Avoid the shop drawing dump

File stack

Early in our careers, we inevitably learn firsthand what shop drawing dump means. The general contractor sends all the project shop drawings within a couple of days (sometimes late in the project), and then you are pressured to complete the review of a 50+ shop drawings, within the time limit stated, within the specifications that you wrote. If the reviews aren’t completed on time, there is the threat always hanging over your head that the project will be delayed.

One way to prevent this nightmare scenario is by creating a shop drawing submission schedule. It is an important first step at the start of the project, and it helps to smooth the shop drawing submission and review process by scheduling the dates for:

    • shop drawing submission,
    • completing the reviews, and
    • returning the shop drawings to the GC

In general, shop drawings are requested most commonly for components that have to be manufactured off site, or for products that have to be ordered. For example window systems, HVAC units, lights, flooring, etc. Unless these components are off the shelf, it is very common that they require a 4-6 week lead time at a minimum. Lights can take up to 8 – 12 weeks. However, they also can be required for the detailed design of components that will be manufactured on site for example structural re-bar. Hence the importance of shop drawing approvals in maintaining the construction schedule.

Preparation of a shop drawing submission schedule, should be one of the items discussed at the project kick off meeting, and for best results should be a shared responsibility between the contractor and the architect. For example in the Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC) 2 – stipulated price contract, there is provision for the contractor and consultant to jointly prepare a schedule.

“ GC 3.10.3 – Upon request of the Contractor or Consultant, they shall jointly prepare a schedule of the dates for provision, review and return of shop drawings.” (It is interesting to note that joint preparation is upon the request of Contractor or Consultant.)

The many benefits of having a shop drawing submission schedule include:

  • Preparing the shop drawing schedule jointly with the contractor early in the project is an opportunity to build trust, foster teamwork and improve the organization of the shop drawing process
  • ensures that there is sufficient time for products to be ordered and prevents having to making last minute changes in products specified that would affect the final design intent of the project
  • It forces the architect and consultant team to confirm what shop drawings are expected, and head off any problems early
  • An opportunity to review with the GC what drawings are expected and level of information required reducing the chance of having to re-submit
  • It helps everyone on the consultant team to have a better appreciation of the construction scheduling, critical paths and reinforces importance of prompt shop drawing review
  • GC, Architect and consultants are able to plan resources and organize for Shop Drawing review with sufficient time, and allow for any re-submissions
  • It prevents the shop drawing dump

Even the most basic submission schedule or simple outline put together at the start of a project can save you weeks, even months at the end of a project. We would be interested to hear how many of you create a submission schedule and of your own experiences and processes to better organize the shop drawing process.

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