Why the Importance?

I touched on project document control in a previous blog. This article drills down on that topic in the area of contractually required documentation (documentation deliverables).

Documentation deliverables are an integral part of most equipment or service projects. The documentation requirements are in the contract or PO under various names such as:

  • SDL – Supplier Documents List
  • SDRL – Supplier Data Requirements List
  • SDRR – Supplier Documents Requirements Register
  • SDR – Supplier Documents Register
  • SMDR – Supplier Master Data Register
  • SMDL – Supplier Master Documents List

The Supplier’s documentation deliverables typically include specifications, drawings, procedures, calculations, reports, user manuals, software code, fabrication and metallurgical records, test and inspection records, 3rd party certifications and other documentation the Purchaser requires. The project specifications detail every aspect of documentation deliverables such as subject matter, content, format, creation/submission schedule and approval. In addition, projects require a final compilation or data book of what is consider critical documentation. These final data books are compiled once all document approvals are obtained, products manufactured, services rendered, installation and commissioning done, as-built documentation prepared and final acceptance given.

Documentation deliverables are wide ranging in topic and fraught with complexity. The front-end project risk analysis produces a risk ranking for documentation deliverables, and the document list and specifications developed become, in effect, risk mitigation tools for the equipment or services purchaser.

Often, documentation deliverables are line items of the project contract or PO and assigned a noticeable portion of the contract value. Purchaser’s contracts sometimes have a “retention clause”. This is a provision that allows the purchaser to withhold a portion of the contract price until project deliverables (equipment and/or documentation) meet predetermined milestones and/or specifications.

For a client having invoice payment issues, I discovered a 25% retention clause in the PO for undelivered documentation. For their 7-digit capital equipment order, the 25% retention helped management prioritize documentation deliverables.

I have also seen “liquidated damages” clauses in contracts imposing a penalty for late submittal of documentation.

Resource Requirements

Estimating document labor requirements should include consultation with a qualified document development specialist. Failure to do so often results in incorrect labor budget allotments for the document development effort. From a cost perspective, this oversight becomes painful during project execution.

Further, a lack of understanding of the required documentation development resources contributes to procrastination in the execution process and often manifest itself in the form of schedule impacts, cost overruns and increases in throughput time.

The biggest documentation failures and the cost overruns I have seen are a result of improper understanding of the required resources at the proposal stage.

Due to the wide range of subject matter, document development resources are broad. Many disciplines of resource personnel are involved and can include:

  • Management
  • Risk
  • Regulatory
  • Legal
  • Mechanical
  • Structural
  • Metallurgical
  • Electrical
  • Piping
  • Software
  • HSSE
  • Environmental
  • Procurement
  • Quality Assurance
  • Others…

Some companies use specialized on-demand resources embedded in project teams to assist subject matter experts (SMEs) in document development. Because the team approach typically prevails over individual efforts, many company owners I deal with would rather see their SMEs focus their field of expertise on mission critical activities in areas other than creating documents. As compared to in-house document support, SMEs teamed with experienced on-demand document development resources results in improved document throughput time, consistent quality, and less management and overhead cost.

Process Control

In companies whose clients order custom products or services on a project basis, the project management group normally manages project document development. Where commodities are produced, documentation deliverables are part of the production process. Whether in a project or production environment, management of documentation develop requires a thorough understanding of the resources required and the execution variables.

There are time and cost savings in using standardized document templates and common phraseology in developing documentation. Copying existing content and changing variables or graphics is easier than developing content from scratch. This approach promotes consistency and quality documentation.

The project document list or production order defines not only the documents required but also submission timing. This list/delivery schedule is the basis for planning documentation deliverables, and the resources required, over the project lifecycle.

Monitor the documentation deliverable revision process carefully. Ensure your client contract places “time is of the essence” priority on their and your revision process. To keep revisions at a minimum, ensure your contract states that multi-discipline reviews are required. A delay tactic I have seen used in BFE (Builder Furnished Equipment) contracts is single-discipline reviews by the purchaser, then you revise/resubmit and they get another discipline to review. This will delay the job and cost the equipment manufacturer more labor. If this happens, have your contract manager push back on this delay tactic.

At the bid phase, the impact of “retention and liquidated damages” clauses must be considered. At this time, SMEs and other resource requirements become a critical commercial factor to consider in the planning and proposal process.

Documentation deliverables are top down driven. Your documentation development execution plan will have challenges if not actively supported by company management.

Key Points

The following are key points of this article.

  • Understand the detailed process of documentation development
  • Understand documentation resource requirements
  • Understand contract or PO specifications and commercial terms related to documentation
  • Incorporate these “understandings” into your cost proposal
  • Develop an execution plan for documentation development – get management support for it
  • Actively manage the execution plan
  • Use support resources to help SMEs create documentation, whether in-house or on-demand

Author’s Note

This article is informational in nature and the points expressed are from the author’s business experience. For more information about the topics discussed in this article or you need support or guidance with documentation deliverables, document control and related process development, contact the author at [email protected].