Employers place a strong emphasis on essential skills in the workplace. Essential skills are used in nearly every occupation, and are seen as ¿building blocks¿ because people build on them to learn all other skills.
Each profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skill is generally performed by the majority of workers in an occupation. The estimated complexity levels for each task, between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced), may vary based on the requirements of the workplace.
Mechanical engineers research, design and develop machinery and systems for heating, ventilating and air conditioning, power generation, transportation, processing and manufacturing. They also perform duties related to the evaluation, installation, operation and maintenance of mechanical systems. Mechanical engineers are employed by consulting firms, by power-generating utilities and in a wide range of manufacturing, processing and transportation industries or they may be self-employed.
- Encounter team conflicts. They meet with the individuals involved, reinforce the fact they are on the same team and discuss options for solving the conflicts that maintain quality and safety. (2)
- Find that engineering plans cannot be implemented due to unexpected financial or physical barriers. For example, a mechanical engineer may find that beams are blocking locations where pipes should pass. The mechanical engineer consults a civil engineer to find out if it is possible to move the beams and reviews engineering plans to identify alternative ways to pass the pipes. (2)
- Find that machine or equipment components do not fit together well. For example, an engineer in a manufacturing facility finds that bearings on a conveyor belt are looser than the desired push fit. The engineer determines the correct dimensions for the bearings, revises the drawings, makes note of design changes and notifies the millwrights and others who will be affected by the changes. (3)
- Encounter project delays. For example, they may learn that essential pieces of equipment will be shipped late. They determine the consequences to their project budgets and schedules and identify strategies, such as locating alternate vendors and accelerating other areas until the equipment arrives, to minimize the effects. (3)
- Are faced with cost overruns in mechanical engineering projects. They consult with team members to review in detail why the costs are higher than expected. They brainstorm to identify less expensive methods and materials that meet the clients' specifications and timelines. (3)
- May find that completed jobs do not meet safety and regulatory standards. For example, after school pipes and fittings are replaced, a mechanical engineer may find that lead levels are unacceptable. The engineer convenes a team to brainstorm and identify the sources of lead contamination. The engineer implements measures to deal with the high lead levels and communicates these plans to clients. Once the lead contamination is gone the engineer monitors the installation to see that lead does not exceed acceptable levels. (3)
- Lose time and money when equipment they have installed malfunctions or fails to perform as expected. For example, following testing, mechanical engineers may determine that equipment is not performing as expected. They consult industry standards which describe potential problems that can be encountered, how to investigate them, potential solutions and remedial actions. They analyze data and formulate and investigate hypotheses to find the source of the problems. They re-design the equipment and conduct additional testing to demonstrate that the new pieces of equipment are of acceptable quality. (4)
- Decide which products to purchase and contractors to select. For example, they review catalogues to determine if the parts are standard or must be customized and consider costs, volume discounts, delivery times and past experience with product vendors. When selecting contractors they consider factors such as work quality, safety records, reputation and ability to deliver on time. If two bids are technically equal, mechanical engineers select the lowest bid. (2)
- Decide which measuring tools and methods to use. For example, they may decide where to place sensors within machines to get the best measurements when conducting vibration analysis. They consider their previous experience, machine layouts, the horizontal or vertical orientation of machines and the shapes of bearings to determine the sensor placements. (2)
- Decide which materials and equipment to use for engineering projects. They take into account client specifications, industry norms and cost. For example, they may decide the most appropriate steam flow meters to use by considering available technology, the level of precision needed, availability and costs. (3)
- Decide the appropriate codes and standards to apply when completing client projects. They use their technical knowledge and experience to select the most appropriate codes such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineering Codes and the International Organization for Standardization 9001 standards. (3)
- Decide which clients have priority when multiple clients are experiencing technical difficulties simultaneously. They consider the types of services required, the time of the calls and the production losses and costs for the clients. For example, one robot out of operation in a car assembly plant can shut down the entire production and may cost ten thousand dollars per hour to the client. (3)
Job Task Planning and Organizing
- Judge the accuracy and completeness of mechanical engineering drawings before forwarding them for implementation. They ensure that the drawings adhere to required codes and standards and that the information is complete and presented in a clear and concise manner. They check that sufficient details have been provided for work to proceed. (3)
- May assess employee performance by evaluating the skill sets, strengths and limitations of employees. Engineers' abilities to accurately assess employees influences employees' and team productivity, which ultimately affects the organizations' overall success. (3)
- Judge the functionality or serviceability of equipment. They analyze evaluation data and apply International Organization of Standardization standards to calculate fault severities and consider codes such as the American Society for Mechanical Engineering, pipeline, structural steel codes, provincial boiler and pressure vessel acts and client limitations such as linguistic or financial barriers. Accurate judgements are vital to customer satisfaction and the credibility and profitability of the engineering firm. (3)
- Conduct operations, environmental, safety and construction audits to assess quality, conformity with standards, safety and environmental risks. For example, they conduct operational audits in manufacturing plants and construction sites to verify that the organizations meet all provincial and federal regulations. They may also conduct environmental audits to check that organizations have spill containment procedures in place, that all tanks are double-walled and that organizations are following recycling and composting guidelines. If they fail to think critically, mechanical engineers' credibility will be damaged and their organizations can suffer serious consequences. (4)
Own Job Planning and Organizing
Mechanical engineers are autonomous and have flexibility to plan their work schedules within frameworks established by their managers. They determine how to organize their work to meet deliverables and timelines of team-based projects. They may need to coordinate and integrate job tasks with other engineers and technical staff. Mechanical engineers often have to reshuffle their schedules to meet clients' requests and deal with problems caused by mechanical failures. (4)
Planning and Organizing for Others
Mechanical engineers may contribute to long-term and strategic planning for their organizations. They frequently assume project management roles for large projects and plan, assign and coordinate work of co-workers, contractors and vendors. They plan jobs, decide what tasks need to be done, draw up work schedules, and may be responsible for overseeing others' work, providing training and evaluating employees' work performance.
Significant Use of Memory
- Remember portions of codes and standards that they refer to on a regular basis such as plumbing, fire safety, American Society for Mechanical Engineering, pipeline, structural steel, industry-specific codes, provincial boiler and pressure vessel acts, and International Organization of Standardization 9001 standards.
- Remember past project successes and problems to integrate what they learned into new projects. For example, they implement previous design successes into new designs and recall the reasons for time delays in past installations.
- Remember specifications that they work with on a regular basis such as equipment passwords and computer programming language codes.
- Contact vendors or consult their catalogues and websites to obtain equipment specifications, prices and delivery options. For example, they may search for information about pump capacities and prices of fans. (1)
- May consult organizational intranets to access organization-specific information required for their work. For example, they locate project work templates such as job initiation forms and job task numbers, reports of previous projects and lists of equipment inventories. (2)
- Find technical information about materials and engineering methods. They consult colleagues and experts in other engineering disciplines. For example, they may consult colleagues with expertise in welding or parts manipulation to find information about unfamiliar applications or they ask metallurgical engineers about the properties of alloys to determine which materials to use for their projects. (3)
Other Essential Skills:
Working with Others
Mechanical engineers typically coordinate and integrate their work within teams of engineers and technicians working on common projects. Mechanical engineers often assume project management roles in which they co-ordinate the involvement of other engineers, contractors, technicians and suppliers.
Mechanical engineers may be responsible for assigning work tasks to team members, and oversee others' work, providing training and evaluation of employees' work performance. (3)
Continuous learning is integral to the work of mechanical engineers as the field is diverse and influenced by ongoing technological change. New technologies change work processes and skill requirements. Engineers identify their own learning needs and determine their own learning goals. They attend conferences, workshops and courses; read professional journals, magazines, textbooks, technical manuals and newsletters; and they consult with co-workers and colleagues. Continuing education credits are mandatory for engineers to maintain their P. Eng licences in some jurisdictions. (4)