Manual processes, inefficient communication and delays in the shop drawing review process can cost you – both time and money.
Construction projects need careful planning, coordination, and execution between many stakeholders. And shop drawings serve as the bridge between the design and construction phases.
Shop drawings are construction drawings created by subcontractors and suppliers. These drawings show how various project components will be fabricated, assembled, and installed. Subcontractors create shop drawings based on the product specifications specified by the architect for a project.
A well-structured shop drawing review process ensures the constructed components align with the architect or engineer’s design intent. This alignment is essential for maintaining the project’s quality. Additionally, it helps in complying with contractual agreements, adhering to safety standards, and avoiding costly delays and disputes.
This guide covers the steps with best practices and tools for setting up a shop drawing review process that not only meets your project’s quality standards but also helps you stay on track with your timeline.
Though shop drawings may vary depending on the construction project, the shop drawing review process itself doesn’t really vary. David Duman, AIA, an architect with 37+ years of experience and Principal at Quorum Architects confirmed this during our chat on setting up a shop drawing review process:
So what does a shop drawing review process look like? Who are the stakeholders involved? And what do they do?
Let’s find out.
The end-to-end shop drawing review process involves multiple stakeholders including contractors, architects/engineers, subcontractors, fabricators, and consultants – mechanical, structural, electrical, and plumbing. Each stakeholder plays a crucial role in the shop drawing review process.
Design Architect/Engineer and Consultant: Specifies items requiring shop drawings and reviews them for conformity with design intent.
1. Project Manager: Ensures completeness and timeliness of shop drawing reviews, negotiates timeframes, and tracks submissions.
2. Contractor: Coordinates and submits shop drawings, ensuring compliance with specifications, and distributes reviewed drawings to originators (subcontractors and suppliers).
3. Subcontractor: Prepares and submits shop drawings to the contractor, ensuring they align with specifications and design intent.
Once the contractor receives the product specifications from the architect, the contractor needs to create a submittal schedule. The submittal schedule must include deadlines for submitting shop drawings and reviewing and approving them. This schedule should also align with the project’s timeline.
The design delegation phase of the shop drawing review process focuses on clarifying and assigning specific design responsibilities between the major project stakeholders. That is, the architect, engineer, and contractor. It aims to determine who is responsible for various aspects of the project’s design.
The contractor specifies which shop drawings need review and approval by a delegated design engineer. This designation is essential, especially when the project involves a fabricator’s engineer in the design process.
Additionally, the contractor must ensure that the specifications outline which shop drawings require the review and stamp of a delegated design engineer.
In cases where the contractor hands over design responsibilities to a fabricator’s engineer, the specifications must detail the engineering review requirements, including the engineer’s licensing and the need for professional liability insurance.
The contractor handles reviewing shop drawings for constructability, assessing the feasibility of proposed methods and materials, and ensuring alignment with the construction schedule.
The primary focus of the review by the architects and consultants should be on design intent, not design changes. Consequently, shop drawings must represent what was intended in the project’s design documents specified by the architect.
When design intent isn’t clear or requires adjustments, reviewers must use supplemental instructions to communicate changes or clarifications to the subcontractors, suppliers, or fabricators.
To confirm the completion of the shop drawing review process, the architect or engineer of record must stamp the shop drawings. This signifies that they’ve conducted the shop drawing review process.
This stamp should also explicitly state that the review scope is limited to ensuring overall alignment with the design intent.
Additionally, it’s the responsibility of the architect or engineer to make note of and document any discrepancies or deviations from the original design intent that they identified during the shop drawing review process.
During the coordination and change phase of the shop drawing review process, contractors must make necessary adjustments based on the architect’s feedback.
This step is a crucial final chance to ensure smooth coordination, address site conditions, and evaluate impacts on product installation or performance.
Collaboration with reviewers is key to spotting and resolving any document misinterpretations, preventing later delays and extra costs during construction.
From my conversation with David Duman, AIA, I understand you may not only be reviewing shop drawings at a particular time because it’d usually come along with other construction documents including product information, material selections, colors, mockups, and other submittals for the project.
However, for this article, I focus on the shop drawing review process – which may also be relevant to reviewing other submittals.
1. Architect or Engineer → Specifies product specifications for a project and submits to the contractor.
2. Contractor → Receives product specifications from the architect and assigns a subcontractor to provide the product.
3. Contractor → Creates submittal schedule that aligns with the project’s overall timeline based on the product specifications received from the architects.
4. Subcontractor → Receives request from the contractor, creates and submits shop drawings of the product, including its intended use for the project and how it will be installed.
5. Contractor → Receives shop drawings from the subcontractor, reviews them, and if they meet the design requirements and specifications from the architect, the contractor stamps them and submits them together with the submittal schedule to the architect for review.
6. Architect → Reviews architectural drawings based on timelines to ensure it meets the design intent and approves or rejects the shop drawings based on their review.
7. Architect → Processes structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing shop drawings and submits them to the appropriate consultant for review.
8. Consultants → Receive shop drawings and review them for the products they specified to ensure they meet the requirements in the specifications.
9. Consultants → Submit mechanical, structural, electrical, and plumbing shop drawings to the architect for final review and approval.
10. Architect → Receives shop drawings from consultants and gives them a final review to ensure the products fit within the spaces allocated to them.
11. Architect – Stamps and submits all shop drawings to the contractor once they have been thoroughly reviewed and approved.
Note: Repeat steps 6-10 until final approval and stamp from the architect.
Each of these challenges stakeholders encounter during the shop drawing review process greatly affects project schedules and budgets.
Delays in the shop drawing review process can have a significant impact on project schedules and budgets.
The delay may be from the architects or consultants – sometimes due to tight timelines – during the shop drawing review process.
Moreover, when architects share shop drawings with external consultants, architects do not have control over the speed of the review process – and this may result in delays from the consultants’ end.
These delays can cascade throughout the project timeline, pushing back construction milestones and increasing costs due to extended labor and project overhead.
Due to this, contractors may be particularly affected by these delays as they seek to maintain a tight schedule to avoid additional expenses.
The amount of time it takes to review shop drawings for a project varies based on several factors like the size and complexity of the project, the number of reviewers, and separate entities involved, among others.
However, contractors often request a quicker turnaround, sometimes making it impossible to conduct a thorough review. Additionally, certain shop drawings, such as those for long lead time items like generators and electrical equipment, require more time for review.
This time constraint can result in rushed reviews and potentially overlooked issues, impacting project quality and increasing the likelihood of costly mistakes.
Inaccurate or incomplete shop drawings pose a significant challenge during construction when overlooked during the review process.
So when discrepancies or errors are present, they can lead to construction mistakes, rework, and higher project costs.
These errors can manifest in various ways, from incorrect measurements to missing details, and correcting them often necessitates extra time and resources.
Furthermore, the impact on budgets is exacerbated by the need to address and rectify these issues, diverting resources away from other project phases.
Effective coordination is essential for a successful shop drawing review process. When coordination problems arise, it can disrupt project schedules and budgets.
Also, miscommunication or a lack of coordination between stakeholders, including architects, consultants, contractors, and subcontractors, can result in conflicting requirements, design changes, and project disruptions.
These disruptions can lead to delays, rework, and additional costs as teams must address and resolve the coordination issues to move forward effectively.
Recognize the significance of shop drawings in the construction process.
Shop drawings serve as the detailed blueprints for translating design intent into reality. Hence, understanding their importance helps all stakeholders appreciate the need for a thorough review and ensures that stakeholders give shop drawings the attention and priority they deserve.
Establish clear channels for communication and collaboration among all project stakeholders. This includes architects, engineers, consultants, contractors, and subcontractors.
Open lines of communication help in addressing any issues or questions that arise during the shop drawing review process, preventing misunderstandings and potential delays.
Conduct reviews promptly and within the agreed-upon timeframes to avoid bottlenecks and delays in the construction timeline. This helps improve efficiency during the pre-construction phase of the project.
Implement quality assurance measures to catch errors early in the shop drawing review process. This involves rigorous checking for accuracy, completeness, and compliance with project requirements, codes, and standards.
Therefore, identifying and rectifying errors at this stage helps prevent costly mistakes during construction.
Monitor the progress of shop drawing reviews. Continuous monitoring allows for the early identification of potential issues or roadblocks. It provides an opportunity to address any emerging problems and maintain the momentum of the review process.
It’s essential to communicate to contractors the need for a reasonable time frame for the shop drawing review process. Realistic timelines help manage expectations and ensure that there is adequate time for a thorough review without unnecessary haste or delays.
At Quorum Architects, it usually takes them about two weeks to process and review submittals, but sometimes about ten days to two weeks, or even a week depending on the project. Additionally, they make sure to communicate their timelines with the contractors to ensure they allow at least a two-week review process for the shop drawings and other submittals.
This involves a comprehensive examination of the responsibilities assigned to project stakeholders, mechanisms for dispute resolution, and the pivotal role that shop drawings play within the context of contract documents.
Therefore, a clear understanding of these aspects can help preempt legal complications and maintain project alignment.
Prioritize adherence to industry-specific standards and guidelines governing the creation and review of shop drawings.
When you strive for compliance with these standards, you’ll ensure consistency, quality, and compatibility within the construction industry, facilitating effective reviews and project success.
Use digital tools and technologies to streamline your shop drawing review process. Digital tools help in the sharing, review, and approval of drawings, improving collaboration and reducing the reliance on physical paperwork. This transition to digital can enhance efficiency.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) platforms like Autodesk Revit, Trimble SketchUp, and ArchiCAD are used for creating, managing, and reviewing 3D models and associated shop drawings.
Solutions like Procore, PlanGrid, and Fieldwire provide collaboration tools for reviewing and managing shop drawings in real-time, streamlining communication among project stakeholders.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software such as AutoCAD and MicroStation is used for creating and annotating shop drawings.
DMS solutions like SharePoint, Documentum, Dropbox Business, and zipBoard help teams organize version control, and securely store shop drawings and related documents.
AR and VR tools allow teams to visualize and review shop drawings in immersive 3D environments, helping with design and construction coordination.
Mobile apps designed for shop drawing review, such as Bluebeam Revu for iPad and PlanGrid for mobile devices, enable on-site teams to access and review drawings from their mobile devices.
Project management platforms like Microsoft Project, Primavera P6, Newforma, and zipBoard help teams track shop drawing review milestones and integrate them into overall project schedules.
zipBoard is a document review and collaboration tool that allows AEC teams to review and approve construction documents – including shop drawings in one single platform right from the browser.
Once you’ve onboarded with zipBoard,
Invite relevant internal project stakeholders, including architects or engineers and contractors, to collaborate within zipBoard – right from their browsers.
You can add collaborators to your project in two ways:
Ensure that each stakeholder has the appropriate permissions and access to the relevant project and shop drawings.
Watch the video below to see how you can create and label your workflows:
Learn more: How to Build a Document Review Hub in zipBoard
Delays in the shop drawing review process, manual processes and limited time to review shop drawings affect construction project schedules and budgets. But by embracing technology, setting realistic timelines, and prioritizing shop drawings, you can minimize delays, enhance collaboration, and keep your construction projects on time and within budget.
Shop drawings come in various types, including architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) shop drawings, each serving a unique purpose and containing specific content relevant to their respective disciplines. Here are some examples:
The primary purpose of reviewing shop drawings and submittals is to ensure they align with the project’s design intent, adhere to industry standards, and meet project specifications, ultimately contributing to the successful and timely completion of the construction project.
Using a document markup and approval tool, review the shop drawings according to the product specifications or manual provided by the architect. Then approve using your approval stamp or reject the shop drawings if they meet the design intent or not – respectively. Always include notes containing comments, clarifications, or corrections wherever needed.
Dorcas Kpabitey is a Content Marketing Specialist at zipBoard. She began her content marketing journey alongside her BA in Political Science and Spanish degree at the University of Ghana. If she’s not tapping away at her keyboard or spending time on Twitter and LinkedIn, she spends her day reading articles, newsletters and books.
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