10 February 2023

In our recent webinar Understanding the specification process: a specifier’s perspective, Lee Jones (NBS’ Head of Manufacturer Solutions) was joined by specification expert Craig Brown from consultancy SpecStudio.

The webinar covered everything that product manufacturers and suppliers need to know about the specification process, how to build relationships with specifiers and get their products included in the final build with the help of NBS platforms.

For a number of years, the RIBA Plan of Work has been the de facto project map for any construction project. It was originally developed for the architectural community, but has since been adopted by the whole industry. Lee and Craig used the RIBA Plan of Work to outline the specification process for both specifiers and manufacturers.

Stage 0 – ‘Strategic Definition’/ Stage 1 – ‘Preparation and Briefing’ 

At this early stage of a project, it can be difficult for manufacturers to engage with specifiers – but you can still catch their attention through a range of tactics.

Specifiers at these initial stages tend to be focused on defining the project’s outcomes and feasibility with their client, as well as preparing the relevant legal collateral. It’s still a bit early for them to be thinking about including products.

As a manufacturer, your aim at these first two stages of the project should be to make your brand as memorable and easy to find as possible for the specifier. You could do this through hosting or attending industry events, webinars, delivering CPD, using social media, improving your website’s SEO and making sure that it’s easy for specifiers to browse.

Our NBS Partner Marketing services could also be useful to you at this stage. The services enable you to reach our network of thousands of specifiers through a range of highly targeted, multichannel options such as dedicated emails, sponsored webinars and social media posts.

Stage 2 – ‘Concept Design’

The specifier will be defining the ‘how to’ of the project at this stage. This means that they’ll be exploring the different design options, but not much product information will be required here.

For manufacturers, content and social proof tools can be really useful at this point, especially strong case studies that showcase your products in use.

Other information that the specifier could be looking for at this stage might include visual requirements, performance requirements, and any sustainability credentials or third-party certifications that your product may have obtained. From a visual perspective, this could include imagery from case studies, but may also extend to 3D models (BIM objects) if your products are key to the aesthetic design intent.

Stage 3 – ‘Spatial Coordination’

At this stage, the specification will start to become more prescriptive. The amount of information in the specification increases, and the specifier will be reliant on data being provided by the product manufacturers.

The earlier that you can engage with specifiers the better – but from this stage onwards it’s crucial, as the key decision-makers will be actively assessing your product’s suitability for the project.

Specifiers will be looking for more information on installation, as well as samples and mock-ups. The BIM model is being designed at this stage, and the product information will need to be fully aligned. You need to make sure that your product data is clear, concise, unambiguous and well structured.

If you join our manufacturer product platform NBS Source, we’ll structure your data, and author your digital objects so that specifiers can digitally drop them straight into their specifications and models.

Stage 4 – ‘Technical Design’

This is the stage in the specification process which a lot of manufacturers will see as the sweet spot for engaging with specifiers, but as we’ve covered so far, this can be done earlier on.

The technical design stage is the point at which the final design and written specification will be produced. This is the final cut-off point for getting into the project specification.

Craig said: "In the UK, the final specification is normally either in CAWS or Uniclass  format. Manufacturers need to make sure that they can provide information in both formats to give [themselves] the best possible chance to be specified."

"Some manufacturers have their data NBS Source and also have a subscription to specification-writing platform NBS Chorus so that they can work with specifiers directly in the specification. That’s an absolute game changer for improving efficiency because it means that manufacturers are able to share their expert knowledge with specifiers."

If your product is not in the specification at this stage then it will be tough to get it in for the final procurement.

Stage 5 – ‘Manufacturing and Construction’

Once Stage 4 is complete, it can be easy for manufacturers to forget about the project once their product has been included in the final specification. At Stage 5, the project is now underway on site, and manufacturers need to make sure that the specification results in a sale.

Being in the specification is the best way to ensure that your product makes it into the build – so it’s important to form a strong relationship with specifiers, but it’s equally important that you understand who will be conducting procurement. One way of doing this is by making use of NBS’ integration with our sister company Glenigan.

This integration means that we share a two-way stream of data between the platforms, meaning that you can access even more detailed project data via Glenigan, from project status to details of who is responsible for the various packages.

Stage 6 – ‘Handover’

Once the building’s finished and the project moves into handover, it is important to be aware of new regulations under the Building Safety Act, which places an onus on the specification being continually updated for safety-critical buildings.

This year, ‘Stage Gates’ 2 and 3 will be introduced. Stage Gate 2 is a process where the building regulator has to assess the design specification and design model, so your information is going to become paramount in that process. That has to happen before the project will be allowed to move into the construction stage. At the end of the construction stage, before the building can be handed over, another set of data will also have to be assessed by the regulator. Hosting your product data digitally is the best way to make it easily accessible and aligned with principles of the golden thread of information.

Stage 7 – ‘Use’

Once you’ve formed a strong relationship with a client, it’s really important that the relationship is maintained to generate repeat business on their projects in the future.

Joining the RIBA CPD Providers Network is a good way of engaging (or re-engaging) with specifiers and educating them about your products ahead of their next project.

Furthermore, the data from within the NBS platforms can then be used by facilities managers for maintenance, and eventually refurbishment or replacement when required – future-proofing your aftersales services.


The specification process has many facets. Manufacturers must consider their range of marketing tactics, and make sure that they’re engaging with specifiers throughout the project timeline.

It’s essential that manufacturers make it easy as possible for specifiers to find their products, by making their website easily accessible and using platforms like NBS Source, which allows specifiers to add a product to the specification at the click of a button.

NBS’ integration with Glenigan makes it easier than ever before for manufacturers to join the dots from the early stages of the specification process, all the way through to procurement. It’s also essential that manufacturers maintain their relationships with specifiers following a project, in order to help ensure repeat business in the future.  

Miss the webinar? You can watch it on demand here.

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