Volume 40, Issue 3 March 2005
The Farnady Files
The Eyes Have It
Time to Take Responsibility for Our Work
by Dez Farnady
Defective product issues in this business need to begin with the fabricator. The first set of eyes that must check for defects are those of the quality control people in the fabricator’s plant. All fabricators claim to have lots of QC stations—in reality, most of them have a few and all of them have some. The second set of eyes belongs to the shipping department.
Loaders, packers and drivers all have the opportunity to see defective product and bring it to someone’s attention.
The customer also has some responsibilities. Professional journeyman glaziers get paid well because they know the business. Should a question occur with regard to quality, it needs to be discussed immediately with the lead man, the foreman or field superintendent and must be brought to the vendor’s attention before any undue costs are incurred.
The general contractor is not completely blameless either. Part of his job is to oversee the work of his subs so that quality questions can be raised early. Once discovered, installation of questionable products needs to be stopped immediately.
No one is licensed to incur unauthorized expenses on behalf of a supplier whose product may have slipped through the control screening and evaluation process. Knowingly and intentionally installing defective glass with the idea of holding up the vendor for costs (its removal, new glass and the additional cost of the installation of the replacement material) is tantamount to stealing. This means that the culprit could pick up a profitable additional labor contract at the expense of the vendor by not exercising his responsibility to evaluate the product before installation.
Speaking from Experience
A few years ago I was involved in a lawsuit with a project where material was damaged. A general contractor attempted to hold the glazing contractor responsible for some very expensive, multi-layered laminate that was abused by an “act of God” and incompetent repair attempts by subcontractors. The general contractor refused to accept the blame for the damage by others, so he bought new glass, hired someone else to install it and sued everyone else for his costs and damages.
Needless to say, the motives of the general were suspect, to say the least, because he should have had adequate insurance for the “act of God” portion and should have been honest enough to work the losses out fairly with his subs. Since he sued first, he had the upper hand and everyone else had to defend him first and counter-sue second. Everyone finally took the advice of their respective (and respectable) attorneys, and everyone paid to minimize further legal costs that would have continued to escalate far beyond the value of the product.
Pay the Price
If, in fact, the product was defective and everyone missed the opportunity to stop the process until it was too late, the best option is for everyone to bite the bullet. Since all parties had some responsibility for the evaluation of the product, all have the opportunity to stop the bleeding before the patient dies. Everyone needs to pay the price. Sharing the replacement cost among all the parties at cost minimizes the loss for everyone and is a lot cheaper than the time and money lost in lawsuits where no one but the lawyers stand to really win. The problem can be resolved amicably and the losses may even be recovered jointly on future work when the opportunity arises. The alternate makes for loss of customers and vendors and happy and wealthy attorneys.
If the owner objects to the look of a product that is within industry standards and tolerances, then let him also bite the bullet and bear the pain of buying it all over again. Perfection is an expensive quality and is not available at commodity prices.
Dez Farnady serves as general manager of Royalite Manufacturing Inc., a skylight manufacturer in San Carlos, Calif. His column appears monthly.
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