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Retail storefront design
17 March 2015
Kuldeep Bwail

Outsourcing vs. Completing Retail Designs In-House

When planning store refurbishment exercises or when opening new stores major retailers across the world face tough decisions about their design process and whether to handle all (or a part of) the retail design and documentation work in-house or to engage the services of a skilled outsourced CAD services provider to assist them with some or all of the retail design and drafting process. Choosing one of the two options is not only a difficult task but also depends upon several factors unique to each retail firm and the availability and selection of an outsourced design partner.

For retailers, looking inward at their own team it is of course good practice to evaluate the internal design support capabilities vis-à-vis the retail chain’s strategic goals. The evaluation should be two-pronged: firstly, the availability of in-house skills with respect to the expected design standards and secondly, on the basis of the speed of the design cycle the internal team can provide to support the firm’s growth objectives. Any shortcoming in one of these two areas is a strong reason to partner with an experienced offshore retail CAD team to successfully drive the retailer’s strategic objectives.

Entering into an architectural CAD / BIM outsourcing services model can also help the retailers accelerate their time to market especially in cases where the internal design team has the requisite skills but finds it difficult to meet the rapid turnaround expectations of the fast-paced retail environment. The key point, however, is to choose the ‘right’ service partner – a partner that seamlessly extends the in-house capacity, meets the design standards and fits into the required workflow. The vendor should also have established work processes, virtual communication tools and quality control procedures in place. The best way to evaluate all the above factors is to meet offshore partners on a face-to-face level.

Meeting the offshore partner in their environment in face-to-face meetings allows interaction with the management and drafting/modelling team of the potential partner in a way that cannot be replicated remotely via email and telephone calls. This will also allow the retailer an opportunity to review and validate the skills, processes, technology backbone, experience and quality levels of the outsourced partner. A face-to-face meeting or set of meetings will also allow the retailer to understand and familiarise themselves with the underlying culture of the partner organisation and whether it is conducive to an effective working relationship. The outsourcing partner’s culture and way of working will dictate the success of communication for the relationship. Communication is arguably the greatest challenge facing firms that engage outsourcing models and it is only with face-to-face meetings that the retailer will gain an understanding of communication effectiveness. In most cases the retailer may also wish to understand the social values and aims of the partner in both a formal and informal environment. This will provide further insights into the culture of that partner and allow the retailer to understand the potential partner in a different context.

Whether face-to-face or remotely another factor that retailers need to review is the relative experience of their internal resources versus the outsourcing team, especially on projects that the firm is embarking on for the first time. For instance, if the in-house design/documentation team has been using AutoCAD as a preferred drafting tool and the retail firm decides to adopt the building information modeling (BIM) process across all the new projects, it is advisable to partner with a vendor which has suitable experience in handling projects having a similar scope. It is also worth checking whether the firm is familiar with the requisite processes associated with BIM, including worksharing, IFC linking, family modeling, interoperability, material takeoff, clash detection and support with other CAD/BIM tools. An experienced team that has relatively more experience than the in-house team can help the retailer to smoothly transition to the new process with ease.

Whilst it is essential to focus on building a strong internal team, there are scenarios wherein retail design outsourcing adds significant value in terms of increasing success rates on projects never undertaken by the in-house team, speeding up the turnaround times on high-priority projects and extending the capacity of the in-house team without increasing direct overheads.

At XS CAD, we work with retailers across the globe, supplying retail construction drawing sets, 3D BIM models and computer-generated images that are used for pre-construction planning, construction build and project management purposes. We have experience working seamlessly with our clients’ local design teams and providing production drawing services for a range of retailing organisations operating in the apparel, fashion, banking, fast food, restaurant, electronics, telecoms and IT sectors.