We’ve had a lot of experience fulfilling specs, advising how to write them and even authoring them ourselves. Over the years we have noticed a few things that make spec writing for labels, signs and tags more difficult than it has to be. Complicated specs are good for vendors and material manufacturers because they create barriers for other vendors and limit your options. In this blog we are going to review six quick things that can be done to simplify spec writing, and at the same time make your spec more competitive.

1. Specify material performance instead of a material manufacturer

If you specify a specific material manufacturer like 3M or Avery Dennison, the potential material options and vendors who can supply them are limited. Instead of making the spec specific to a manufacturer, make it specific to standards and performance like the weather conditions, application temperature, or chemical exposure.

2. Specify standards

Where there is a prevailing standard for materials, defer to it. If the standard is referenced, all of the substitutable materials that have met that standard don’t need to be listed. For instance, specs that include reflective materials are common and oftentimes overwritten. If you write the spec to say the reflective material must meet ASTM D4956 (Standard Specification for Retroreflective Sheeting) then you don’t have to list out all of the materials that fall under the standard. And because reflective materials had to be tested before being classified as meeting ASTM D4956, additional language about testing requirements can be left out.

3. Use general material names instead of branded names

A lot of specs feature obsolete materials that make it harder to understand what’s being requested. Stating the general name of a material like Vinyl, Acrylic or Engineer Grade as opposed to Reflective 3M 3800 makes it clearer. That way if a material is discontinued, your spec is still up-to-date and you don’t have to worry about coming back to adjust it when a product name changes or becomes obsolete. Also, vendors won’t have to guess what material you are requesting, making your specification more competitive.

4. List the material properties that are relevant to the application

For example, some engineers will specify a low-temperature adhesive but if the application does not involve applying labels in cold temperatures, you don’t need it. Low-temperature adhesives can cost twice as much as other labels and may not be worth the added expense. If there’s a property you won’t utilize, save a few dollars and leave it off of the spec. If you need help deciding what properties are essential based on your application, contact us and we will schedule time to work on your specification.

5. Reference the ANSI Z535 Standard when specifying headers

ANSI Z535 already lays out a color spectrum that is appropriate for each header. You can decide to include the whole condition or you can simplify the spec and say “All header colors must be compliant with ANSI Z535.1 (America National Standard for Safety Colors), Safety Red for Danger, Safety Orange for Warning, Safety Yellow for Caution and Safety Blue for Notice.” This way you can avoid listing an inordinate amount of different color hues, keep it simple and at the same time uphold the industry standard. ANSI Z535 covers more than headers and extends to layout and design.

6. Provide high-level printing specifications

Try to avoid adding specific inks or equipment to a spec. When you get into minute details about how the label is printed, the options for both suppliers and vendors decreases. Instead of listing what inks should be used by calling out a specific name, you can simply add a statement that states “Inks shall be used that are compatible with the material and specified by the material manufacturer.” Companies like Avery and 3M specify the inks that vendors should use with their materials. Adding this statement ensures that the compatible inks will be used.  For printing, state “Screen print process” this is sufficient for assuring a durable printing method. But including specific brands, models of screen printing equipment or other minute process details is unnecessary.

Learn more about how you can simplify your spec and make it more competitive by registering for Simplifying Specifications for Signs, Tags and Labels training webinar.