Volume 47, Issue 4 - May 2008

Window Guy
A dealer’s perspective
by R. Mark Reasbeck, Owner of Coyote Springs Window and Door of Las Vegas. Mr. Reasbeck's opinions are solely his own and do not reflect those of this magazine.

For the Want of a Rivet
Big Builders Should Rethink Going with the Low Bidder
There is a proverb that has been credited to several civilizations, but I have heard it was the mantra of World War II aircraft, tank and ammunitions manufacturers:“For the want of a nail, a shoe was lost. For the want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For the want of a horse, the rider was lost. For the want of a rider, the battle was lost. For the want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.”

A Riveting Story
By now, you may have heard of a book that was released in March of this year entitled, “What Really Sank the Titanic,” by Timothy Foecke and Jennifer Hooper McCarty. The premise of the book focuses on the smallest part of the Titanic, a rivet, and why it may be the culprit of its demise. McCarty’s research uncovered that not only was there more than one supplier of rivets, but the iron content of some rivets contained 9-percent slag instead of the 2- to 3-percent slag for a more durable rivet.

She continues her theory with a strong argument stating that the cheaper rivets were used because the shipbuilder, Harland & Wolff of Belfast Ireland, was under contract for two other megaships besides the Titanic. Because the original supplier could not keep pace, additional suppliers were used and McCarty’s gut feeling is that the shipbuilder knew the secondary rivets were inferior in structural quality.

Foecke takes this one step further and pinpoints that the inferior rivets were used in the bow and stern, where there was less stress than in the bottom regions of the vessel. He also cites a finding by retired naval engineer David Livingston that the riveting machine used to fasten the rivets may have not been able to reach certain sections of the bow and stern and the softer rivets were easier to apply manually. The ship struck the iceberg on the bow. For the want of a rivet, a ship was lost.

Sorry, You’re Not the Low Bidder
Recently, I have felt like the captain of the Titanic. The scenario is the same with every big builder. They invite you to a little special one-on-one time and it’s all about them. The last meeting I attended I tried to be proactive and spent 15 minutes explaining to the builder how windows are a direct connection to the energy crisis. From mining the raw aluminum, to furnaces for billet and float glass, to the $4-plus per gallon of diesel for shipping, to the all-time cost of aluminum, where do we find a discount? I might as well be talking to the guy who played Bernie in “Weekend at Bernie’s.” None of these people will hear you.

The next words out of their mouths are, “We need additional discounts, or we will rebid the job.” The fact I have a contract in place, have been holding prices since 2005 and eating the increases along the way doesn’t hold slag. By changing products, I could maintain the current pricing for the next six months was the best I could do. 

Within a few days, I received a call and was told that I had lost two projects because of a lower bidder. At this point in time I asked, “Why do we even bother with a contract? If I agree to sell windows at X amount, and you agree to contract that amount, how is it you can change suppliers if I don’t lower my price?”

I am not sure of the legalities, but if I push it, bad blood will develop. Once again, the big builders have us between a ship and an iceberg. The subcontractors/suppliers are the rivets in this industry. We all know what can happen by using inferior rivets.

“For the want of a low-bid window, a contract was lost. For the want of a contract, a subcontractor was lost. For the want of a subcontractor, a builder was lost. For the want of a builder, an industry was lost. For the want of an industry, the homebuyer was lost. For the want of a homebuyer, the bank was lost. For the want of a bank, the economy is lost.” 

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