Do Relationships Matter?

August 4, Bloomberg News published an article about a way that the six largest US automakers could improve profits by $1.4 billion last year. No matter how the money would be split among them that should be enough to make the auto execs and the shareholders take notice.

Carmakers Pinching Suppliers Costs Billions in Profits by Mark Clothier.

Since this blog is about construction, you may be wondering what relevance an article about cars may have. Well, it is all about the relationships. The Bloomberg article describes the dramatic effect on profits that even a modest improvement in the relationships can bring. Now, if only the design and construction industry were listening and learning.

I found this article at particularly opportune time. We were asked to write door hardware for the interior fit out of a healthcare project. We already wrote the hardware for the core and shell a few months earlier. The fit out request came without warning and with the need to be ready for bid in 10 days. The floor plans were provided. The door schedule followed with the promise that updated plans would be sent soon.

Day One: After our initial document review, we alerted the architect of discrepancies between the plans and the door schedule and requested the promised plan updates plus the door elevations and details.

Day Two: Additional review comments were sent with a repeated drawing request.

Day Three: We informed the architect the hardware spec must be started the following day to meet the project schedule. We called. Still no updates.

Day Five: The first draft hardware spec was completed and submitted for review without the benefit of the requested information. Shortly afterward, the architect provided a reply to the initial review comments which led to the discovery: we were working with outdated drawings. Now the revised floor plans and door schedule arrive. Still no elevations and details. When asked where updates were made, architect provided markups of the older plans to show what revisions were made.

Day Six: The specifications must be revised before they can be reviewed.

This scenario made me think about the little things that could so easily improve our clients' profits. Read email and listen to voice mail when they arrive. Be aware of what suppliers may need and when it will be needed so work can be completed, efficiently. Provide timely responses to avoid rework and duplicate effort.

In this case, a delayed response required that we discover and report inconsistencies between the plans and schedule. The delay caused the architect additional time to review the coordination comments that were resolved by the new drawings and schedule. Plus, the architect spent even more time to explain the drawing revisions. Ultimately, it may cause the architect to delay review until after the documents are issued for bid. Making coordination and review revisions via addendum will double everyone's effort. At least it will be coordinated before shop drawings are submitted.

Aside from the rework, the stress of trying to perform under less than ideal conditions erodes relationships and may reduce the ultimate work quality. "Haste Makes Waste" is particularly true when it comes to construction document coordination.

None of this needed to happen as it did. Mind the project schedules. Inform your team well in advance to be certain they are prepared to help when needed. Provide current data to work from. Take the time to explain what has changed or will be changing. Tell suppliers to hold-off working on items still in flux and likely to change. Cooperate because it will reduce your own workload and improve your employer's profits.

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