Drafting Service Files: Using Outsourced Drafting Firms for Glass and Glazing Projects: Do’s and Don’ts

Using Outsourced Drafting Firms for Glass and Glazing Projects: Do’s and Don’ts

Outsourced Drafting Firms for Glass and Glazing Projects …

What They Do, What They Don’t Do, and How to Use Them as Effectively as Possible

There are a lot of misconceptions about the roles and responsibilities of drafting firms.

And we get asked the same questions a lot. So, the team here are MP Drafting thought it would be helpful to write an article in an attempt to address some of the most common misunderstandings about what what we (and others like us) do and don’t do.

Let’s start with what a drafting firm (in most cases) is not …

A drafting firm is not a manufacturer, structural expert, engineering consultant, building expert, code expert, or architect.

Now let’s look at what they are:

A drafting firm is a resource you can use to get your shop drawings done right and on time – IF you provide all the information they need.

Like any third-party service provider, drafting firms have limitations.

Being positioned outside of your company presents some positives and negatives. And being aware of these will help both parties work together to complete drafting projects accurately and on time.

In particular, it’s important to understand the limitations of your outsourced provider so you know what to expect in terms of industry- and system-specific knowledge.

Don’t Assume we Know Everything You Know

For starters, it’s dangerous to assume a drafting firm will know what each system can and can’t do, what codes govern product decisions, and the exact configuration of each system.

Open lines of communication are critical. You need to provide your drafting firm with the necessary background information. If you assume your draftsmen have basic knowledge of all your systems and installations, your draftsmen might reasonably assume you, as the project manager, will be reviewing each drawing closely to catch any errors that they wouldn’t have been able to predict.

But since you’re assuming they understand the intricacies of your project, you won’t likely review the related drawings, and these errors will go unnoticed. That’s a BIG problem.

To give you some some concrete examples, any drafting firm working with you for the first time will be unaware of your typical installation procedures, commonly used components, and how you like to see things dimensioned. It’s also hard for firms to understand the order in which components will be fabricated.

So, does this mean you shouldn’t outsource your drawings to drafting firms?

Not by a long shot. With clear communications before the project kicks off, you can ensure the process goes smoothly and as a result you’ll get high-quality drawings you can actually use.

But it’s also really important to pick a drafting company with standards that meet your needs. Be sure to review their previous work. If their drawings are subpar, don’t expect them to alter their practices to suit your needs.

Having said that, remember that there are many differents ways to use system components, install frames, size caulk joints, etc. Don’t assume your drafting partner will know how you want to see everything up front.

Instead, follow the steps outlined below when starting a new relationship with a drafting firm.

Steps to Ensure a Successful Drafting Project from Beginning to End

  • The first thing is to make sure you provide all the information needed for the job. Don’t leave anything out. Keep everything as simple and clear as possible to avoid confusion. If a draftsman has to dig through files of information to find something, there’s a good chance mistakes will be made or something important will be missed. And that’s a great way to inflate project timelines.
  • Many drafting firms use a kick-off sheet. Make sure to fill this out completely, even if you’ve already provided some information informally. The small amount of time this takes is worth it in the end.
  • If you have a specific way you need features shown, detailed, or dimensioned, make sure you’re clear about this upfront. This is especially important for critical areas: don’t expect your draftsmen to show the detail exactly how you expect it.
  • If you have segmentation or frames with a radius, ask your drafting firm to show you how they typically dimension in this situation. Changing this kind of frame after the fact is very time-consuming.
  • If you feel certain frames (or even the entire project) need an upfront engineering review, let your drafting firm know. Don’t order any material until you’re certain the design is structurally sound.
  • Take the time before the project begins to highlight floor plans. Many project managers feel this is a waste of their time. But it takes away all guesswork and stops draftsmen from making incorrect assumptions. If anything is unclear, you’ll be getting phone calls and emails throughout the project. So it’s much better to outline everything upfront.
  • Agree on a set deadline and follow up with your drafting firm regularly to ensure things are on track. Be sure to set aside a reasonable amount of time for you to fully review the project and for the draftsman to make any requested revisions. This is often overlooked, leading to unexpected delays.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the drafting team to send you a preliminary set of drawings or sample elevations with a couple of details to show you their progress. This isn’t an unreasonable request. It’s a great way for you to provide your input early on. And this input can be applied across the entire job, saving a lot of time down the line.

Warning: When to NOT Work With a Drafting Firm

When you work with a drafting firm, it’s important to remember their expertise is in the creation of shop drawings, not necessarily in all the nuances of the systems in your design. If you need someone with this kind of in-depth knowledge, it’s a good idea to go directly to the manufacturer or to a building consultant who is an expert in all the building interfaces that need to be reviewed and scrutinized.

A drafting team is only as good as the information and guidance you give them. At the end of the day, the quality of the drawings is ultimately your responsibility. This might sound controversial, but remember that as the project manager you are the hub of the project, responsible for coordinating every aspect to make sure they’re all moving the right direction. If you make the assumption that outsourced drawings are correct without a full review, there’s a good chance you’ll be wrong.

The Benefits of Working With a Drafting Firm

If you keep the information above in mind, you will almost certainly develop a mutually beneficial relationship with your new drafting partner. This relationship will help you either reduce or eliminate in-house drafting support resources, which will cut project costs and give you the ability to coordinate multiple projects and their drafting requirements at any given time.

In the end, outsourcing your drafting work (or supplementing your internal capabilities) with a service provider like MP Drafting will expose you to several benefits:

  • Drafting firms have a larger drafting capacity than pretty much any internal team. By outsourcing, you’ll cut the costs associated with maintaining a team of drafters which you may not be able to fully utilize 100% of the time.
  • You’ll gain access to a new network of industry contacts, which includes professional engineers, thermal experts, etc.
  • The professional appearance of shop drawings made by drafting firms has been revised over thousands of projects. A third-party drafting team almost certainly has more experience than any internal drafting team.
  • Finally, related to the last point, draftsmen at drafting firms have experience with a wide variety of systems and configurations. This will be a big help if there are any design issues that need to be resolved quickly. Chances are your draftsman, or one of their coworkers, has encountered a similar problem.

Finding the Right Drafting Firm

So, is it time to find a new drafting partner?

At MP Drafting, we offer unparalleled quality drawings and unmatched professionalism, especially when it comes to architectural glass and glazing projects (that’s our specialty).

We’re a growing firm and we’re always looking for new partners – contact us today for a free consultation.