Contributed by Russell Harrison
As product reps, most of us have it pretty easy in our day-to-day lives. Sure, there are long days walking, driving, or even flying from meeting to meeting. And don’t forget the many nights in hotels!!! But overall, our jobs aren’t too difficult.
Well, except for the one thing that we don’t have control over. When the drawings and specifications don’t agree on a project. This is always a difficult spot to be in for a product rep. I won’t even start to cover what happens at the subcontractor level, as that’s a blog post unto itself.
Has anyone ever wondered what happens when a manufacturer’s rep is asked to provide a bid in that instance? Many things happen, and not necessarily all of them are good! To give you a background on what products I cover as a rep, I handle aluminum composite materials (ACM), plate, and honeycomb panels in the Pacific Northwest. Our products are specified on a regular basis. A good number of projects we end up working on are handled via substitution request.
Typically, when a subcontractor gets an invite where one of our products are being used (material, not necessarily manufacturer specified), we’re forwarded some, or all of the information we need to get started on providing a material bid. As reps, we get to go through the details and specs to make sure they work together and there aren’t any issues. In the last month, I’ve had eight or ten projects come across my desk where the specs and details did not agree, even to the point of ACM rainscreen panels being specified, but the drawings calling out honeycomb barrier panels. That, kids, is an apples and oranges conversation and very difficult to negotiate at the architectural level without ruffling feathers!
The first thing that I do when providing a subcontractor request is to annotate the project spec and note where our proposed substitution is an equal or comparable, but I always include notes where there was a “miss” on the part of the architecture team to either make sure the spec was clean or where the details don’t match the specs. Unfortunately, because my notes are on the spec, it always seems that I’m picking on the specifier, but I’m not. Regrettably, it’s a feature of the substitution request process, since they are typically based around the specifications.
Something interesting that has happened to me in the last few weeks is being invited into a couple of firms to discuss the “misses” on two projects to try and clean them up via addendum. What was really interesting was that both times the design architect was who I met with and the specifier was nowhere to be found. They were either too busy with another project or located in another office. This seemed odd to me, only for the fact that both areas needed to be discussed, not just the drawing details. Either way, I was impressed to be called in to discuss how the next addendum could handle the highlighted issues.
One thing I will say, is hopefully my annotated specs don’t hit the addendum as part of the sub-request package. Mainly, because it would be like a graded paper from high school that everyone gets to see, but no one wants to show to the public. Who wants to have their work out in the ether for everyone to review and see the mistakes? Not me, that’s for sure!
As product reps, the one thing that most of us offer, but most don’t seem to use on a regular basis, is detail and spec review of masters and/or project specific documents. If more design teams were able to rely on their local reps with CDT after their names (prior to construction documents (CDs) being released and hopefully as early as schematic design (SDs)), the bidding phase would be cleaner, there would be less misses, and less “I’m going to throw money at what I don’t understand to cover myself” on the subcontractor level.
Speaking as a product rep to designers: please use us…abuse us…and let us make your projects better. We love getting messy using red pens and markers to help make projects work for everyone involved!
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