Product A&E Specs - Where Does A Manufacturer Start?

Blog Date:  4/28/2012
Author:  Ray Coulombe

How many manufacturers publish a really good A&E specification, or even know really where to begin? I get to see a lot of A&E product specs and have written a number myself. The variation in quality and availability of A&E specs is so widespread, it borders on the ridiculous. It starts with the product provider understanding the need for a specification. Describing a product's attributes in a standard style and format allows one who is constructing a project spec to easily incorporate that product into an overall system specification when that product is selected as an element of the design. In the United States, guidelines are published by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) which provide a classification structure, suggested section headings and types of content, formatting, and language style. CSI publishes an excellent resource, The Project Delivery Practice Guide, supplemented by the MasterFormat classification system and the SectionFormat/PageFormat standard which describes the organization and format of the spec itself.
The content of the specification itself should be accurate and clear. Accuracy means not only factual, but consistent with information published in the company's data sheets, user manuals, warranty statements, and engineering data. Clear means concise, well written, using the direct style wherever possible (as opposed to the indirect style frequently using the word 'shall'), focused, and relevant. While some may argue that a longer specification is better, most consultants appreciate a document that does not need significant editing and re-write.
The document should highlight the product's unique features, or 'differentiators', that are important elements of that product, particularly if those attributes have been highlighted in a manufacturer's discussion with the consultant. Give consultants good technical reasons why that product should be specified. If a product is 'me too', specifiers will look to other factors, such as past experience with the product, installation and support capability, warranty, etc.
Make the specification available in Microsoft Word or rtf format, provide them in electronic format, online or on a memory stick or other media, and consider also making available CAD drawings, BIM information, data sheets, user manuals, and icon files to form a complete package.


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