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How To Improve Your Steel Shop Drawings Process?

Shop Drawings


Steel detailing plays a quintessential and multifaceted role in the AEC industry. Be it any construction project – building, bridges, industrial units, commercial complexes, elevators or air handling units, steel detailing process is a critical step. Because of this very nature, steel shop drawings services should only be handled by expert drafters with hands-on experience, like BluEntCAD. In our KNOWLEDGE SERIES, we will talk about how to make steel shop drawings and designing the process in the most efficient fashion.

What is the purpose of shop drawings?

In the simplest of terms, steel shop drawings is a planning technique used in construction for designing the building. Steel shop drawings concretely define every step which is involved in assembling different parts to be used during construction.  A steel shop drawing is a broad term. It is used in general for varied steel parts and their fabrication.


The benefits of steel shop detailing are diverse. The architects or structural engineers conceive their idea for the project on paper, which reduces wastage of resources and materials. Moreover, the drawings also comprise of various materials required for fabrication of steel members, which give the manufacturers a clear idea of what to design and how to design. This prior knowledge of steel reinforcement will again prevent any financial and resource loss.

Steel Shop Drawings Process

Diverse members of a construction project are involved in the making of steel shop drawings. The first step is when the architect creates the first copy of the blueprint on paper, after which a fabricator analyses every action with steelwork that decides how the shop drawing can be modified. These revisions can be approved by the Architect or rejected after review.

Steel Shop Drawings

After the drawings have been finalized, a steel detailed works on these to meticulously create detained steel diagrams for every steel piece to be used in the actual manufacturing process. These illustrations include trusses, columns, beams, metal decks, braces, joists and stairs & handrails.

For every diagram, comprehensive individual shop drawings are created. These often include the following specifications:

  • Material specification
  • Required dimensions
  • Size
  • Welding
  • Bolting
  • Color and paint requirements
  • Surface setups
  • Manufacturing standards
  • Fabricating and custom design specifications (if any)

Once the steel members are produced, the detailer again gets to work to create drawings of assembled steel members. These are called Erection Drawings.

How to make Shop Drawings for Steel Fabrication?

There are various techniques to create steel shop drawings, including both manual and with the help of steel shop drawings software.

Let’s take a look at these processes:

Manual Drafting: This is the conventional way for shop drawing designs. The architects use pen, paper, pencils and measuring tools for making handmade drawings.

Computer Aided Drafting (CAD):  Of late, CAD has replaced manual drafting for creating steel detailing drawings. Designers use software to generate drawings and then print them.

3D Dimensional modeling applications: 3D modeling is another technique which generates a preview of drawings as they will appear in real-life. 3D modeling is quite different from 2D modeling and the project is usually completed in 3D before the shop drawings are produced from the model.

Shop Drawings For Steel Fabrication

A steel detailer is crucial to steel detailing process. He acts as a bridge amongst various individual contributors including the architect, structural engineer, steel fabricator, general contractor, steel erector, checker and CAD design experts.

Some of his additional roles and duties include:

  • Observing drawing parameters and verifying them with industry standards such as AISC – American Institute of Steel Construction and AWS – American Welding Society.
  • Presenting his drawings to structural engineers and architect for review and evaluation before eventually releasing them to the fabricator.
  • Offering missing information wherever required, under the consent of the structural engineer.
  • Cross-checking the drawing with another steel detailer, often referred to as The Fabricator for accuracy, precision and completeness
  • Monitoring changes during design creation phase and identifying revisions

Major Challenges faced during the creation of Steel Shop Drawings

While some issues arise because of human error or carelessness; in our experience, others take place because the right information has not been provided. Several times the client cannot envision the building and fails to furnish the required date to process information. This can lead to back and forth of revised and re-revised documents.

Creation Of Steel Shop Drawings

Here are some common challenges which take place while during steel shop detailing.

Missing Information Most of the time, the contract documents have incomplete information. This causes the project to temporarily halt until further information is provided. Missing structural members in plan or elevation Maybe the elevation was planned differently earlier and the revised changes were not told, but missing structural components is a common occurrence.

If your drawings appear odd, try finding out if a member is missing. Erroneous project details We all have to agree that the project as conceived in the idea is vastly different than what gets built. However, it is pertinent to keep everyone in loop as the project progresses and changes are done, otherwise, inaccuracy and various specific details will get lost. Specifications and drawings mismatch “My specifications were different.” “The drawings should not look like this.” We’ve heard these complaints time and again from our clients.

It is better to get specifications in writing to miss out any important details and waste time and resources in creating the wrong steel shop drawing set. Non-Compliance to Industry Standards Steel Shop Drawing Experts know how important it is to produce drawings which comply with the industry standards.

Barring this, your project might risk being penalized or even get stopped from being constructed at all. Plus, you jeopardize the lives of your workers and inhabitants of your property.

Some other common issues include:

  • Steel shop drawings do not match with architectural or mechanical drawings
  • Structural dimensions are not specified in the drawings
  • Connection requirements or Sequencing is not specified

Now that you the various issues which can render your steel shop drawing ineffective, let’s give you some recommendations to improve your steel shop drawing process.

Complete Documents If you read our previous section of challenges, you would have understood that the most common issue is missing information in majority of cases. Ensure that you hand over the right set of documents; complete, revised and updated to your designer.

Industry Standard Compliance Your designer, engineer and architect should be aware of industry and regional standards for constructing buildings and bridges. Some of these include BS Codes, CISC, AISC, AWS etc.

Bid drawings should be verified When the client or architect hands over bid drawings, ensure that they are accompanied with specifications and match the design drawings. Any discrepancies should be immediately brought to notice.

AISC Code Compliance EOR and Architect should strictly follow AISC wherever required.

The structural drawings should be complete Uncommon loads should be specified; with their position and magnitude supplied to joist provider. Moreover, the sequencing should be flexible.

It is always advantageous to utilize the services of experienced shop drawing service providers like BluEntCAD. We have a team of over 30 expert designers with a combined experience of over 80 years. The advantages? Timely turnaround, effective pricing and quality work. Get in touch today to know more!

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