At MSUITE, we know contractors are under substantial pressure to hit accelerated schedules, deliver parts on time, and always searching for ways to speed up the rapid sheet metal fabrication timeline. Many of our sheet metal fabrication shop customers have implemented time-saving initiatives to expedite fabrication projects—one of the easiest is to improve the quality of architectural drawings and design notes.
Follow these best practices next time you review your sheet metal fabrication drawings and help your team turn the project around quickly:
1. Include and list part numbers, not only the part name.
Using part names is a good start, but it’s also essential to include part numbers. With several projects concurrently running, a fabrication shop terminology can mean different things to different individuals. Listing a part number in addition to the description helps prevent confusion. Consider writing the name of the part in the “part description” section and list actual digits (and letters) in the “part number” section.
2. Specify the exact material to be used.
Custom metal fabrication requires particular materials, which can vary depending on how a project is engineered. For example, galvanized, copper, stainless steel, corrugated, and brass each meet specific design requirements. A simple way to eliminate confusion and source the proper material is to identify the ideal list of materials, including the manufacturer and corresponding material data sheet. This allows your BIM or CAD designer to clarify which material should be used to fabricate each part.
3. Provide details for revision control.
Whenever you need a revision, whether it’s simply a wording adjustment or a critical geometry change, make a habit of documenting it. If revisions aren’t flagged, sheet metal fabrication shops can miss essential design changes, which frustrates customers and costs time and money.
Work with your team to develop a standard “shop protocol” for documenting design changes. For example, you might designate the title block, the revision block, or both as standard locations for making notes. If you write revisions in multiple places, double-check that the information is identical in each space. Consistent documentation minimizes back and forth and helps your team expedite your project.
4. Specify cosmetic requirements as needed.
Design requirements are unique to each project, and the cosmetic finish can be critical. As a fabricator, you know this makes details like grain direction important. This is most common for copper, brass, and stainless-steel materials, so flagging these as follow-up points can help avoid confusion. Another step is to indicate the grain direction within the description for each part and ensure that your team notes the grain orientation on the printed label. Begin by explaining that you will default to the industry standard of going left to right across the print and highlighting the preferred grain direction together.
5. Provide powder coat instructions.
Similar to cosmetic finish, powder coasting or anodizing parts requires specific direction from your customers. First, specify any coating within your drawing and then clarify the color, finish, or other details. This will help ensure that you get exactly what they want. Additionally, be sure to distinguish between matte, textured, smooth, gloss, and semi-gloss finishes. Again, the emphasis is on training your estimating and project management teams to clarify details with the customer and take the guesswork out of the fabrication process on the shop floor.
Don’t shortcut the process.
So what happens if you skip some of these steps? In the worst-case scenario, your shop will deliver a fabricated part that fails to meet the customer’s requirements. This is a threefold problem. One, the customer isn’t happy; two, your shop floor isn’t satisfied because they have to rework the project; and three, you lose money on the work.
We can’t speak for all sheet metal fabricators. Still, those who put policies in place to solidify the quality of customer drawings save a lot of time, money, and headache from incomplete communication between the customer and the shop floor. The essential elements are revision control, fit, finish, and part labeling. In addition, estimators and Project Managers need to consider the intake process when working with customers carefully. It’s also a best practice to have the shop Foreman review plans for clarification before commencing work.