Drawing Management on Construction Projects (Part 4)

This is part 4 of a 7-part series of articles on Drawing Management on Construction Projects. (Back to Part 3 – Classification Systems, to the Table of Contents)

Workflow Information

Workflow Steps

Workflow information records revision production and approvals. This information is recorded on a per-revision basis, which means that each revision has its own completely separate workflow information. A revision workflow for a drawing consists of a series of workflow steps, typically following the following sequence:

  1. Design and draft
  2. Check
  3. Interface approval, optional. Only required for interface drawings
  4. Final approval
  5. Transmittal

For each workflow step the following information (as classification fields) can be tracked:

  • Planned date, the scheduled date of completion
  • Complete date, the actual date of completion
  • Person responsible
  • Current status, e.g. open, closed, approved, rejected, etc.

The workflow steps are performed in the order listed above, with one exception. The checking and interface approval workflow steps might require more than one approval, meaning that they could consist of a number of steps that take place in parallel. For example multiple lead engineers from different engineering disciplines and external experts might all have to separately review and approve critical drawings.

Like classification fields, you implement workflow steps by adding more columns to the master drawing list. E.g. a set of the four fields listed above must be added for each workflow step (including each interface approval). Note that all these fields do not have to be displayed in the drawing list.

Drawing transmittal is often subject to contractual deadlines, making control of the drawing workflow an important part of project management.

Design Notes

We recommend that you also track the draftsman assigned to each revision, so that you can balance your production schedule against your available resources. In practice the designer and drafter generally work together so you don’t need a separate workflow step for the drafter. The designer produces sketches and marked-up check prints. The drafter makes corrections and responds with new check prints.

As a design evolves, there are likely to be questions and input from other project team members. This can be through discussion, emails, calculations, sketches or marked-up drawings. This is valuable information that you should not discard. It records how you arrived at a particular design and is useful later when questions and changes arise. We recommend you file this material alongside the drawings.

Externally Produced Drawings

Externally (vendor and supplier) produced drawings have a different set of workflow steps. The typical workflow is to receive drawings, review them and return them for re-work. The details steps are as follows:

  1. Receipt, e.g. delivery from the supplier
  2. Engineering review
  3. Interface approvals
  4. Final Approval, or not. E.g. return for rework and scheduling of the next revision
  5. Transmittal

The vendor drawing processing is complicated by strict contractual deadlines. The normal procedure is that late delivery is penalized and that review must be completed within a well-defined time period. This means that if you miss a review date you have silently accepted the drawings. Thus, the key activity when processing vendor drawings is tracking the delivery and review deadlines. See [2] for more on managing vendor drawings.

Drawing Distribution

Once drawings have been produced and approved you have to distribute the drawings to the project team and other parties. There are three issues:

  1. Who gets which drawings?
  2. How do you physically/electronically transfer them?
  3. Keeping accurate records: What was sent? To whom? When?

The solution to the ‘who gets what?’ is to use a document distribution matrix. This is a table with two axes:

  1. One axis has all the recipients, which comprises all project positions and all outside parties involved in the project (Site Manager, Contract X Manager, Lead Engineer Y, Supplier Z, etc.)
  2. The other axis lists all the project components, typically organised by WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). Note that the project component (or WBS work packet) should be a required classification field in the drawing list. This ensures that all drawings belong to a project component

At each intersection (cell) in the table you place a mark if the project role should be sent drawings associated with the project component. When drawings for a particular project component are produced or updated you can read the list of project recipients who should receive copies.

The actual transfer of documents is done with a transmittal (sometimes known as a submittal), which consists of a cover letter containing a message and a list of the documents being transferred, accompanied by the documents. In actual practice the transfer should be done electronically. The cover letter can be sent by email. Do not send the documents by email because you cannot guarantee that recipients can actually receive the files being sent (due to file size or other restrictions). It is better is to send a web link, with a code identifying the recipient, for downloading the documents. This has the additional advantage that you have a positive acknowledgement, in the web server log, that the recipient actually downloaded them.

You need to maintain a register of transmittals and each time a you send a transmittal you must record the following:

  • Date of transmission
  • Issuer
  • Cover letter
  • List of recipients, including the project roles and email addresses of the individual recipients
  • List of documents, including their version numbers

Continue to  Part 5 – New Revisions and Change Control.