July 2015
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The Transfer of Information

From one place to another…

Steven R Calabrese
Steven R. Calabrese

Control Engineering Corp.

Contributing Editor


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Reliable Controls

The title of this column doesn’t give any real insight to the topic. Could be about anything, really. Specifically, what this column is about, is the process of taking off and estimating the costs of the Direct Digital Controls portion of a typical plans & specifications (plan/spec) construction project. The transfer of information, as it were, is the process of getting everything relevant from the plans and specs, from a cost standpoint, to a structured framework, i.e., to a scope/proposal and cost estimate.

So many ways to do this, and everyone has their own process. Mine is no different than anyone else’s, as far as the end-result goes. However reaching that point is the subject of this column, illustrating one way of getting from here to there: my way! See how yours compares…hopefully you take away some tips from this column. I may be a little “old school”, but I do have a good system in place (at least for me!).

Print out Relevant Plans and Specification Sections

The first step toward the ultimate goal. Some may like to do this strictly paperless, but I like to get the drawings printed out and highlight everything I consider to be relevant (equipment tags, equipment, stat and sensor locations, pertinent notes, etc.). We have a large format printer in our office, so everything I need gets printed out 24” x 36”. For the specs, I also print these, double-sided, and only what I need. In other words, not the entire 1,200-page Project Manual! As with the plans, I highlight what I deem to be important to my cause.

Study Said Plans and Specs

This comes in the form of highlighting the plans, almost as if through osmosis. After the initial once-through, I’ll page through the plans and specs again, this time with a finer level of concentration, just to make sure that I didn’t miss anything important the first time through.

Take Notes

Seems like physical note-taking is kind of a lost art. Nowadays I’m more inclined to just start typing away on my laptop. I still take pen to paper though, especially on a large project. I may start a couple of different lists of items, one for clarification items, one for special circumstances, etc. The purpose is to get things down on paper quickly, without having to change gears or multi-task too much on the computer. The notepad becomes a catch-all for those “miscellaneous” items.

Structure the Framework of the Proposal and Estimate

At this point in the process, I’m ready to pull a template for both my scope letter (proposal) and my take-off (estimate). The transfer of information is, in the end, from the plans and specifications to the proposal and estimate. I like to get these documents structured, earlier than later in the process, such that I can start populating the forms in a general sense.

Account for All Highlighted Items

As I begin to generate the scope document, I start checking off items on the plans and specs as I account for them. The transfer of information continues, as I fill out the scope and red mark items that I’ve highlighted. In a literal sense, I put a red ink dot against every item that I account for, picking it up either in the proposal or in the estimate. Anything left not red marked will be picked up at the end of the overall process.

Note Uncertainties and Clarification

So those items that I was catching “on the fly” using pen and paper, will likely get picked up here. There will always be things that need to be clarified: uncertainties, inconsistencies, missing information, etc. I take these en masse, and include them in my scope, at the end, under the heading “Clarification”. I need to account for everything in this transfer of information, and that means errors and omissions within the plans and specs, inconsistencies between the plans and specs, and everything else that isn’t completely crystal clear from the contract documents.

Final Once-over of the Plans and Specs

Reliable Controls Getting to the finish line! By this point I’ve developed my proposal and estimate to the 90 percent mark. I have a solid understanding of the project, and the transfer of information is almost complete. Time to go back through the plans and specifications one more time, to pick up anything I’ve missed. Perhaps something highlighted that I haven’t red-marked yet. Or maybe I catch something that I didn’t notice the first or second (or third) time through. Call it Peace of Mind. Call it Due Diligence. Whatever you want to call it, it’s the final step in the process. It has to be. Whether it takes one time through or several, it’s the last step. Any relevant information not accounted for after this becomes a “missed item” down the road. Something that could cause a little discomfort, or a lot of pain! Figuratively speaking, of course.

All Relevant Information Transferred!

The transfer of information from one place to another is something we all do, whether in our careers or in our personal lives. It is an important skill, and one that maybe takes some time to develop. Whether it’s transferring information from written notes from a job site visit to a more formal typewritten summary, or transferring important dates to your personal calendar, the same rules apply. Those rules and methods may vary from person to person, but we all have our ways of getting it done. Hopefully this column has helped, even to prompt a “rethink” of how you’re doing it!

Tip of the Month: In this digital age, seems like everyone is doing things with their smartphones. From scheduling to note-taking. It’s all good, but what happens when your battery is almost dead? While carrying a pen and notepad may seem old-fashioned, when the battery is low you may find yourself forced to use your cellphone only for communication (talk/text/email). You can always find something to write on…doesn’t hurt to always carry something to write with!

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