What are Product Specifications and How are They Created?
(Article 2 of the series on “Becoming an Independent Manufacturers’ Rep Who Develops Specifications with Architects and Engineers“)
One of the most important aspects of marketing to architects and engineers (A/E’s) and getting a rep’s products specified is to fully understand the complete construction process and then realize how product specifications fit into this process.
Sitting for testing to receive a CDT (Construction Documents Technician) is a critical step. This certification is highly respected by A/E’s. It provides a rep the in-depth knowledge he or she needs and helps open doors into A/E’s offices. Contact Construction Specification Institute (CSI), 110 S Union St #100, Alexandria, VA 22314 for test and certification information.
Specifications define the qualitative requirements for products, materials, and workmanship upon which the project contract is based. They are normally written by in-house specification writers, project managers, or outside specification writers for the purpose of deciding which type of specification(s) they will use for a particular project.
There are four basic types of product specifications:
- Reference Standard
These specify properties of materials and methods of installation. Neither manufacturers nor product names are listed. Since detail technical product knowledge is required, it is the type of specification where a manufacturers’ rep can be invaluable in assisting the A/E to provide the correct product information.
These specify desired product performance results and how those results will be measured and verified. Neither manufacturers nor product names are used. This type specification allows the contractor flexibility in selecting products to be used. If the A/E and his client are interested in using new and innovative products, this type of specification is a good one to use.
Reference Standard Specifications
These specify products and processes by well-recognized industry standards.
These specify manufacturers, product names, specific model numbers and other unique characteristics about a product. Additionally, specs are referred to as being “open” or “closed.”
If a proprietary specification is “closed,” one product can be named, or several products can be named as options. A “closed” proprietary specification often does not allow substitutions. In an “open” proprietary specification, alternative acceptable products are listed. Substitutions can be proposed by bidders, but the substitutions must be approved by the (A/E).
In either an open or closed specification, one product may be designated as the “design standard.” This gives bidders additional information about the quality expected, if substitutions are submitted for approval.
When a rep has an opportunity to assist an A/E in writing a specification, it is very important to remember two basic rules of product specification writing:
- The specification is to be Clear, Concise, Correct, and Complete
- Conform to the writing style and format of the author of the specification and his firm.
A powerful reference for more information, used for this article is the CSI Construction Product Representation Practice Guide, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc..
With this understood, it leads us to our next question, addressed in Article 3, “When should an A/E be contacted to offer specification assistance?”
Questions so far? Scott Lau Consulting is ready to be a trusted adviser for you.
Contact Scott today.