The specific challenges for flexible project management in machine and systems engineering

by Stipo Nad
Hände legen Puzzle

Project management in machine and systems engineering often resembles a puzzle. Thousands of parts are meant to create a harmonious picture in the end. At first glance, this task seems unsolvable - it is admittedly much more challenging than a "standard" jigsaw puzzle. The big difference is that when you buy a puzzle, all the pieces come in a box. In machine and systems engineering, however, the complexity increases with the combination of purchased parts and parts that are manufactured in-house. A machine and systems manufacturer therefore often requires extensive project management. Because of the complexity, it is not only production that is affected. Upstream and downstream areas such as purchasing and construction also have a significant influence on the project running smoothly. Especially in assembly, it is crucial that all parts are available in the right place at the right time. For this reason, it is important that the machine and systems engineering industry can implement uniform planning, from project planning and design to external assembly and commissioning.

Creating a central overview

In principle, there is not just one single source of information that large production companies have to take into account in project planning. Therefore, all sources of information should be brought together and networked centrally in order to create transparency throughout the entire value chain. Individual solutions, e. g. Excel, are not effective here because they can lead to higher maintenance and redundancy. Thanks to the central overview, all data can then be converted into the appropriate project processes.

In addition to adhering to budgets and deadlines, project management in the machine and systems engineering sector also faces specific challenges in planning.

The specific challenges in project management

Assembly site: Machines and systems require a parking space for a longer period of time during assembly. This space can also be a bottleneck and must be planned in accordance with deadlines and missing parts.

Outdoor installation: Machines and systems often have to be assembled and put into operation at the final job site. For this purpose, the same personnel, who are also involved with the internal assembly, are often used. Therefore, external assembly must also be planned accordingly in order to achieve reasonable personnel planning without duplication.

Employee assignment: Employees are assigned to specific machines and systems or even to specific processes. As a result, certain conditions such as qualification or time availability must be taken into account.

Material availability: In addition to space and personnel, parts availability is an important part of planning. The aim here is to identify early on where missing parts are expected in order to be able to act proactively.

Integration of the design in the planning: At the beginning of most projects in machine and systems engineering there is a constructive part. In order to be able to ensure an ideal planning of the project, the construction should also be planned in terms of capacity and scheduling so that bottlenecks and shifts can be identified early on.

Some project managers from machine and systems engineering will be familiar with the listed points above. In addition to adhering to budget and deadlines as well as cross-departmental information transparency, these challenges cannot be ignored.


Project management in machine and systems engineering is a complex task in which all areas from purchasing to construction and assembly have to be centrally planned and monitored. In order to create this transparency and be able to react to changes in each of the areas, flexible planning is necessary. Otherwise, there is a risk of time-delayed and error-prone communication across the various departments. For this reason, it is important that the data is combined in real time to achieve cross-departmental project planning for a comprehensive planning concept from design to assembly. The availability of material, capacities, vacation and shift planning as well as machine locations must be integrated.

The planning of project management seems like an unsolvable puzzle at first, but on closer inspection, it is especially important to have a complete overview of the extensive process. Production planning tools with the corresponding industry-specific service portfolio are suitable for this purpose. In this way, you can get a coherent overall step by step picture - without delays and postponements.

What do you see as the biggest challenge in project management in machine and systems engineering?

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About the author

  • Stipo Nad

    Stipo Nad started working for INFORM in 2001. He is interested in all topics related to Advanced Planning & Scheduling, Production Planning, Business Intelligence and Industry 4.0.

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