What Are Submittals?

The term ‘submittals’ has been used by the construction industry since the early 1800’s, however, the term has grown in popularity throughout the last Century. As the scale of construction projects grew over the years, the term became more relevant, as the industry needed a word to describe document-centric communications between architects, engineers, fabricators, vendors, and contractors. Generally, the word submittal is synonymous with submission, as it describes documents that can be submitted for decisions to be made by others.

Submittals, in the construction industry, are drawings and data required by engineers and architects to verify the appropriate components of a building to be installed. Architects and engineers need to ensure every detail in the drawings and specifications are correct before initiating a project, as there are numerous problems that can arise from inaccuracies. Additionally, engineers must also ensure all the required quantities are met by fabricators so that building materials are available throughout the construction phase.

Submittals are often created by project managers or contractors seeking information about specific items planned for fabrication or installation. And, similar to the Request for Information (RFI), a submittal can be used to clarify details or fill gaps in information needed to complete a project step.  

Why Are Submittals Important?

The submittal review process provides checks and balances during the construction phase of a project. Given the cost and time it takes to complete a construction project, there is little room for error, and therefore every document should be reviewed and verified before being sent back to the subcontractor or vendor.

Submittals are often used for quality control, and help project owners understand what they’re getting themselves into. When taking on new construction projects, owners incur significant risk, since these projects require a large amount of capital and subject owners to a new set of liabilities. To better mitigate much of the risks and liabilities, the owners and construction participants use a formal process of communicating and of transferring needed documents and drawings.

Streamlining Submittals

The submittal process is often tedious and time-consuming, if not properly managed. It can be, however, improved through the use of EDMS software that has submittal management functionality. Document management systems (software) with submittal capabilities streamline the submittal process by providing a collaboration site for project members to review, comment, and make changes to a submittal drawing or document. Engineers, architects, and contractors can access these systems remotely if they are using a Cloud-based system, which enables them to send and revise submittals from various locations, including directly from the worksite or production floor.

ImageSite and Engine-Box (the Cloud version of ImageSite) are robust engineering workflow and document management systems providing users with a comprehensive suite of capabilities from workflow management to RFI/Submittal management. These optional modules ensure all project members have a single source of truth when managing the plethora of drawings and documents used to facilitate complex engineering and construction projects.

While the systems can be used horizontally across all engineering-based industries, they are particularly useful for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) companies, as the submittals capability ensures drawings and specifications are accurate and dealt with promptly. These systems further expedite the process by sending notifications both internally and externally (via email) to all required parties.

These types of systems allow owners to designate submittal managers, who serve as administrators for the submittal review process. This ensures the accuracy of submittal changes per project goals in addition to other requirements outlined by the owners and project managers. The submittal module included in these systems also contains a description of the submittal, who the submittal is assigned to, and all the deadlines associated with the submittal. It also enables the submittal creator to create a list of contacts (system users) who should receive notifications and notices of upcoming deadlines.

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