Volume 44, Issue 4 - April 2009

Guest Book

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?
Stop the Finger Pointing, Find Solutions
by Jim Westphal
 

How many times have you been involved with a project where delays, cost overruns or general miscommunication have arisen and the root cause seemed avoidable at best, foolish at worst. “If only we had known” is a common refrain. “If only they had checked with the manufacturer. If only they had read the specs. If only we’d had a meeting.”

We know how to do our jobs and what should be done. Yet, there always seems to be issues where one wonders, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

For all projects there should be a profit margin. Obviously, most people or companies want a bigger portion of that slice, but there is only so much available. Some issues are self-inflicted, while others are the result of another’s greed. Too often when one of these occurs other problems arise.

If glazing or fenestration products are being installed and there are flaws, mistakes or miscommunication, it will typically result in delays and/or cost overruns.  Soon, the overall project schedule has gone down the drain. The dream of a smoothly run job is gone. What is the resulting benefit? Someone gets a bigger portion of the pie—but at what cost?

Taking Responsibility
Now don’t misunderstand me, many times the party or parties involved bring it on themselves. They cut corners. They hide problems or incomplete planning. Many problems arise when one party tries to set others up for failure (to back charge for profit) or poorly manage their portion of the job. When someone intentionally or maliciously causes problems, he should be held accountable. Yet what benefit is gained? These self-inflicted problems are the ones that could and should be avoided. We all know of real-life examples, but let’s look at a general one.

An architect has drawn a project where he wishes to use a storefront product in an inappropriate application (poor planning). The general contractor estimates a cost incorrectly (more poor planning). The installer tries to be the lower bidder without confirming whether the correct product has been targeted (poor project management). The product manufacturer sells the wrong product without reviewing the job (poor oversight).

The job starts, and now the architect wants stamped calculations from a registered engineer. But wait; this was not in the specifications (poor planning and cost overrun). The installer contacts the manufacturer and finds out that storefront will not work. Delivery dates are extended six to eight weeks and the cost now has increased 60 percent. The finger pointing begins. Threats of back charges and lawsuits begin.

Was this avoidable? Yes. Before thinking about how it was everyone else’s fault, let’s look at this a little more clearly. Did the architect do his due diligence? He thought he had, but no one told him that stamped calculations were a good idea. He had local installers review the drawings for product selection, but didn’t ask for confirmation that the manufacturer had reviewed the proposal.

The general contractor did not confirm with the architect whether these steps were done correctly. When quoting the job, they did not confirm that the system selection was correct. They took the lowest bid without performing their due diligence.

The installer did not have pre-engineering done. They selected the lowest cost product—one without design flexibility. They didn’t inquire as to whether stamped calculations would be required. Did the project specifications make any sense?

The manufacturer sold material without asking for project information.

Everyone proceeded, thinking that the next person in line would be responsible and catch any mistakes or oversights. What resulted was a rush to get the job done at the lowest price. In the end, what they got were problems. By asking extra questions, working together to ensure that what is drawn will work and being open and honest to achieve a common goal, a job well done that delivered a profit to everyone could have been realized.

Why can’t we all just get along?

Jim Westphal is the supervisor of technical planning for YKK AP America Inc. in Austell, Ga. Mr. Westphal’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine. This article previously appeared in the January AAMA Aluminum Material Council Newsletter, available at www.aamanet.org/upload/AMC_Newsletter_January_2009.pdf. 

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