Continuous Updating of Specifications vs. Quarterly Updates: Why We Changed 

BSD adopted continuous updating of SpecLink-E (SLE) construction specifications to manage change more effectively and facilitate continuous improvement of our specifications. The need for this has never been more evident than in the world of construction as we begin this economic recovery. The one constant in our business is change.

The traditional method of maintaining master guide specifications for many years has been to issue quarterly updates. Other master guide specification suppliers still adhere to this outdated approach. The challenge with writing or updating a master guide specification is deciding when you are ‘finished.’ The fact is you are never truly finished. Technology, products, processes and building construction are constantly changing. Many veteran specification writers have been caught in the paralysis of analysis when writing a master guide specification. Issue dates slip for months and even years as sections are rewritten and reviewed repeatedly. In some cases guide specifications are out of date by the time the update is actually issued. Continuous updating allows us to make updates to our specifications while still performing more significant overhauls for new products, product types and construction processes. It gives SLE users the benefits of these changes as we make them rather than requiring them to wait for a quarterly release that quite often would run behind schedule. It also allows us to react quickly when necessary to global changes such as sustainability and code legislation. For instance, updating a reference standard can be done to all relevant sections without being added to or interfering with other work.

Continuous updating gives us the ability to update the SLE specification library whenever we need to. Whether an error is caught or a major update is required, we can, if necessary, circumvent our standard operational procedures and within minutes, have the correction in the ‘street’ version available for customers. Our users do not need to wait until the next quarterly release. I don’t know of any other master guide specification supplier that can make that claim. We do not often circumvent our own procedures but the ability is there when needed. SLE users have the option to accept updates whenever and how often they wish. If our users wish to plow through updates on a quarterly basis they can, or they can do so on a daily basis if they want to keep their master data and office masters as current as possible. Users can set their own time interval to receive updates.

Manufacturer and product updates are in front of our users once quality checks are completed. There are well over a thousand referenced standards that are constantly being updated by their respective organizations. So far this year, at the time this was written, we have reviewed and updated specifications to 185 reference standards. We currently have 69 others in process and another 71 standards have been identified and are being addressed.  This list updates daily. When a reference standard is updated in SLE the update is global – and is not on a per section basis as it is with other master guide specifications. The standard is reviewed along with each section affected to be sure all relevant changes are made. We do not have one section updated to a particular reference standard while another may be years behind.

Input for updates come to us from SLE user input (emails, phone calls, and website inquiries) manufacturers, trade organizations, and our own day-to-day operations and research. Reference standards are researched daily and continuously reviewed and evaluated. Rather than save all of these bits of information in folders, on whiteboards, sticky notes, emails etc. by numerous individuals, they are entered into a centralized database accessible by the entire production staff. These items no longer get lost. Special attention is given to our user input. We can react more quickly to their needs. Each item in effect becomes a project or ‘unit of work’ that needs to be addressed and all affected sections are identified. These units of work can be executed individually or incorporated into a larger body of work. Everyone responsible for production is able to enter these items into the database regardless of whether or not it is their area of responsibility. In this manner, nothing gets lost in the shuffle once it is decided that it is a necessary update. Every unit of work goes through at least one quality check before being published. The production activity is reviewed and monitored and prioritized daily.

This change in procedure has not been without a few challenges. Old habits are hard to break. It has required modifications in virtually all aspects of the way we maintain specifications and the software itself. That being said though, the changes have all been for the better.

Productivity has significantly increased. Our scope of content is broadening. The quality of our product and software is better than ever. No member of the production staff is ever at a loss for something to do. When a writer’s workload gets light there are always projects needing a quality check, or reference standards to review. People cross over lines of responsibility to help each other out. Continuous updating has required us to get out of our cubicles and work together more cooperatively as a team. Our product quality improvement has not gone unnoticed by our customers.

BSD is committed to continuous and neverending improvement of our products. Meeting this challenge head on means we are ‘walking the talk’ and I for one am proud to have played a small part in it.