The Great Slaughter
Well, here we are again winding up another year. Like any business owner I’ve been busy closing out the final tallies of our finances, pension plans, and doing all those things required of a successful business. Then I got it, that rare moment where I am granted an unexpected breather and for the moment all the ducks are in a row.
Allow me to take this fortunate opportunity to share a reflection from a forty plus year perspective where a consulting engineering and surveying firm began and what keeps it going. I have had the good fortune to experience, in the prime of my career, the greatest advancements in how we deliver solutions to our customers. In the engineering and surveying profession this occurred (probably like in most industries) from 1985 to 2000. In 2000 I turned 40, and had been a practicing professional since 1987. My peers and I witnessed the Great Slaughter, the slaughter of tools we were taught to use that really seemed to have been used for hundreds if not thousands of years. To some of those tools we said, “good riddance, bring on the technology.” If you ever used or know what the following are you will agree.
By the year 2000 here is what died: the planimeter, messy ink pens to draw maps, the dip needle, T-square, plane table, lenker rod, teletype, key punch card, blueprint, erasing shield, lettering guide, compass, protractor, highway curves, steel chains, vellum, mylar, and most significantly “the human map creator”. And let’s not forget the handheld and the programmable calculators which really performed like mini-computers. Many of us will fondly remember the HP-21, HP-97 and my favorite the HP-41 series. I learned the full surveying capabilities of the HP-41 CV and used it in 1989 to pass my professional surveying exam. I still have it and can kick out a myriad of solutions. Having that power and skill in the palm of my hand made me feel like a skilled gun slinger from the old west. I think I want to be buried with it. After all it could be dangerous in the wrong hands.
You could probably guess what replaced the tools of the Great Slaughter at the end of the 20th century. But, for those of you who yearn for simpler times of the past (I’m not one of them) don’t be sad, some tools survived. For instance, the sledge hammer, spud bar, pick, machete, shovel, hubs, lathe, ribbon, iron pipe and bars, iron metal detectors, maps; and those tools perhaps often taken for granted; Knowledge, Experience, Skill, Trust, Honesty, Integrity, CUSTOMER SERVICE and CUSTOMER APPRECIATION.
For me and my peers who ever dragged a 100-foot chain to measure a one or two-mile line through a swamp, or briar thicket or up and down an icy mountain side it’s very exciting to be able to measure a thousand feet or half a mile in the time it takes to stand at each end or even faster if we use our drones. Sure, it’s also exciting to draw a map with a computer in a fraction of the time we could draw it by hand and have it look perfect and precise. The one thing technology can’t compete with is the satisfaction we get by delivering unmatched customer service. Pleasing our customers continues to be the most rewarding part of our job. This part of consulting engineering and surveying for the Hammontree companies has never changed. We love solving problems and we love finishing the job. That’s a blast!
Charles F. Hammontree, P.E., P.S., C.E.O.