Constructive Candor

No Simple Answer: Tips for Responding to an RFI

RFI form

In the Transmission and Distribution construction industry, communication is key for the success of any project. One essential way we communicate is by a document called a Request for Information, or RFI. This document is used to formally request and answer important questions that come up during a project.

Many of us are rushed in our day to day routines and may not consider some important factors when responding to an RFI. It’s important to answer an RFI thoroughly and include any necessary drawings or documents, but it’s also essential to consider how the response may impact other areas of the project. Rushing through responses without considering the potential implications can lead to unwarranted change orders, project delays, or other costly mistakes.

Suppose a request is submitted to revise a substation bus design due to an underground conduit that was unknown. It’s easy enough to reroute the bus around the conduit, but it’s also important to consider other factors such as changed equipment needs, additional materials, proximity of the new bus to existing energized lines, impact on the schedule, and any new risks identified.

Here are some key factors to consider when responding to a Request for Information:

  • Is everyone who needs this information receiving it? It may be worth following up with an email to the whole project team. For example, if the materials manager doesn’t know additional parts are needed, there’s a good chance the project will be delayed.
  • Does the contractor have the necessary tools and equipment to perform the task? If not, then there may be additional cost impacts. If the work can be done using tools and equipment that are already on the job, this can help reduce costs from change orders.
  • Has the contractor clarified whether the response could lead to cost impacts? The contractor should include this information in the Request for Information. If impacts are possible, be sure to get the cost in writing as soon as possible. Cost impacts tend to snowball if not agreed-to ahead of time.
  • Will your risk management plan need to be updated? The risk management plan houses specific directions on how to deal with risks as they come up. If the issue identified was not already in the risk management plan, then it needs to be added and new risks should be looked for and added.
  • Is there a lesson to be learned? The RFI process is an excellent opportunity to generate lessons learned for future projects. Many questions come up over and over on similar projects. If you take the time to carefully document these questions, you can use them to your benefit in the future.
  • Does the response to the RFI result in changed safety conditions on the jobsite? If so, then it is important for the field crews to stand down and review the new information to ensure they are performing their tasks as safe as possible. Additionally, the site specific safety plan should be reviewed to determine if any changes are warranted.

The moral of the story is to always consider how responses to your Requests for Information may impact other areas of the project and to communicate these impacts effectively. If needed, discuss the responses with field personnel and/or engineers, or visit the site to see how the new plan will play out. By thoroughly vetting your responses with the necessary stakeholders, you can minimize risk and maximize reward when responding to an RFI.

Have you experienced unexpected impacts from what you thought was a simple RFI response? How did you handle the situation? Please leave a comment and let me know.

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Topics: Energy, Energy Transmission & Distribution