What is a 3-Part Specification?

3-Part Specifications is to make it easy to find the appropriate and accurate information for not only specifying engineers, but for anyone who needs the specifications for a product.

Definition and Use

Though they go by other names, such as Product Guide Specifications or Guide Specifications, 3-Part Specifications, as the name implies, has three parts to the product specification: General, Products and Execution.  Each part provides a standardized format of presenting specific product information. 3-Part Specs follow a format developed by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) and use Microsoft Word as the predominant software of choice for creating these specifications.

Product manufacturers may create these for their products to help specifying engineers have the appropriate information to be able to identify specific products for their project or construction jobs. The specifying engineer may cut and paste sections from a 3-Part Spec or just drop the complete 3-Part Spec into their overall project specification manual where buyers, suppliers, contractors and others will reference and follow those project specifications.

The CSI publishes MasterFormat®, which establishes divisions and broad categories for project-related activities such as procurement, contracting, general requirements and different types of construction (e.g. Masonry, Concrete, Electrical, etc.).  MasterFormat® has a specific numbering system for these divisions. For example, Division 26 is for electrical construction, which is where most of the ABB Installation Products Division products would be categorized. These divisions have additional subcategories for further definition, see example below.

Example:  26 05 33.24

26 – Electrical (from MasterFormat®)

05 – Common Work Results for Electrical (from MasterFormat®)

33 – Raceway and Boxes for Electrical Systems (from MasterFormat®)

24 – Liquidtight Conduit Fittings (arbitrarily assigned by 3-part spec creator)

R&D’s Role in Specifications

Back in 2010, ABB Installation Products Division (formerly Thomas & Betts) created a Specification Guide manual to assist Product Specification Specialists (PSSs) who supported our regional sales teams. The Specification Guide manual includes 3-Part Specifications for our Industrial products and a large number of our Commercial products. For ease of use, it consists of two indexes, one by the MasterFormat® number and a second by brand name.  The manual was published as a static copy and provided to PSSs for distribution to specifying engineers and end users. Today, our Technical Sales Specialists provide specification support. R&D Engineers are responsible for 3-Part Specs and collaborate with the Product Manager to ensure alignment on the content.

Within the ABB Installation Products Division, for example, engineering-controlled documents are created or updated if there is a new product introduction or line extensions. The R&D Engineer takes the opportunity to create or update the applicable 3-Part Specification, which also includes the removal of any product constructions that are no longer available. The important benefit of our 3-Part Specifications makes it easy to find the appropriate and accurate information for not only specifying engineers, but for anyone involved in supporting a construction project. Through the link for the Product Spec Guide, end user tools and indexes can be accessed to assist engineers find the data and context they need to make critical product specification choices.

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About the author

Robert Osborn

Robert is the US/LATAM R&D Manager for Commercial Essential Products, ABB ELIP. His team supports both the development of new products and the sustainment of existing products. The ABB brands that make up the Commercial Essential product offering are Steel City® metallic boxes, fittings and floor boxes; Carlon® non-metallic boxes and fittings; Superstrut® and Kindorf® metal framing systems; and Red Dot® weatherproof products. The Technical Documentation and Packaging Engineering team also report to Robert, providing critical service and support to all US/LATAM R&D teams. Robert has worked for ABB ELIP, and formerly Thomas & Betts, for over 27 years in various R&D roles.
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