This paper investigates so-called “Design Assistance (sekkei kyoryoku)” by Japanese subcontractors. The tasks and responsibilities of subcontractors in Design Assistance, the information generated through Design Assistance, and the difference between Design Assistance in Japan and Consultation in US are focused. Our previous paper pointed out that Japanese design organizations tend to utilize Design Assistance by the subcontractors, whereas US design organizations are more likely to distribute design tasks among specialized consultants. In this paper, the elevator industry is focused as the typical industry indicating the clear difference of the task distribution between Japanese Design Assistance and the US Consultation. In Japan, elevator companies are regarded as subcontractors as they provide design, manufacturing, installation, and maintenance services. They offer the product design information and analysis for free. It is called Design Assistance, as they hope to be specified and installed in future construction. In the US, by contrast, Vertical Transportation Consultants provide design service to the architects especially for customized elevators. In Japanese cases, five major elevator companies are selected. Thirteen people are interviewed. In the US cases, twenty-five Vertical Transportation Consultants were approached, and five of them responded to the inquiry (Table4).
First, the tasks and responsibilities of subcontractors in Design Assistance are clarified. We confirmed the subcontractors provide the design information based on the Design Assistance free of charge. The subcontractors do not have a primal responsibility of their design information, especially to the owner of the project. It results in a confusion of responsibilities between the architect and the subcontractor.
Second, two types of the information gathering process through the Design Assistance is confirmed. One is the information generated by the subcontractor and provided to the architect, such as drawings, specifications, analysis, cost estimation, and presentation images (Table1). The other is the information provided from the architect to the subcontractor. The Design Assistance is one of the best opportunities for subcontractors to acquire “needs” of the owners, which is typically not obtained by the sales department of subcontractors. It is utilized for the development of new products.
Third, the difference between Design Assistance in Japan and Consultation in US are focused. In this paper, the basic services of the consultants were investigated, through the website of the consultants on the list of International Association of Elevator Consultants (IAEC). In US, an assessment and inspection oriented service, such as Maintenance Review, Assessment, Litigation and Inspection, and project management service for elevator installation are available (Table3). There are far more significant opportunities in modernization than new construction. The elevator manufacturers and the vertical transportation consultants are separate entities, which make smooth information exchange difficult compared to the Japanese environment (Fig. 4).