“I want to write more specs.” Said no-one ever.

If, like me, you’ve spent any amount of time in the cost engineering field, you will at some point have fallen victim to cost overruns, scheduling delays and inventory bottlenecks – complete with the frustrating experience of the construction process grinding to a halt. It happens.

Oftentimes the issues are quite simply unforeseeable, but more often than we may be prepared to admit – the issues could have been mitigated, or even prevented entirely.

Let’s face it, spec’ing a project of any size or complexity is hard work. Designing a spec that strikes the optimum balance between cost, quality and time can be tricky. It takes a lot of time, effort and practice. For this reason, many engineers (and I include myself) choose to stick to what we know when it comes to spec’ing in. We shoot for the same, single-product, choices that we know will do the job well. The same established brands that we’re familiar with, the same products and assemblies that we know will fit the brief.

This approach makes sense, we’re playing it safe – but this approach to spec’ing in can often be attributed to some of the more “preventable” issues we frequently encounter down the line. There is considerable merit in giving our manufacturers, project managers, and engineers the opportunity to be more agile and reactive in the manufacturing and construction process – by building in an additional level of contingency during the spec’ing process.

For as long as I can remember, I have advocated spec’ing in not just the old faithful, trusty brands like Belden or 3M, but also equivalent products from other manufacturers. Global cable and wire manufacturing standards have improved dramatically over the last decade, to a point where functionally equivalent products are as now as high quality (if not better) than their branded counterparts, and available at a fraction of the cost.

For example, you may spec in popular mil-spec heat shrinkable tubing from the multinational conglomerate 3M, say the FP-301. But what happens when our teams encounter inventory issues, or experience unplanned price rises. We have given them no-where to go, without waiting for inventory or accepting price hikes. You may be surprised to learn that the Dunbar 1635F, Raychem RNF-100, or Sumitomo SM12 are all functionally equivalent to the 3M product, and available for a fraction of the cost!

Spec’ing an additional level of detail gives our team options, increasing available inventory whilst simultaneously keeping costs under control and preventing bottlenecks in the construction process.

Spec’ing a project is a time consuming and arduous exercise at the best of times, without the added complication of discovering alternative products and verifying they are technically up to the task. This is where reaching out to experienced and credible third parties can really pay off. Companies with no brand bias, like here at WAVE, have experts on hand to source alternative products and provide reliable advice. Let’s face it, the opportunity to talk about this stuff with someone who understands your world and what you’re going through – can be somewhat refreshing.

Investing just a little extra time identifying assembly alternatives can yield big savings, in both time and money, and prevent unnecessary headaches further down the line. By giving our engineering personnel the ability to flex requirements as the situation demands, we can better manage the manufacturing process and keep the wheels in motion.

That is, until the next unforeseen problem comes screeching around the corner.

But hey, happy spec’ing.