hill in 2002. They now teach it to BEng, MEng and MSc students across all engineering disciplines and the course remains a success.
The book starts off by outlining different kinds of financial accountancy, looking at how to produce a meaningful business plan, and describing the perils of poor cash flow. The book really comes alive when it moves on to the more engineering-related chapters that look at pricing contracts and the art of competitive tendering. There’s some useful stuff on how to put together a contract price make-up sheet – more items should go into working out a contract price than many companies realise. The authors make some interesting observations about pricing contracts in export markets: in Holland, for example, it’s not uncommon for contractors to club together and agree on a sum that covers the cost of all of them tendering. Each offer includes this sum, which is then shared out between them out of the winner’s contract price. It’s all done quite openly and legally, apparently.
Competitive tendering can also get quite complicated, and at times it can get downright dirty. Offers often have to be prepared and priced quickly – meaning mistakes can and do happen. The book has some startling horror stories to tell.
Some topics covered could be rather dry – but it’s all done with clarity and authority. This book is heartily recommended.
- Engineering Money – Financial Fundamentals for Engineers is published by Wiley, priced £26.95. ISBN 978-0-470-54601-7