A good drawing is one you can build. The best drawing is one you can build quickly. From there, it seems like the solution to any workflow problem is easy: empower your design team or design partners so that your building and installation teams can work more efficiently.
But the reality is a little more tricky—good design for manufacturing and assembly (DFMA) principles require constant iteration informed by the three types of reviews: overall constructability, reviews, and process efficiency.
This article shares more details on what types of feedback you need and offers a four-step guide on how to capture and integrate feedback into your production flow.
Defining the three types of feedback
The point of gathering feedback is to give you an analytical baseline—and uncover potential wins or problems—to discuss later on.
When conducting a constructability review, make sure to document all risk factors but remain focused on important items—only reporting things that will increase project costs, timelines, or human safety risks. This also means any problems discovered should not be held in isolation but assessed with the lens of if they will make the project unfinishable or severely delayed. Unfortunately, doing it right is a relatively time-consuming process to get through all the various systems and assess every single step in the building process.
When it comes to reviewing material, focus on its limitations and labor implications. From a limitations perspective, document how and where each piece of material can be used. Then highlight the circumstances where it can’t be used so there’s no confusion.
From a labor perspective, think not just about the costs of materials but the costs of installation or contractor-required maintenance. For example, if you have $10,000 worth of material and a cheaper version costs only $9,000, you might be tempted to save the money. However, if the installation of the cheaper material takes twice as long or requires additional tools to install securely, the overall cost might run significantly higher than if you had purchased the more expensive, but higher quality material.
Across all your projects, think about process efficiency, labor needs, and equipment requirements. For process efficiency, document the different ways of working and the speed each method takes to complete a task. Then add in any additional context, for example, a certain process being necessary on new builds versus additions to a historic property. For both labor and equipment, document what’s necessary to have in the shop at all times and the variable additional needs you have per type of project (or per unit of a project).
A 4-step process for collecting and integrating feedback
This documentation can be time-consuming so it’s easy to say it’s not worth it because design teams may not remember what was documented anyway. However, the solution is not to avoid documentation but to do it properly.
To ensure proper documentation, follow these four steps.
1. Document specialties, dependencies, and interfaces
Specialties: all specialty areas should be reviewed by properly qualified individuals. For example, ensure that any HVAC design reviews and recommendations should be performed by the team members with ample experience with the mechanical systems being built.
Dependencies: note which parts of your work cannot be done without something else having been completed. For example, you can’t do a constructability review on an inbound client request without understanding the characteristics of the property the person wants to build on.
Interfacing: document how different scopes or specialties fit together to create a stronger end result. Many challenges arise when two different scopes meet and the hand-off hasn’t been clearly defined and assigned. For example, let’s say your team is installing an exhaust duct that stubs out at the building exterior. This may have an exhaust register or saddle that mounts flush to the exterior surface, then require treatment to ensure it’s water-tight. What team members are needed, in which order, and who owns the inspection? All of these are critical to ensuring the build moves through quickly and painlessly.
2. Centralize all comments digitally
All feedback needs to exist in the same space. Whether that’s comments on drawings, comments on hand sketches, or PDF markups, t’s critical that nothing gets lost. This is where purpose-built construction management tools can help because they bring everything under one digital roof. And if you’re already using a cloud-based BIM viewer, comment in the platform directly using AEC-specific markups and include the people on your team that may be impacted (the sooner the better).
From these raw notes, create summary notes that make it easy to share the primary concerns or ideas easily. You can then tag comments by focus area, scope, or a specific project to make recall easier.
3. Plan regular discussions
Discussions serve two purposes: to ensure understanding and to discuss possible next steps.
a. Understanding: host virtual calls or in-person meetings to go over the information collected and any red flags or concerns it raised. This step is purely to make sure everyone is on the same page.
b. Next steps: whether it’s finding solutions to a problem or business-as-usual, meetings are the space for solidifying what comes next. It’s important to clearly define who is doing what, and when—follow-up is critical to make the meetings valuable. Otherwise, you’re all talking about what should get done, but nothing actually gets done.
4. Share feedback broadly
When all the data is collected, analyzed, and discussed, you have to share the feedback with the rest of your team (or anyone else impacted by it). Make sure you’re doing it in the right order:
● Start with the “why” of the feedback: explain what the information is about (costs, timelines, customer demands, etc.).
● Remember the customer: you’re always, in the end, working for the building owner and all changes need to be explained in the context of how they will impact them. For “indirect” customers, think of the team who will be inspecting, installing, or interacting in other ways.
● Prioritize for impact: explain what you’re doing first based on the impact it will have. You can take a theory of constraints approach here, identifying tasks based on which will remove the largest obstacle or bottleneck.
● Share both good and bad: when things are going well, look for areas to improve. If things aren’t going well, don’t hide it from people because it stops them from being able to help improve.
Feedback integration is a journey
In all feedback, be as thorough as you can without going off on a tangent. While not everyone needs an immense level of detail, some team members will need it—providing it up front saves time in the long run because you reduce the number of follow-up questions or mistakes made because of incomplete information.
Collecting and integrating feedback gets easier and more effective over time. Buildings are complex—each of these systems takes time to refine with new industrialized construction methods, so don’t be afraid to iterate and try new things.