A specification can be defined as a description of the physical or functional characteristics, or of the nature of a supply, service, or construction item; the requirements to be satisfied by a product, material, or process indicating, if appropriate, the procedures to determine whether the requirements are satisfied. In essence a specification is a statement of the attributes of a product, process or service a user wishes to purchase, and consequently, which the supplier is expected to supply. As far as practicable, it is desirable that the requirements be expressed numerically in terms of appropriate units together with their limits.
Specifications have two basic functions:
1) Communicate: When prepared by the purchaser, specifications inform the supplier what is required. When prepared by the supplier they provide a prospective purchaser with a description of the attributes of a product.
2) Compare : Specifications also provide criteria against which the products and services supplied or available can be compared.
TYPES OF SPECIFICATIONS
There are basically 3 types of specifications:
1. Functional Specifications : A functional specification is a clear indication of the purpose, function, application and performance expected of the supplied material or service, whereby the supplier is allowed or encouraged to provide an appropriate product. These specifications describe the capabilities that the article where applicable, performance specifications are to be selected as they allow wider competition and enable suppliers to suggest new or improved ways of meeting the requirement. Tests or criteria are developed to measure a product's ability to perform and to last, as required.
2. Technical / Design Specifications : This specification details the characteristics of the product to be purchased, it is so detailed that it describes how the product is to be manufactured, detailing the physical dimensions of the product and materials to be used etc. (Most often used for building contracting and roads)
3. Combination : These specifications include both design and functional features. Characteristics of both are used as prerequisites and as limiting factors in developing the specification.
A specification should be sufficiently detailed so that the product or service will fit the users requirements. It should not be so explicit that it prevents negotiation or discourages buyers or suppliers from using their expertise to propose alternative solutions that may offer better value for money.
Preparation of a specification should involve close communication between the user and the Procurement and Supply Chain Manager and, if required, assistance from technical experts. Involvement of potential suppliers may also be helpful in developing a specification. If supplier input is required it must not result in adoption of a specification that favours one particular supplier . This is a requirement, not only of the national Regulations, but also of the EU Treaty under Article 30.
When preparing a specification the following should be considered:
Use functional and performance criteria where possible.
- Any technical specifications should be defined by reference to any European, International, National and quality assurance requirements, which are relevant.
- References, which have the effect of favouring or eliminating particular suppliers, contractors, products or services, should be avoided.
- It is not normally permitted to use brand names, sources of supply, trade marks, patent types, origins or other means of production when writing product specifications. The exception is when the goods and services cannot otherwise be described by reference to technical specifications, which are sufficiently precise and intelligible to all suppliers. In these cases, the brand names etc. must be accompanied by the words "or equivalent".
There are, however, instances where it is permissible to derogate from the prescribed hierarchy of specifications. Again, like other exceptions, these are clearly defined. For example, where there exists a statutory duty in relation to, say, health and safety; technical reasons of conformance; incompatibility or disproportionate technical differences or disproportionate costs; or innovative reasons.