49 Specification writing

Specification writing

The contents of a specification will vary according to whether the specification is written from the standpoint of the user, designer, manufacturer or seller. The specification will also vary according to the material or item concerned. For a simple item, the specification may be a brief description, while in the case of a complicated assembly it may be a comprehensive document that perhaps runs to many pages. The following order of presentation for a specification relating to a product, process or service is adapted from BS7373 (now BS7373 2:2001):

1.  Identification title, designation, number, authority.

2.  Issue number publication history and state of issue, earlier related specifications.

3.  Contents list guide to layout.

4.  Foreword the reasons for writing the specification.

5.  Introduction description of the content in general and technical aspects of objectives.

6.  Scope range of objectives/content.

7.  Definitions terms used with meanings special to the text.

8.  Requirements/guidance/methods/elements the main body of the specification.

9.  Index cross-references.

10. References to national or international standards or other internal company specifications.

The ‘procurement specification’ is made up of different elements as illustrated in Figure 3.1.


Figure 3.1  The procurement specification

 

 

The following principles should be observed by all specification writers:

1.  If something is not specified it is unlikely to be provided — The consequence is that all requirements should be stated in the specification before awarding the order. Suppliers will normally charge requirements subsequently added as ‘extras’.

2.  Every requirement increases the price — All specifications should therefore be submitted to rigorous value analysis.

3.  The shorter the specification, the less costly it takes to prepare it — The expenditure in staff time devoted to the preparation of a specification can be high. This can be significantly lower when the length of a specification is short and the time taken in its preparation is reduced.

4. The specification is equally binding on both the buying organisation and the supplier — Omissions, incorrect information or imprecision in a specification can be cited by the supplier in any dispute with the buyer. A rule of evidence is that words are construed against the party who wrote them. Where there is uncertainty about the meaning of a specification, the court will generally interpret it in the supplier’s favour.

5.  Specifications should as far as possible, be presented in performance terms rather than as a detailed design — This is particularly applicable to items about which the buyer has little expert knowledge.

6.  Specifications, should wherever possible be ‘open’, not closed — Closed specifications can take the form of naming a particular brand and the manufacturer or supplier, hence not permitting the use of alternatives. Open specifications are written so that the stated requirements can be met by more than one supplier. By making the requirements sufficiently flexible to be met by several suppliers, competition is encouraged and prices reduced.

7.  Specifications must not conflict with national or international standards or health, safety or environmental laws and regulations — National and international specifications should be incorporated into individual specifications and identified by their numbers and titles.

 

  Activity 3.2
Question to activity 3.2
Suggested answer to activity 3.2

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