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The FF&E Process Explained

210128-Layer-App-The-FFE-Process-Explained

In this guide, we’ll explain the FF&E process and the tools you need to implement and deliver FF&E projects. 

We’re here to demystify the FF&E process for you. We often think of the FF&E process taking place in showrooms and design meetings. The reality is that the FF&E process takes a lot of detail-oriented, behind-the-scenes coordination.

Regardless of the exact scope of FF&E on a project, FF&E items need to be tracked carefully from the selection stage to their final placement in the building. Options need to be considered. Costs assigned. Final choices need to be approved. Procurement, delivery, and installation statuses need to be recorded. 

Throughout the FF&E process, there is a great deal of data that needs to be gathered and shared among the project stakeholders. That data often resides in disconnected platforms, making it difficult to keep tabs on everything at once.

Our goal is to show you how to implement the FF&E process in an efficient and integrated manner.

What is FF&E?

FF&E is shorthand for Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment.

For architecture and interior design scope, the FF&E process encompasses items that are not typically supplied or installed by the general contractor on a construction project. The exact meaning will vary depending on the context in which it is used.

Depending on the project, space planning and budgeting for FF&E typically begins during the project’s Design Development phase and runs concurrently with the remaining phases of the architectural design process

Step 1: Gather Specification Data

You’ve spoken with the client. You’ve determined the design brief. You know what the look and feel of the FF&E should be. You may even be responsible for compiling a budget for the project.

Now it’s time for the fun part, the hunt. 

Regardless of whether you’re an interior designer or medical equipment planner, you’re going to be visiting a lot of websites looking for FF&E options. You might also be visiting showrooms, vendor conferences, or meeting with product reps to gather information too.

Either way, you’re collecting a lot of FF&E specification data in the form of photos, cut sheets, and raw numbers like pricing and model numbers. You may even need to document owner-provided FF&E items or start ordering samples to present to the client. 

Where do you store all of this coordination information? In file folders? In a spreadsheet? A flexible database tool?

In our experience, a flexible database tool is the best software solution for capturing, organizing, and sharing FF&E data and cut sheets. This type of digital tool makes it easy to streamline communication in one dashboard, not in separate documents and folders.

Advantages to using a flexible database tool:

  • Digital Forms: Capture the same information for each piece of FF&E consistently, from anywhere. This makes it easy to evaluate options and to quickly identify missing data. Track changes and create the foundation of the Owner’s Manual.
  • Contextual Data: Associate FF&E to its location in the floor plan to visualize quantities. Create a per-room or total project budget by quantifying FF&E items with cost data.
  • Communication Tools: Reduce the number of emails you send to vendors. Invite them to upload their own FF&E data and cut sheets. Use notifications to send reminders and to be notified when requested items have been uploaded.
  • Vendor Directory: Link vendor information to the FF&E items for easy reference.

Step 2: Present FF&E to the Client

You’ve gathered several options for each piece of FF&E. You’ve created test-fit drawings for each option. Now it’s time to review all of your findings with the client. 

As a designer, you will likely create a presentation board that includes your design concepts with a floor plan. This makes it easy for your client to visualize where the FF&E is located. 

You will also need to take detailed meeting notes about your client’s feedback. They will likely have questions about pricing, quantities, and lead times. Storing everything in a flexible database will make it easy to surface this information in real-time right in the meeting. 

Procuring client approval will likely take several meetings with a client, especially if the project is sizable. Be prepared with the most up-to-date information, like pricing and lead times, so clients can make an informed decision in a timely manner.

Once you have client approval, you will need to update your drawings or Revit model with the final FF&E selections.

Advantages to using a flexible database tool:

  • Presentation Boards with Live Links: Create digital concept boards that link directly to the FF&E data and cut sheets so it’s easy to refer to during a meeting.
  • Meeting Notes with Smart Tagging: Create robust text documents that can link text directly to the FF&E data. This makes it easy to understand client notes after the meeting.
  • Flexible Form Fields: Create a form field called “Client Decision” to instantly track whether a piece of FF&E has been approved or rejected. Include a date field to track this decision. If the item was rejected, create a small text field called “Client Reason” to detail the reason why it was rejected for future reference.
  • Communication Tools: Some pieces of FF&E require the designer to procure samples before the client will approve the item. Use in-app communication tools to coordinate this process instead of long chains of emails.
  • Revit Integration: If you have a flexible database tool that connects to Revit, you will be able to easily coordinate any FF&E changes with the Revit model.

Step 3: Procurement

Great news! The client has approved all of the FF&E items! You’re ready to move forward with finalizing the drawing schedule and purchasing the FF&E, also known as procurement. 

Depending on the type of project you are working on, you may be in charge of procuring the FF&E directly from the vendors. If this is the case, then the first thing you will need to do is to contact the FF&E vendors to confirm pricing and lead times. For this, you will need to track many points of key data to make sure that delivery times are in sync with when the items need to be on-site for installation. 

It is best practice to make sure that installation times do not overlap between vendors. It is also recommended to schedule more complex installations first. For example, you will want to prioritize the installation of FF&E that requires power and data while the electrical subcontractor is on site.

If you are working on a public project, then you likely will not be ordering FF&E directly from the vendors. Instead, you will need to compile specifications for each piece of FF&E for the client, answer vendor questions, and analyze bids and alternates.

Advantages to using a flexible database tool:

  • Lookup Fields: Create lookup form fields to aggregate total costs for FF&E.
  • Smart Views: Use a table view to track cost information and the status of each piece of FF&E.

Step 4: Confirm Delivery and Condition Status

Alright, FF&E has started to arrive on site. The condition of every piece of FF&E needs to be inspected before being installed. Depending on the type of project you’re working on, you may be responsible for inspecting FF&E. However, for larger projects, this task is usually the responsibility of the contractor. 

If there is damage that needs to be documented, take photos and notate who is responsible for fixing or replacing the damaged item. If not, you or the contractor may be liable for damages down the road or miss return windows to the vendor.

Advantages to using a flexible database tool:

  • File Fields: Take and upload photos of the FF&E items after they have been unpacked, even if they aren’t damaged.
  • Flexible Form Fields: Create a field called “Delivery Condition” to track FF&E items that have been delivered and approved for installation and those that require follow up.

Step 5: Installation and Punch List

While you aren’t likely responsible for installing the piece of FF&E, you will need to provide furniture floor plans to the installers for reference. Again, you will be the main point of contact to coordinate this process. 

Once the FF&E is installed, you will need to punch list each item to make sure that it has been installed correctly and without damage.

Advantages to using a flexible database tool:

  • File Uploader & Storage: Invite vendors to upload installation requirements, files, and videos with the contractor/installer.
  • Drawing View & Markup Tools: Associate each punch list item with its location on the floor plan. Document the item with photos, markups, and notes.
  • Team Communication: Streamline communication with the entire team in one channel that makes it easy to tag a room, piece of FF&E, or punch list item for easy reference.

Step 6: Client Handover

You’re almost there! Everything has been installed, the client is happy. Now what? 

Set your client up for success by providing them a digital Owner’s Manual of usage instructions, maintenance reminders, and vendor contact information for each piece of FF&E.

If you are using a flexible database tool that connects to Revit, you will also be able to hand over an Owner’s Manual that links directly to the Revit model. Doing this adds even more value to your services and helps your client to effectively operate their building and use their FF&E.

Conclusion

We hope that we’ve demystified the FF&E process for you. As you can see, a designer’s job isn’t limited to just design. A lot of detail-oriented coordination goes into making FF&E projects successful. Unfortunately, a lot of that coordination involves capturing and organizing a lot of data and paperwork, which is why we choose to use a flexible database tool to manage FF&E projects more efficiently.

Errors made during the FF&E process can be costly. We recommend using a flexible database tool to create one central source of truth for your project. Doing so, will reduce, if not eliminate, the number of errors that arise from using disparate communication and documentation channels.

Try Layer App, the flexible database tool that connects to Revit

If you’d like more information about a flexible database tool like Layer App, schedule a demo below or reach out to us at help@layer.team.

We’re passionate about giving designers more time to design!