how to set up a shop drawing review process

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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 Drawing Review Process

What are Shop Drawings?

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.

How to Set Up a Shop Drawing Review Process

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:

The shop drawings we receive from the contractors will vary from project to project based on the design itself and the materials used in the design. But the process no, it really doesn't vary, except for the fact that some contractors might submit all their shop drawings early in a project, and some may stagger them throughout the project based on the lead times, but the process itself doesn't really vary that much.

So what does a shop drawing review process look like? Who are the stakeholders involved? And what do they do?


Let’s find out.

Who Are the Key Stakeholders Involved in the Shop Drawing Review Process?

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.

1. Design Architect/Engineer and Consultant: Specifies items requiring shop drawings and reviews them for conformity with design intent.

2. Project Manager: Ensures completeness and timeliness of shop drawing reviews, negotiates timeframes, and tracks submissions.

3. Contractor: Coordinates and submits shop drawings, ensuring compliance with specifications, and distributes reviewed drawings to originators (subcontractors and suppliers).

4. Subcontractor: Prepares and submits shop drawings to the contractor, ensuring they align with specifications and design intent.

Shop Drawing Review Process

How to Set Up A Shop Drawing Review Process

To set up a document approval workflow for a shop drawing review process,

Create a Submittal Schedule

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.

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Submittal Schedule

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Design Delegation

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.

Contractor’s Review

The contractor handles reviewing shop drawings for constructability, assessing the feasibility of proposed methods and materials, and ensuring alignment with the construction schedule.

Reviewing for Design Intent Only

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.

Using supplemental instructions

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. 

Confirmation of shop drawing review

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.

Coordination, clarification, and making changes

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.

The Shop Drawing Review Process

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.

Here’s what a typical shop drawing review process looks like:

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.

  • Approved as noted → if the shop drawings meet the product specifications and design intent as specified by the architect.
  • Rejected and sent back for resubmittal → if contractors submit something completely different from specifications.
  • Approved with comments → if the shop drawings are quite close but not the same as what was required.

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.

shop drawing review process flowchart
Shop Drawing Review Process

4 Key Challenges Faced During the Shop Drawing Review Process and Their Impact on Construction Projects

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.

Limited time to review shop drawings

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.

Overlooked errors

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.

Coordination issues

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.

Learn More: The Effects of Construction Document Reviews on Project Schedules and Budgets

9 Best Practices for a Streamlined Shop Drawing Review Process

Prioritize shop drawings and understand their importance

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.

One thing that has helped us is I have always emphasized to our teams the importance of shop drawings and submittals and it's a high priority in our office. Our office generally recognizes that and so we tend to not procrastinate whenever the submittals come in. And the reason I mention that is because I hear from many contractors that we tend to prioritize the submittals quicker than a lot of offices do and we put more importance and emphasis on the review process.

Effective Communication

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.

Learn More: How to Ensure Effective Collaboration in Construction Document Reviews

shop drawing review processs
Collaborate on shop drawing reviews with all project parties in zipBoard

Timely Reviews

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.

Quality Assurance

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.

Continuous Monitoring

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.

Table view of tasks in zipBoard
Table view of comments automatically converted into tasks in zipBoard

Set Realistic Timelines

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.

Task Manager in zipBoard
Review, prioritize, and assign tasks to responsible parties

Understand Legal and Contractual Dimensions

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.

Adhere to Shop Drawing Standards

Prioritize adherence to industry-specific standards and guidelines governing the creation and review of shop drawings.

Familiarize yourself with established standards, such as those provided by reputable organizations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). 

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.

Embrace Digital Tools

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.

Learn More: Remote Collaboration in Architecture: Can Architects Work From Home?

Looking for document management and document markup tools? Read this.

Phases dashboard for a shop drawing review process in zipBoard - a centralized document review hub
Use the Phases feature in zipBoard to organize and customize your workflows

BIM Software

Building Information Modeling (BIM) platforms like Autodesk Revit, Trimble SketchUp, and ArchiCAD are architecture design software used for creating, managing, and reviewing 3D models and associated shop drawings.

Construction Management Software

Solutions like Procore, PlanGrid, and Fieldwire provide collaboration tools for reviewing and managing shop drawings in real-time, streamlining communication among project stakeholders.

Cloud-Based Collaboration Platforms

Tools like BIM 360, Autodesk Docs, Bluebeam Studio, Aconex, and zipBoard enable secure cloud-based collaboration, allowing teams to access and review shop drawings from anywhere.

CAD Software

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software such as AutoCAD and MicroStation is used for creating and annotating shop drawings.

Document Management Systems (DMS)

DMS solutions like SharePoint, Documentum, Dropbox Business, and zipBoard help teams organize version control, and securely store shop drawings and related documents.

Projects dashboard in zipBoard for a shop drawing review process
Collaborate and manage multiple projects simultaneously across multiple offices in zipBoard

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

AR and VR tools allow teams to visualize and review shop drawings in immersive 3D environments, helping with design and construction coordination.

Quality Control Software

Quality control tools like Bluebeam Revu, Adobe Acrobat, and zipBoard offer markup and collaboration features tailored for the construction industry, facilitating efficient review processes.

Mobile Apps

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.

Document Markup Tools

Tools like zipBoard, Adobe Acrobat, Autodesk Docs, and Bluebeam Revu provide digital markup and annotation capabilities for detailed review and comments on shop drawings.

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.

How to Set Up Your Shop Drawing Review Process in zipBoard

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,

1. Set Up a Project and Upload Your Shop Drawings

This step is for the project manager.

Log into zipBoard via and access the project management dashboard.

  • Create a project and click on the “+ Add content” to add your first shop drawing as shown below.
  • You can also integrate with your DMS via APIs if needed.

2. Invite Project Stakeholders as Collaborators

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:

  • Using the menu icon on the project you’ve created, click “Share”, and input the email addresses of your collaborators in the provided dialogue box.
  • Using the “Collaborators” feature under “Projects” in the left panel, select collaborators to add your internal stakeholders. A dialog box will appear to input your stakeholders’ email addresses, with an option to include a message. This approach is ideal for internal team review before sharing with clients and consultants.

Ensure that each stakeholder has the appropriate permissions and access to the relevant project and shop drawings.

3. Create a Customized Workflow

  • Use the phases feature in zipBoard to create workflows tailored to each stage of your shop drawing review process.
  • For each new stage, add a phase and label it. You can then assign stakeholders to each stage for the review and approval process.

Watch the video below to see how you can create and label your workflows:

4. Start Internal Review with Markup Tools

  • The assigned architect or engineer accesses the shop drawings within zipBoard, using robust markup tools to review and annotate the shop drawings and provide feedback
  • The markup tools include highlighter, pencil, rectangles, screenshots, screen recording, slideshow, text annotation, arrows, stamps, etc.

5. Generate a Shareable Link for External Stakeholders

  • Follow similar steps as with internal collaborators. 
  • Adjust access levels for clients by modifying sharing features, as detailed here.

6. Review and Feedback from Consultants and other External Stakeholders

  • External stakeholders can access the document based on their permissions, review it, and leave comments, using the same process as the architect or engineer of record.

7. Architect Approves Submittals with Approval Stamp

  •  If the shop drawings meet the design intent and need no revisions, the architect can approve or reject them otherwise with comments.
  • zipBoard allows you to add your stamp to shop drawings within the app as shown below

8. Organize and Prioritize Feedback

  • If the shop drawings do not meet the design intent or require revisions, the project manager reviews the feedback provided by the architect, prioritizes the required changes, and assigns tasks the contractor responsible for resubmitting the shop drawings.
  • The project manager can assign, prioritize, set due dates, track completion dates, and add comments for efficient task management.
  • The project manager can also organize these tasks and manage them in Kanban or Spreadsheet views in zipBoard.

9. Make changes and Resubmit

  • The contractor receives the feedback and reshares with the subcontractor to implement the required changes to the shop drawings.
  • Once the revisions are complete, the contractor resubmits the updated shop drawings through zipBoard.

10. Reviews and Approve

  • The architect reviews the revised shop drawings to ensure they now meet the design intent.
  • If the drawings meet the requirements, the architect can approve them as before.
  • If you need further revisions, iterate through steps 4-10 until you receive final approval from the architect or engineer of record.

Learn more: How to Build a Document Review Hub in zipBoard 

Wrapping Up

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.

Simplify Your Shop Drawing Review Process and Improve Collaboration with zipBoard

Start your free trial or book a demo today so that we can create a tailored solution for you.

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What are the various types of shop drawings?

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:

  • Structural Steel Shop Drawings: These drawings detail the fabrication and installation of structural steel components, such as beams, columns, and trusses. They are crucial for ensuring the structural integrity of the building.
  • Architectural Millwork Shop Drawings: These drawings provide detailed plans for custom architectural woodwork, including cabinetry, doors, windows, and molding. They ensure that these elements match the design and functional requirements.
  • Mechanical Shop Drawings: These drawings detail the layout and installation of mechanical systems, including HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems, plumbing, and fire protection systems.
  • Electrical Shop Drawings: Electrical drawings illustrate the placement and installation of electrical components, including wiring, lighting fixtures, outlets, and switchgear.
  • Plumbing Shop Drawings: Plumbing drawings provide information on the installation and connection of plumbing systems, including pipes, fixtures, drains, and water supply lines.
  • Fire Protection Shop Drawings: These drawings specify the layout and installation of fire protection systems, including sprinklers, alarms, and fire extinguishers.
  • Curtain Wall Shop Drawings: For buildings with curtain wall systems, these drawings outline the design and installation of the exterior cladding system, including glass panels, framing, and sealants.
  • Elevator Shop Drawings: Elevator drawings detail the installation and operation of elevators within the building.
  • Concrete Shop Drawings: In projects involving concrete structures, these drawings provide information on the placement and reinforcement of concrete elements, such as foundations, walls, and slabs.
  • Roofing and Waterproofing Shop Drawings: For projects with complex roofing or waterproofing requirements, these drawings outline the materials and installation methods for ensuring a watertight building envelope.

What is the purpose of reviewing shop drawings and submittals?

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.

How do I approve shop drawings?

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. 

Author’s Bio:

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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