September 2016: Business Building

Words: George Hedley

Develop a Simple Shop Drawing and Submittal System That Works

George-HedleyBy George Hedley

How many times have you been delayed on construction projects when you don’t have all the necessary approvals in time to order materials and keep the job moving? For example, forgetting to get the concrete foundation design mix approved by the structural engineer can stop a scheduled concrete pour for days. Or when constructing concrete tilt-up or masonry building walls, you need to order the hollow metal door frames weeks in advance to have them manufactured per the exact opening sizes, door schedule, and finish hardware specifications. Another challenge is when the owner and architect can’t agree on which ceramic tile to choose until the week before tile is needed on the job. And when the tile is finally chosen, they will likely pick one that comes from Italy and takes 16 weeks to be delivered.

Don’t Let Owners and Architects Slow You Down

These and many other approval problems happen on construction projects every day. To make matters worse, the delays and increased costs associated with not obtaining timely approvals are then blamed on your company, your suppliers, or other culprits who should have known better. As a construction consultant, I have observed many disputes that ended up in court and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in delays, wrong products, and non-authorized substitutions of materials that weren’t specified but were installed without proper approvals.

Assume Everything Needs Approval Before You Install It

After you are hired to build a project, go through the contract and specifications (if there are any) to determine what approvals are required. If no specific instructions are outlined, still assume you’ll be required to obtain prior approval before you install any and every material, product, fixture, finish, color, structural component like trusses or steel beams, or custom shop-fabricated item. Don’t forget anything that will be visible to the eye when the job is completed, including concrete textures, glass, storefront, landscape plants, sprinkler heads, ceilings, walls, flooring, lights, or air conditioning grilles. Approvals can also be required on more than products, materials and finishes. Approvals can be required by the owner, architect, engineers or lender on your subcontractors and suppliers, payment cost breakdown or schedule of values, work plans or proposed schedule, milestones, proposed supervisors and project managers, testing company, jobsite logistics plan, or insurance policy and coverage limits. When you don’t ask in advance whether approvals are needed for these items, the owner or architect can stop your project or payment application until you get an item approved.

Create an Approval Plan

To create a simple, standardized project approval system that works, take a few moments to sit down with your project managers and superintendents. Brainstorm to make a master list of every detail on every type of project that might need the owner’s or architect’s approval. Use this as a company-wide project approval checklist to fill out before you start every job. When awarded a contract, the project manager and contract administrator can review the project documents to determine which approvals they anticipate will be needed. Don’t forget to include long-leadtime items and project-specific equipment and finishes affecting your schedule as well. To get started, email for your copy of “Project Management Forms for Contractors.”

Get Your List Approved

Next, meet with the project customer, owner or architect to submit your proposal, shop drawing and approval list for their review. Include each item needing approval along with its deadline to keep your schedule moving forward on time. Also include on your list all the items you’ll be requesting to substitute as alternatives to the specified materials. Then explain to your customer that if the approval deadlines aren’t met, the project will be delayed and you’ll expect to be compensated for all costs associated with their slow processing of approvals. It is imperative you insist your subcontractors and suppliers make their approvals a priority as well. When awarding contracts to them, tell them up front what you require and the deadlines for submitting their shop drawings and other proposals for approval. Put these dates in writing in their contracts or purchase orders, and then manage the process tightly. Put your contract administrator or field superintendent in charge of managing the shop drawing and submittal approval process. Meet with them weekly to review the progress and address any slow or missing approvals.

Be Proactive

By implementing a proactive approval process and not waiting for your subcontractors and suppliers to submit their required shop drawings and proposals whenever they get around to it, you’ll stay ahead of the game, avoid potential delays, and not allow the owner or architect to slow you down.
As a professional construction BIZCOACH and popular industry speaker, George Hedley helps contractors increase profits, grow and get their companies to work! He is the best-selling author of “Get Your Construction Business To Always Make A Profit!” available at his online bookstore at E-mail to sign-up for his free e-newsletter, join a peer mastermind BIZGROUP, attend a BIZ-BUILDER Boot Camp, implement the BIZ-BUILDER BLUEPRINT, or get a discount for online courses at George Hedley, HARDHAT Presentations, (800) 851-8553
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