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ACCURATE, TIMELY,

AND ALWAYS QUALITY Conscious

The Bright Leaf            

An ongoing series of informational entries

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“Jack of All Trades”

One of the more common expressions we have all heard, in reference to taking on job assignments, is the one that goes: “Jack of All Trades, Master of None”.


With reference to the scope of work inherent in all projects, this phrase would apply to the specific engineering skill sets and experience we bring to that job.


As engineers and businessmen we like to accept to new challenges. Not only can they be financially rewarding but they also present an opportunity to either hone or expand our base of knowledge. At TOK Engineering we are mechanical, structural and civil engineers and, within those disciplines, like to think that we are pretty good at what we do. However, not all jobs fall neatly within those singular categories. For example, the appearance of certain types of cracks in concrete basement walls accompanied by water ingress might certainly suggest a structural issue relating to the building’s foundation. Is there a build-up of hydrostatic pressure on the outside of the walls? Perhaps the issue is more related to soil drainage than to building structure. Are screw piles required to be installed to re-support and re-level the affected wall? If so, how far down do they need to go and what is the long-term nature of the existing soil into which they must reside?


The answers to such questions are not necessarily only within the domain of the structural engineer. The engineer must accept that their knowledge base can take them only so far and be prepared to reach out to others to collectively solve the problem. In this case, a geotechnical engineer may be needed to inspect and advise on “underlying” soil conditions. On the other hand, it might only require a competent landscaper to effectively re-slope the soil’s grade away from the foundation.


The engineer who knows to reach out to other professionals or tradesmen for advice to come up with the most effective solution, is the engineer who will perform the greatest service for their customer.

Project Efficiencies (Time)

As engineers we value practical efficiency. Even though the problem may be complex we try, when possible, to find the simplest solution. Why “reinvent the wheel” if it is not necessary? This applies to the selection of things like materials to be used, the process to be incorporated, previous alternatives that may be employed, etc. So often it is about achieving the optimum result in as reasonable a time frame as possible. Although not the only factor, the truism “time equals money” is relevant to both the engineer as well as the customer.


It is commonplace to have to prepare a budgetary proposal for the client prior to being awarded the project. The quotation typically involves laying out a reasonably detailed scope of work to be followed, the anticipated amount of time to be taken and, of course, the cost. As consulting engineers the only thing we have to sell along with our expertise is our “time”. The amount of time taken in preparing the quotation is directly related to how clear and complete is the initial information provided. That time is often regarded as the “cost of doing business” and factors, one way or another, into the engineering business’ bottom line.


But that is only where it begins. If the job is successfully secured, then there is always additional time required in obtaining the detailed specs and the inevitable follow-up queries. The answers received from the customer will only be as useful and applicable as the questions asked by the engineer. How efficiently this proceeds as well as the “lag time” the client takes in getting back with the information will usually make or break the promised deadline.


For any engineering project there is no substitute for high quality work. However an efficiently planned, organized and monitored project will usually be a project that comes in on-time and consequently on-budget. Time is the one commodity of which we never have enough. Therefore use it wisely.

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