THE DESIGN OFFICE 13
done to put the system on a sound basis. One well-known firm of engineers,
of no great eminence fifteen or twenty years ago, created at the time quite
a large costing and estimating department, thoroughly examined all the
processes of production, tested the capacity and efficiency of machines, and
installed new ones where necessary, so that now these departments work
like clockwork, and costs, the firm claims, can be known almost to a penny,
with the result that even in very bad periods the firm is practically never idle.
It has reduced costs to a minimum, and is able to meet successfully the com-
petitive market prices.
The Design Office
Closely related to the estimating office is the design office, or, as some
large firms prefer to call it, the scientific department. This is a department
that only exists as a separate entity in large progressive, up-to-date establish-
ments whose line of business is largely influenced by fresh theory and inven-
tions and is dependent on experimental research. It comes to mature growth
where large prime movers are manufactured, or very variable structures such
as ships are built. The same need does not arise in structural steelwork,
for instance, though many large structural steel firms do maintain such an
office. In such cases they are used largely as estimating offices, and it is
probably in this direction, rather than in that of research, that their main
Technical Questions dealt with.—The design office is usually much
smaller than the detail office, and has its own departmental head. It is the
function of this office to prepare the original drafts and sketches for new
work; to estimate the quantities of material required; to ascertain how far
specified requirements can be met. When the main lines of design have
been sketched out, the quantities are estimated, and technical questions,
such as stability, if the job is the building of a ship, are looked into.
This office, working in close conjunction with the estimating office, will
prepare the tender drawings and sketches, and will generally feed the esti-
mating office with fairly detailed technical information. If the contract be
placed, the design office will lay down the main outlines of the job, and will
generally fix the principal dimensions and scantlings, calculate stresses on
parts, and tabulate them in an easily accessible form.
Stress-book.—The stress-book is a highly desirable and valuable
record. It should be kept as part of the office work and completely up-
to-date by the checker or section leader. If this book be not kept regularly
and carefully, the very valuable comparative data kept by the individual
draughtsman may be utterly lost to the firm, if such an individual should
cease to be employed with them.