Architects have been outsourcing for at least a hundred years. By this I mean using consultants for engineering design, for interior design, for landscape design, for renderings, for signage, for 3D digital models that allow fly-bys and walk-throughs. Some of this can be easily off-shored as well.
We were contacted by a firm based in Lithuania almost ten years ago. They were offering to do 3D work and rendered images for about 25% of the 'normal' price. Their British manager made communication easy. We found ourselves in the position of being able to offer this type of service on almost every project because of the low cost.
For the past five years I have been looking for a way to outsource detailing and drafting tasks as well. Here is what we are learning.
- None of the outsourcing firms know how the process should work; they are just as disorganized as you are.
- The work must be assigned in steps or the re-work will be time-consuming and frustrating.
- Glen Wiggins' book, A Manual of Construction Documentation, is a great resource in tackling the organizational aspect. (This is true even if you don't outsource/off-shore.)
- Outsourcing to north american firms only provides the economic advantage of being able to handle occasional busy periods without staffing for that level of intensity.
- Off-shoring has an economic advantage of about 5:1 for the same labor. The increased management time is about offset by being more effective.
- Outsourcing forces you to be better organized, but pays off in both efficiency and effectiveness.
- Keeping in-house staff busy causes you to do things that end up having been busy-work because the task was not thought through or it was premature.
- The planning that is necessary in order to outsource effectively is a benefit even if you don't outsource.