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Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

Should structural engineers be doing shop drawings? I have been working for this small design office for close to a year now and pretty much all I do is produce shop drawings using BIM. Every now and then I get a small task involving design, but nothing major. Almost all my engineering knowledge attained during the past year since I graduated was self taught, because 1) There are very few actual competent people in the office, in fact some are downright incompetent and dangerous 2) Those who are competent are way too busy for a lowly EIT such as myself. I am not in a good learning environment and I know I deserve much better (and can easily land a better paying job that is more suited to my needs.) But, I am too loyal and I can't imagine telling my boss to his face that I want out, and I don't...I just want to be given  tasks that actually involve engineering and not having to endlessly produce and edit shop drawings like a cad monkey.

And when I actually do some design, there is absolutely no quality control, no one to check after my work... just because everyone else is so busy, and it's damn scary.

Well, this is the last time I work for a small design office.

Is it normal for structural engineers to work on BIMs in the role of a traditional detailer or am I overreacting just a bit?

Sorry for the rant.

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?


No, you are not overreacting.  From my own experience, you need to get out of a situation like that before it is too late.  I waited too long before i made my move from a similar situation, and it has been very stressful in the new job because of expectations others have of your skillset and pressure you put on yourself.  Please don't let loyalty to a company interfere with what is best for you, your future and your family.  It isn't worth it.

Being skilled at using the computer doing technician level work can be a very big handicap in your career progression.
Be careful.

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

Wow, when I first started reading you post I thought that you worked for a mega firm. I work for a small firm, and busy as we are (50-60 hr weeks) my boss always has had time to answer my questions and give advice. And always checked all of my work before sending it out. I would say find another firm.

IMO bigger firms are not better firms.

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

How can I go about telling my boss of how I really feel without coming across as too demanding?

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

Dude, just leave.  Acting like a professional includes identifying your goals and being honest with your employer.  This place is obviously far beyond hope, and even if you get meaningful engineering tasks you're still screwed.

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

"Should structural engineers be doing shop drawings?" - Yes, you're at the bottom of the food chain. That's they way it is, but, if you're good [at engineering] your time will come. Remember, if you're still doing the same work 10 years from now, you made a mistake somewhere.

"There are very few actual competent people in the office, in fact some are downright incompetent and dangerous" - Not good; get out. Remember: incompetent people are everywhere.

"I am too loyal and I can't imagine telling my boss to his face that I want out" - I've felt that way too, but I got over it. As my late father would say "take care of yourself because no one else will."

"there is absolutely no quality control" - get out; otherwise, and I speak from experience, you'll get stuck cleaning up someone else's mess; and it's never pleasant.

"this is the last time I work for a small design office" - In my youth I spent many years with a small bridge company; what a great place to work and learn; we did some impressive strucutres. Through the years - being bought and sold several times - I ended up with one of the largest firms in the US. I wouldn't say they're great; I wouldn't say they suck; it's just nothing special unless of course you get excited over accounting and financial reports.

I agree completely with DWHA and Atomic25.

You're young; don't worry; move on. All the best.

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

I agree with bridgebuster.  At the present you are at the bottom of the food chain and you have a skill that I presume others don't: you warm up to computer programs pretty easily.

But do take the time to look at the whole picture and see what is really there for you.  Do they have the ability to move you around, is being promoted or taking on responsibility really attainable there?  If you don't like the answers to those questions start looking.

As for incompetence, it is everywhere and I say that not really believing I'm knocking the profession but I guess like all fields there are the good and the bad.

Eng-Tips Forums:Real Solutions for Real Problems Really Quick.

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

A lot of people believe that an EIT's first year or so should be spent drafting details and checking shop drawings.  I believe the thought process is to ensure that the young engineer gains healthy idea of constructibility before they start making design decisions.  I think it is a good philosophy because when you are fresh out of school you don't have much of a clue about what's practical for construction and use.

I am an recent graduate, working for a small firm, and I spend more time doing drafting and checking shops than anything else.  However, I do get a healthy chunk of design work and modeling experience as my boss wants me to see all aspects of the work.  I think have learned the most so far from the non-design work.  So, I would stick it out for a little longer because I think you are gaining valuable experience, even though it is not design work.  If you don't start getting more design work soon... get outta there!

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

I am also a recent grad. working in a small office, I do shops on my own projects and if a senior engineer needs them done they will ask a junior engineer to do them.  I don’t do any of the drafting on my jobs per se, but I do look at every single detail at every location it is called out to make sure it can be built.  Any non-typical details I draw up by hand and have a structural draftsman draw them up on the detail sheets.  I learn a lot from shop drawings but not nearly as much as doing a complete design.

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

For a start it is good for you to do shopdrawings especially if using 3d software. It helps you understand your structure, helps you visualizing it and gives a better perspective about elements interfacing each other. For a start yes it helps, after a while you can visualize your structure without the need of 3d software. Then you can converse with architects or other parties at somehow different/better level.

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

Since you haven't been working there a year yet, I'd suggest sticking it out a bit, but making sure immediately that your boss understands that you are not going to be happy doing this for an extended period of time and want more experience and more out of the job.  You are learning valuable stuff related to how structures fit together while you do shop dwgs, so it is not a complete waste of your time.  Hopefully, there is some variety to the type of projects you are creating shop drawings for.  If your company's management understands how you feel and value your potential other contributions to the company, they will likely try to weed you out of the shop dwg position in order to keep you there.  The question to ask yourself is 'is there any role at this company that you are going to be happy with?'  If the answer is no, then move on and find a new job.  If you could see yourself in a different role with this company that you'd be happy with, then it may be worth giving it a bit more time, and being a bit bolder with your boss.  

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

Get out dude, if your still young therefore still learning, you won't get too much benefit from incompetent people.

I'm in a similar boat, but I have 10 year exp. But when you have to explain the difference of strength versus stiffness to your boss, then what hope do I have.

I just found myself a better paying job and the people are competent.

BTW We don't do shop drawings, otherwise you are taking more responsibility

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

One year of staying away from design is shocking to me and rusting to you.
As far as learning of fittings etc. is concerned, now you have spent enough time.
You should take your resignation in your hand and ask your boss from now you can only take design jobs. If he says anything but yes, Give him your resignation. Unless you want to be a structural detailer.
Your second step should be let your worked be review by some one knowledgeable engineer
and guide you.

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

Dear HirgEIT:

I am not going to repeat what everybody else has advised you to do, but here my two cents:

DO FIND ANOTHER JOB FIRST!!!!.Do not just leave like that, be wise with the steps you take, after all, even in firms like the one you are working now, there is something you can do besides shop drawings that will build up your future strengths. Browse through old project drawing sets, think about the solutions that led to the completion of those projects, if you can and are allowed to, make copies of those old sets so you can use them as a reference for future solutions that you will be asked to provide.

Best regards,

Chicago Rarebug

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

I stayed at my first job out of college for exactly 2 weeks.  I dealt with issues similar to what you are talking about.  To top it off, I was misled (by the firm during the interview and by what they advertise on their website) about what kind of structural work they do.  It was a good thing I had several offers and the one I really wanted was still available.
It was a very uncomfortable situation, but I handed my notice to my boss and told him I found a job that was more in line with my professional interests.  
I agree that you should not quit until you find a new job, but start looking now (and look hard)!
The place I ended up at is great.  I don't see ever leaving unless I move.
Oh, and we NEVER draw shop drawings.  We review them, and I have done my fair share of that.  I don't even know how to use CAD.

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

You asked the question, should structural engineers do shop drawings.  The question I would propose would be should structural engineers require shop drawings to be certified?

As long as their are structural engineers that require shop drawings to be certified, there will be structural engineers doing shop drawings.

I'm a structural engineer who has been involved in shop drawing preparation for over 10 years.  I've seen specifications that basically required us to follow the details on the structural drawings and at the same time certify the shop drawings.  

The most ridiculous requirement I have seen, was a job that required certified shop drawings for a 2 x 6 wood decking layout.  The layout drawings consist of a one sheet page that gives the requirements of a standard random length layup.  With most jobs that use random length decking a deck layout is never done.

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

What do you mean by "certified"?

Around here, structural engineers check shop drawings, but they don't create them.  They use an approval stamp, but not their P.E. seal.


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RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

Get out while you still can!

Dont be turned off small firms though, as a few above have said, most small firm owners will take the time to make sure you know what you are doing.

As for the difficulty of leaving, believe me we all find that first move hard, but you just have to face reality and make the hard decision. Believe me, once you have taken the step you will wonder what all the fuss was about.

My first year, I did nothing but design.

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?


By certfied, I mean that the shop drawings are required to be prepared by or prepared under the direct supervision of an engineer registered in the state where the project is located,  and the drawings are required to be sealed by the P.E. responsible for the design.  

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

In 2002, I was looking to leave and very fortuneately for me, my position was eliminated.  I was given 60 days to find a replacement job with our large company otherwise I was on the street - with 1 week of severence for each year of service.  I took a lesser paying job and drew only 1 unemployment check.  With the severence, I was financially about the same after 4 years.  

I have since been more active looking for jobs and not staying at a job that was not fun for me.  There is more to life than money - you have to enjoy what you do.  Things are going well on my own now - since mid-December.

Don Phillips

RE: Engineers.....doing shop drawings?

I would not rule out working for a small firm. You just need to find one with integrity. I worked for a small firm of about 15 employees, and the owner was a great guy, and a good mentor. All employees were paid hourly, time and one half for overtime, health insurance, life insurance, pension, profit sharing, bonuses, and paid vacation based on longevity and hours worked! It was a great system because it made us all want to make the company strong, and profitable.

There were a few engineers of lesser knowledge, but I found two engineers who I knew had good knowledge, and whenever I needed some assistance, I called upon them, and they were happy to help me out. Now I run my own firm which at the moment is only me! It's not the size of the firm you work for, it is the quality. If you think doing CAD drawings is nasty work, then you are spoiled. In my early years at the small firm, I did such tasks as crawling through wood roof trusses at McDonald's Restuarants to survey the condition of the wood trusses, and during the summer time! I remember one time while doing such a survey...a rude customer was placing an order just below me...He shouted out..."Gimmee a McRib, and a fillet o fish"....I almost fell through the ceiling laughing! Good luck in your search...it sounds like you have talent that many firms would like to have.

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