Why the Engineer Should Hold the Detailing Contract

In most construction projects, the steel fabricator is the one who holds the detailing contract. If asked why, most people may say that this is simply how the process has always been done. However, when looking at this traditional method closely, actually the steel fabricator holding the detailing contract doesn’t bring a lot of value as they don’t really benefit from it financially. They do benefit from controlling it of course, since how the detailing is done affects how the steel is fabricated, and how the steel is fabricated makes a difference to the fabricating cost. However, with modern detailing most if not all detailers are (or should be) aware of the most cost effective way to fabricate, thus should create the drawings in the correct fashion anyway. As a result, nowadays having the fabricator involved in the detailing process makes it more complicated and actually slows the project down which can be very damaging to the fabricator financially, especially if it results in shop downtime.

The Long Communication Chain

One of the main problems with the steel fabricator holding the detailing contract is that it creates a long chain of communication for RFIs. Each RFI has to be reviewed by the fabricator and forwarded on to the GC with instructions to again forward on to the EOR or architect as the case may be.  There’s also a lot of back and forth on issues such as scheduling and project drawing updates, and it’s up to the fabricator to make certain that everyone is on the same page and that questions and answers get answered and sent on to the correct party quickly.

In our design-detailing process, this inefficient communication chain is eliminated. The engineer holds the detailing contract, and they hire the detailing team directly. Most if not all of the RFIs are answered early on in the design phase, so there’s no need to involve anyone else. Questions are answered quickly, and the engineer has the advantage of having the detailer providing them with information and pointing out issues before anyone else is brought into the project. 

The Design Rarely Changes After IFC Drawings Are Issued

Because the engineer has the detailing contract and is working with the detailing team directly, many issues get worked out during the design phase. This means that these issues don’t crop up during construction. The engineer isn’t going to have to issue addenda to the plans being worked off of because many, if not all, of the problems that would require addenda will have already been addressed and incorporated in the IFC set. The plans given to the GC and others are often the final plans rather than plans that may change due to unexpected complications.

A major benefit of this is that the overall cost of the project is lower. The design doesn’t get revised during construction, so work can proceed at a fast pace and most importantly without extra work charges. There’s no need for the GC to have their teams stop work while plans are redesigned, nor is there any need for large extra work charges to rework the detailing model and revise steel to accommodate changes in the design. Everything is done correctly the first time. These factors reduce costs from schedules delays and eliminate many of the extra charges that come up during construction.

Lastly, because there are fewer unexpected design revisions, contractors are able to make their bids more accurate. Furthermore, they are able to review the completed steel model and associated bill of materials while putting together their bids, allowing them to price materials more accurately and reduce risk contingencies. This tends to lower the overall bids on the project since information is clearer and everything can be accounted for.

In summary, as a fabricator we recommend you let us manage the detailing directly with the EOR, so you can focus on where you make your money which is fabricating steel. As an engineer we recommend you hire us to complete the detailing under your contract so you can save the owner time and money, which will certainly lead to more project awards for you.

If this sounds good to you, please consider working with Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing on your next project. Contact us today to learn more about our design-detailing process and how we can help you and your team


Cliff Young – VP Sales
Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing

Collaboration in the Design-Detailing Process

One of the key parts of our unique design-detailing process is the close collaboration between us, the detailers, and the project engineer of record. In the traditional process, we would not collaborate as closely with the engineer. We wouldn’t start the detailing process until the engineer was 90% complete with their design and the fabricator had been awarded the contract.  In the design-detailing processes, however, we actually begin detailing when the design is only 50% complete and work very closely with the engineer.

Collaboration Is Key

Working closely with the engineer, in fact, is the key element of our process. By bringing the detail process and the design process in sync, we’re able to cut down on time and reduce the amount of problems that may occur later in the project. No one else is involved in the project at this early stage, which means we don’t have to communicate through the fabricator, general contractor, or anyone else. Our team can talk directly to the engineers and the engineer project manager, which means there is much less chance of a communications breakdown. 

By working so closely together, we’re able to handle the RFI process in a much more efficient and effective way. In the traditional process, any RFI would go through the fabricator and the GC before it reached the engineer. At every person in that chain, there’s a chance of the message getting changed, lost or misinterpreted going to and from the engineer. This adds delays and increases the risk of misinformation. By talking directly to the engineer, we get accurate answers very quickly.

We Start Earlier in the Process 

Instead of beginning when the design is 90% complete, we start when it’s about 50% or less. This allows us to work more closely with the engineer on the detailing and provide a detailers input on the design. As the engineer sends us revised structural drawings, we update our model and advise the engineer on any issues that we find, such as steel conflicts, erectability issues, and missing dimensions etc. This way, the engineer can address these potential problems  quickly and efficiently before the bid set of drawings is even released.We do this through online meetings that allow both sides to view the  model of the project. Thus these problems can be addressed and resolved in an hour instead of through an email chain that often takes weeks in the traditional detailing process

All of this is much more efficient than it would be if we began later in the process. In the traditional process, every time we found an issue that required the drawings and models to be updated, those updates would have to go to many different parties. In design-detailing, we work out all of these problems with the engineer directly first, so the initial set of drawings contractors receive is far more complete and thus requiring significantly less RFI’s.

The End Result of this Collaboration

By collaborating through online meetings, with realtime model reviews, and direct emails and communications with the engineer, the design-detailing process results in a significantly shorter project timeline and fewer issues. For customers, this translates into saved money.  The construction site footprint time is less, and the owner is able to occupy the building earlier as wellthus generating revenue sooner. 

If you want to know more about the design-detailing process or have other questions for us, please contact Anatomic Iron today.

Thank you for your interest!

Cliff Young – VP Sales

Who Benefits From the Design-Detailing Process?

The design-detailing process developed here at Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing has a number of benefits for several people involved in the project. We developed this method as a way of reducing the project construction time and cost while enhancing the overall quality and service we provided. After years of using this process, we’ve determined how it provides benefits to the project owner, engineer, general contractor, and fabricator. Here are the different ways the design-detailing benefits each of these four.

The Project Owner

Our process benefits the project owner by reducing the amount of time it takes to complete the project. Traditionally, the detailing process would not begin until after the fabricator has been awarded the contract. This meant the process of digging through the design drawings and creating all the required RFIs to complete the detailing would start at this point, with the inherent subsequent delays in then getting them answered. In the design-detailing process, detailing begins when the design is at 40%. It’s finished by the time the fabricator receives the contract, eliminating this time consuming RFI process and subsequently cutting a significant amount of time off the project. The building is completed and occupied sooner, allowing the owner to begin generating revenue from the building. There are less delays, less problems, and less extra costs from design revisions after the steel has been awarded.

The Engineer

In the design-detailing process, the engineer holds both the steel design  and the steel detailing contracts. This allows them to more efficiently communicate with the detailer since there are no middle men for RFIs and other questions to go through. Most issues can be resolved during the design stage, as the detailer is able to model the steel and find conflicts and any constructability issues, and work directly with the engineer to resolve these issues before fabrication starts. The result is when the IFC drawings are released and steel construction begins, there are very few questions or steel design issues to work out, the project is much cleaner, and the GC, fabricator and engineer do not get tied up in a time consuming RFI process. Lastly, the engineer generates a margin on the detailing thus increasing their revenue and profit on the project. 

The General Contractor 

For the general contractor, RFIs can be a nightmare. They can take days or even weeks to be resolved and often lead to more costs. The design-detailing process removes much of this stress since the majority of steel RFIs will be dealt with before the GC even starts on the project. This eliminates overhead costs and shortens the construction time, lowering their operating costs as well. The GC will also receive more accurate steel quotes with lower risk premiums since the fabricators can be provided with a bill of materials and the steel model and will know exactly what materials are needed.

The Fabricator

In the traditional detailing process, the fabricator was often in the middle of the communication chain, relaying information back and forth from the detailer to the engineer through the general contractor. In our design-detailing process, this chain of communication doesn’t exist. The detailer and engineer communicate directly, so the fabricator doesn’t have to handle any of the RFIs or the associated problems. Since the detailing is already done at the time of award of the steel fabricator, they can start fabrication within about a week of receiving the contract instead of starting the detailing themselves and waiting five weeks or more for the first approval package of drawings. This shorter time frame means the fabricator focuses on doing what they make money at, which is fabricating steel thus increasing their profitability and reducing delays that come up due to RFIs. 

The fabricator also benefits at bid time because the GC can supply them with a completed steel model and bill of materials for the project. The fabricator can make more precise bids with exact material requirements, and also study the project in 3d to plan erection sequencing and project schedules. This will reduce risk premiums on the project and allow fabricators to be more competitive.


Overall, the design-detailing process is the most profitable and effective method to complete steel construction projects. Since developing the process in 2010, we’ve completed over 40 projects using this method and have witnessed first hand the benefits to everyone involved. For your next project, consider partnering with Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing and take advantage of these benefits yourself.

How Anatomic Iron’s Design-Detailing Process Accelerates Project Schedules

One of the reasons many of our Engineering clients have chosen to work with Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing is because of our design-detailing process and the benefits it provides. While the traditional detailing model will get results, those results take time. With our design-detailing process of developing the steel model, the amount of time it takes to move from the design phase to the final erection is significantly less. This is possible due to two major factors in our design-detailing process.

Design-Detailing Begins Earlier than Traditional Detailing

In the traditional detailing model, the steel detailing contract is held by the fabricator while the steel design contract is held by the engineer of record. Because the detailer works for the fabricator, they cannot begin the detailing process until the design is at least 90% complete. The shop and erection drawings are created from the engineer’s design set. Typically, the fabricator is awarded the contract two weeks after the design phase reaches 90%. Then we come in and begin working on the detailing. This can take five weeks or longer due to questions or the need for more information.

With design-detailing, however, the engineer of record holds both the detailing and the design contract. We work directly for them, which means we don’t have to wait for the fabricator to be chosen in order to begin working. We can begin the detailing process when the design is 40% complete. This allows the fabrication process to begin quicker because the detailing phase and the design phase occur simultaneously. There is no separate detailing phase, eliminating those five weeks spent on detailing in the traditional approach.

The Communication Process Is Simple and Direct

Because the engineer of record holds both contracts, we are able to work directly with them. This allows us to resolve issues much quicker because we do not have to create RFIs and send them through the fabricator and general contractor. We resolve questions directly with the EOR often without even creating a formal RFI. Thus we eliminate the delays caused by the traditional emailed RFI process and the risks that come from a breakdown in communication. For example, RFIs are not lost or stuck in an email inbox while waiting to be actioned.

Overall Time Savings

By beginning the detailing phase early in the project and working directly with the engineer of record to resolve issues that would become RFIs, we can reduce the amount of time the project takes to go from the design phase to completion. Instead of there being potentially eight weeks or more between the fabricator receiving the contract and the start of fabrication, there’s only about one week since we already have an approved for fabrication model ready to go. All we need to do is generate fabrication drawings to the fabricators settings which we do during this one week after award of the fabricator. This one week also provides time for the architect to review the approved model and the drawings and for the fabricator to prepare their equipment and personnel for fabrication.

This cuts down the overall time between the design phase and the completion of a typical project from about 17 weeks to 10 weeks or less. That’s a reduction of more than 40%, a very significant saving in time. Saving time equates to saving money.

If you want to learn more about our design-detailing process or how Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing can help with your next project, please contact us today.

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