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Design and Specification  |  Executives  |  Technical

Become part of the specification

11 February 2021 | By Lee Jones

Lee Jones, Head of Manufacturer Solutions at NBS, explains how as manufacturers you can work directly with specifiers on project specifications by offering spec-writing services.

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It is common knowledge that many construction product manufacturers obtain orders through the specification route. The view is to get the product in the spec, and get the order at the procurement stage. In an attempt to get into the spec, manufacturers go down many different avenues. These include listing products on product platforms such as NBS Source; they may create digital (BIM) objects, push hard promotions to the art and design community, host a stand at a trade show… the list is almost endless. Some avenues work better than others, but one standout option is when a manufacturer offers to write their part of the spec for the specifier. Manufacturers provide this in a variety of routes. Some manufacturers spend vast amounts of money on developing bespoke specification-writing tools that are front-facing on their website. These often then turn out to be mainly used by their own sales teams and not the actual specifiers. Others may offer a written spec as a word document.

The reason for the lead specifier allowing a manufacturer to write part of a spec is twofold. Firstly, writing the specific part of the specification that involves the manufacturer's products ensures that the manufacturer, as the expert in that field, has direct input – drastically reducing the scope for errors, or obsolete products and systems being specified. Secondly, it saves the specifier a heck of a lot of time in a process where they need to consider thousands of components and systems in a single design. The manufacturer then gains spec. Win-win on both counts!

NBS has been at the core of the building specification process for the past half a century. Founded in 1970 evolving from binders with clause templates to floppy discs in the '80s, CD Rom in the '90s and then downloadable software in the ‘noughties’), NBS is the go-to format for specifications written in the UK – and many around the world.

NBS Chorus – our latest 'cloud-based' specification platform – has been a game changer for specifiers. It allows specifications to be written in Uniclass 2015 as recommended by the BS EN ISO 19650 standard for BIM objects, as well as CAWS (NBS Building). In today's climate and particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic forcing most design offices to work from home; NBS Chorus has been a saviour to their daily routine. So much so, compared to the end of 2019, NBS Chorus usage went up by 635% in 2020 and saw an increase of 301% in terms of specifications written. The number of manufacturer products specified has also increased in line with this. 

What does 'cloud-based' mean and why does it make life easier?

Well, first off, there's nothing to download or install on a computer as everything is online; this is what is meant by 'in the cloud'. You visit the NBS Chorus webpage, log in and off you go! No nightmare IT headaches anymore. Being set up in this way also means that it's not locked down to any particular device. Providing that there is an internet connection, you could use Chorus on your PC, a Mac, a tablet, or even your phone! Anywhere, any time: in the office, on the train, in your living room, even in your favourite coffee shop, 24/7.

The fact that it's also easy to use on all devices has seen some astonishing adoption rates; Christian Baker-Smith of Access 360 Ltd noted in a recent webinar with NBS 'Collaborative Specification Writing' that it took around an hour to train and get their sales team generating specs to a high quality.

NBS displayed on iPhone, iPad and iMac

NBS Chorus and the specifier 

Almost half a million specifiers use NBS. Many of these are architects (including the majority of the AJ100). However, many are also contractors or engineers and from other disciplines, with the likes of AECOM, Atkins and Wilmott Dixon (to name but a few) being NBS users. If it needs to be specified, it is a safe bet that NBS tools have been involved at some stage. NBS Chorus is maintained by a team of 50+ in-house experts, made up of architects, engineers and other industry professionals. The team is continually monitoring the industry, standards and associated implications, ensuring that specification clauses and data are always up-to-date. This solution removes a massive headache for the specifier by ensuring that their backs are covered by a trusted organization.

How NBS Chorus can help you as the manufacturer

One of the unique parts of NBS Chorus is its new innovative collaboration function, which allows the specifier to invite others into the spec to write their specific section: such as a facades specialist in the design firm, a subcontractor, or even you (the manufacturer). The collaboration functionality within Chorus is already proving successful for many manufacturers. 

“The direct invitation into the project from Chris at Franklin Ellis Architects was a great leap forward and enables us to get the spec right first time. I had no previous Chorus experience, but with only a little bit of training I was able to start using the platform straight away. What I like about the Chorus platform is that we are able to add more relevant information in the execution clauses.”

Andy Baggott, Dulux Trade

If you as a manufacturer already provide a spec-writing service, this may not sound that ‘out of the box’. However, there are a few things that you need to consider. Firstly, suppose that you provide part of a specification in Word or PDF format; the specifier then has to manually copy that part into the official specification, which is likely to be in NBS software. This process is monotonous and again increases risk. If the manufacturer has access to Chorus to begin with then their part of the spec can be written in the correct format, and imported (copied and pasted) into the full spec when ready. Secondly, if the manufacturer is invited into Chorus to write the spec directly in that project, it saves even more time and strengthens the relationship with a future project partner! Other clear benefits also lie in the ‘Masters' functionality and execution clauses within NBS Chorus. These functions allow the manufacturer to build set specs where they may, for example, provide systems to specific building types regularly (the healthcare sector or schools, for example). This gives you a set template to use or edit time and time again. Execution clauses then allow you to document how products should be installed or applied, and to the appropriate level of quality and workmanship.

Julie Taite from PPG Architectural Coatings explains the benefits of using Chorus for them:

“Easily building up a masters suite of over 90 clauses in Chorus allows us to produce specific bespoke specifications for each individual project with ease...we have architects that come back to us now time and time again”

This is down to the continually maintained clauses by NBS and the Masters functionality it offers.

NBS being displayed within a web browser

Is there any risk? 

When a manufacturer is invited to write their part of the spec, it's within a controlled 'safe' environment. The primary specifier can control which parts of the full spec someone outside of their organization can see and edit. Also, once the manufacturer has completed their part of the spec, it is still in that safe environment. It only gets imported into the full spec once the primary specifier has checked it and decided that they want to import it. It couldn't be easier. In an interview with Access 360 Ltd this de-risking was highlighted as a clear benefit: 

“The number of revisions we have to make (to larger projects) I’ve lost count of and the ability to do this easily without having to go back and forth is invaluable, it must save me a week's worth of work (on each project) that I no longer have to do”

Christian Baker-Smith, Access 360 Ltd

How to get involved 

NBS Source powers NBS Chorus. As a manufacturer, if your materials, products or systems are on NBS Source then they will have already been listed against the correct template clauses for specifiers to use. You as the manufacturer then have the option to also subscribe to NBS Chorus, where your team can then pull your products together into a tailored specification for your clients. It's so simple to use; within a few hours you will be up and running, and NBS' team of experts is always on hand to point you in the right direction. NBS Chorus is available as a subscription service. It provides a very cost-effective and more practical approach to writing specifications than bespoke solutions that still only output to Word or PDF format.

Summary

  • Get your products found and specified with NBS Source and NBS Chorus 
  •  Be part of the specification with NBS Chorus
  •  Improve the efficiency of your sales team
  • Collaborate with the specifier
  • Comply with CAWS and Uniclass 2015 (a must for BIM projects)
  • Avoid costly errors and expensive development through bespoke platforms

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