What is a Shop Drawing & Why Do We Need Them?

What are shop drawings, what’s in them, why are they needed, and how do shop drawings benefit your construction project.

Oct 21, 2021

Shop drawings are used to illustrate how a contractor will meet the project’s design intent, facilitate compliance, and provide essential diagrams, schedules, and other data to be used throughout the build. As such, they’re an integral part of the construction process. 

Are you making the best possible use of your shop drawings?

In this post, you’ll learn what shop drawings are, what’s in them, why they’re needed, and how shop drawings benefit your construction project. You’ll also find helpful tips to get the greatest value from your shop drawings while streamlining your workflow, reducing costly errors, and improving collaboration between all parties.

What are Shop Drawings?

Shop drawings might also be referred to as technical drawings or fabrication drawings by some. These are the drawings that will guide the production of all the project's built elements – structural steel, pre-cast concrete, windows, elevators, millwork, and more.

What’s in a Shop Drawing?

Shop drawings provide the specifications, measurements, and instructions needed to ensure that each design component fits as intended in the design as a whole. In construction, they can include; Schedules, Diagrams, Illustrations & drawings, Brochures, and Sample submittals.

Shop drawings might also include different views – for example:

  1. Section view: phases of the construction process and how elements come together.

  2. Detail view: specific areas of the design, highlighting small but key details. 

  3. Elevation view: looking at it straight on.

Why Do We Need Shop Drawings?

Shop drawings provide the technical documentation required to communicate how the project components requested by the designer and their team will actually be fabricated, assembled, and installed. They fuel a shared vision that has proven essential for bringing complex construction projects together. 

Shop Drawing Benefits

The benefits of shop drawings are many and include reduced project costs, enhanced productivity, and improvements to the delivery schedule. They are critical collaboration tools that:

  • Communicate the design vision and intent.

  • Identify the materials required to execute.

  • Facilitate collaboration between all parties throughout the build.

  • Build on the manufacturer or contractor’s documents with the rich detail and specifications required to bring the concept to fruition.

Tips for Shop Drawings Success

Shop drawing submissions typically ramp up at project kickoff and slow down as construction progresses. Unlike contractor drawings, they remain unchanged throughout. They depict the building’s original intended design and act as a single source of truth for all parties, reducing misunderstandings and mistakes during the build.

Here are some tips to help you get the greatest value from and make the best use of your shop drawings:

Tip 1 - Finalize the vision before creating shop drawings.

Project specifications should clearly outline which shop drawings are required to be submitted to consultants for review. Shop drawings must be based on the final outcomes of decisions made in the process of reviewing the drawings, contracts, and other specifications provided by the designers. 

You will not go back and change your shop drawings afterward, so ensure that all information and requests are included prior to assigning them out for preparation.

Tip 2 - Ensure that shop drawings fulfill their intended purpose.

Shop drawings should reflect the site conditions and outline how those conditions might vary from the contract documents. This is an essential check to ensure that what is manufactured off-site or constructed onsite meets the design intent outlined in the contract documents and that the project requirements have been understood by the general contractor and trades.

Shop drawings must always be reviewed by the contractor before they are submitted to the consultants. This eliminates time wasted when contractors review drawings that are destined for immediate rejection.

Further, shop drawings that are simply direct copies of the consultant drawings should be rejected. This demonstrates that the subcontractor has not thoroughly thought through how their product or system fits into the overall design and construction. Consultants want to see that the subcontractor/trades understand the project and design intent.

Tip 3 - Automate the process of shop drawing review.

Ah, the joys of reviewing shop drawings. Sending shop drawing files around for review and revision requires that you ensure no two people are working on a different version at the same time. Often, you’ll have to chase after people to get the drawings back in time. Considering you may be dealing with hundreds of shop drawings in a single project, this can become a huge time-suck. 

Automating shop drawings review inside an integrated construction management platform:

  • Gets your drawings out of crowded email inboxes, 

  • Reduces human error, 

  • Eliminates time wasted uploading and downloading files,

  • Provides real-time updates and permissions-based access to the most recent version of the file.

Shop drawings inside a large package or requiring a high level of coordination to ensure a full and complete review can take multiple days and people to review them. Coordinating this manually is tedious and time-consuming. Automation makes clear where the document is in review, who is responsible for it at any given time, and which version each person should be looking at.

Want to learn more? Reach out to a construction management expert at Part3 and let’s explore ways to simplify and improve your project management processes. Sign up for a demo today!