“Delivery Process steps” are really just a simple way of describing a project plan. A “project plan” is just a list of tasks against a timeline. Making and fitting a shelf doesn’t seem to need a project plan; obtain the wood, cut it to size, put it together, apply the finish, fix it in place. Two questions therefore spring to mind; 1. How complex does a project need to be before it needs a plan? and 2. Where does interaction with the client fit into delivering the solution?
I have put together my “project delivery plan” as a simple list of steps. I like a process, it supports and reassures me, but I also like flexibility. I will decide, on the merits of each project, when to use some or all of the process. More often than not, I will use it all.
Step One: Detailed Working Drawings.
These drawings need to have enough detail to allow anyone (with the right skills) to make the object. They will include accurate measurements and the detail of every joint and fixing. The parts will be labelled to show what they are and have a short code. For example a top front rail will be “TFR”. This allows me to label the real items to ensure I don’t lose my way when there are dozens of parts. The drawing will show the material the parts are made from, sometimes individually labelled where there are several different materials.
Often, as well as one main drawing, there will be several smaller drawings which magnify particular joints or fittings, in order not to miss any detail. Sometimes the drawing will include exploded views to clarify how the parts fit together. This tends to be a lengthy but essential step. At this point I consider further consultation with the client.
Step Two: Shopping List.
In the case of wood this is often referred to as the “cutting list”. Essentially it is a list of all the materials required to make all the parts. I usually include how those parts will be cut from larger, standard sized, materials, such as an eight foot by four foot sheet of plywood or a three meter length of 100mm by 50mm timber etc.
Some wood has more imperfections than others and, whilst I always personally choose the timber, sometimes working around unwanted imperfections can be a challenge. The cutting list will include a contingency of 10% to 20% extra wood to account for imperfections, often known as “wastage”. For very difficult wood, it can be as high as 40%.
This cutting list also allows me to calculate the costs and make a fairly accurate estimate of the time it will take for me to complete the project.
Step Three: The Quote
Based on the information from the previous step and knowledge about current work in hand, this step is fairly straight forward. It is basically filling out a template and adding sections unique to the client and the project.
Time-scales can be an issue. Sourcing wood can cause delays, acclimatising wood (see my blog post on movement in wood) can sometimes take longer than estimated and, as always, “perfection takes a little longer”.
The quote should not be a surprise to the client. They have already been fully involved in the design process (see my blog post on the design process) and should be fully aware of the outline cost and time. If I have any doubts about the commitment of the client, I may bring the quote stage forward in order to reduce the amount of work I do before we have a firm agreement.
Step Four: Order of Production.
This step relies on the detailed drawings and sets out, in project plan format, all the tasks and the order in which I will carry them out. The plan always has “dependencies” which simply means there are some things which cannot be done until something else has been done.
One example is sub-assemblies. A drawer is a sub-assembly. Whilst it is possible to make the drawers at any stage, I would never make the drawers until I have made the cabinet carcass to put them in. It makes the inevitable little tweaks so much easier. Another example is that some adhesives take quite a while to go off so it makes sense to assemble them earlier in the project so that I can be doing something else rather than sitting around “watching paint dry”.
The project plan is not a “bible” but it does make sure that I don’t forget anything.
Step Five: Production and Assembly Cycle.
- Make: I make as many of the components as possible, given that I may not make some sub-assembles until later in the process.
Dry fit: I fit everything together “dry”, that is without adhesives or other fixings. I can then make any necessary alterations until I have the perfect fit. At this stage the joints may not be tight, as the adhesive will need some space to work in.
- First finish: When I’m happy with the fit I make sure that all the components have a good first finish. This usually means a good sanding down to a smooth surface to the touch and removing all dust particles which could interfere with the assembly stage.
- Assembly: This is where I fix things together permanently. Usually with an appropriate adhesive but sometimes with pins or screws and sometimes with both adhesive and fixings. This will involve cramps, straps, jigs and frames to hold pieces securely in place for the appropriate time for the adhesive to go off. It can involve several operations e.g. assembling the end frames of a cabinet and allowing them to go off before assembling them to the top and bottom.
- Second finish: This involves removing any traces of adhesive which may have oozed out of a joint, filling any pin or screw head holes, where the finish allows (e.g. painting) and sanding down to a smoother finish with a much finer grade of paper or wire wool. Finally removing all traces of dust. Sometimes, where appropriate, I will apply a sanding sealer which helps the final finish.
Step Six: Final Finish.
This is the stage where the piece tends to come alive. Application of the agreed finish e.g. wax, oil, varnish or lacquer will bring out the true beauty of the wood. (See “Wood Finishes” in the gallery).
This stage can be hard work, often involving several coats with some form of fine sanding in between until the desired finish is achieved.
Step Seven: Installation.
This stage is where the piece is installed in its intended location either free standing, hanging or fixed. In reality this stage can spread across both the assembly and final finish stages. Sometimes it makes sense to fix parts in place then assemble other parts to the fixture then final finish in situ. That’s where the project plan becomes flexible.
Hopefully this is also where the client steps back in amazement and is delighted.