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.
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
I think there’s a big problem with the way substitutions are often handled, at least here in Colorado.
CSI has some great solutions – for example, 2 different substitution request forms, one for use during bidding, and one for use during construction. MasterSpec has what I consider to be fairly decent language regarding substitutions, in Division 01. But these solutions are often not implemented.
I think that “what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate” on several levels:
As a specifier, I sometimes add some language to the “acceptable products” list in each spec section that refers to the Division 00 section “Procurement Substitution Procedures” and/or Division 01 section “Substitution Procedures,” or if I have a Basis-of-Design product by one manufacturer listed, and a list of comparable manufacturers after that, I sometimes add language in each spec section that indicates that the contractor should “Comply with the requirements of Division 01 Section ‘Product Requirements’ for comparable product requests.”
But as with everything else, the project architect still has to know what’s in the specs (and then enforce the specs), the G.C. still has to comply with the requirements of the construction documents (and make sure his subs do too), and the Owner still has to understand that proposed substitutions have to be very carefully evaluated since everything was designed around the specified product.
I think this is where our work as CSI members lies – we should try to educate the rest of our industry about the roles that all parts of a project team play in this substitution process.
This post originally appeared on Liz O'Sullivan's website as "Substitutions: Often a Quagmire, but CSI Can Help"
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SUBSTITUTIONS & SUBMITTALS?
The NEW Product Rep University Program at CONSTRUCT has been designed to meet the needs of Manufacturer's Representatives of Architectural Building Products, as integral members of the project team. The program features a full day of education (6 sessions) which includes 'Substitutions and Submittals: Not So Dirty Words' presented by Michael Chambers. Get additional details on the Product Rep University here: www.constructshow.com/PRU
Download a Product Rep University flyer here.
CONSTRUCT will be held October 9 - 11, 2019 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. Read more on CONSTRUCT here. )
Contributed by Michael Chambers
In my perspective from the back of the bus, I often wonder why so many product representatives feel ineffective or intimidated calling on architects. Granted, some architects can be quite a treat. The terms argumentative, aloof, know-it-all, unapproachable, abstract, and expletive deleted are often mentioned. Have you ever stopped to wonder why?
Without trying to defend architects, consider that often an architect’s attitude towards product reps is the result of being misled or over-sold on the applicability, features, and benefits of construction products. Look at a typical reaction to telephone marketers or used car salespersons, what is it that is so offensive? I would suggest two aspects. First, the unrelenting hard-sell without having any idea of your needs or interests; and second, the underlying attitude that the product offered is the only possible choice and how could an architect be so stupid not to immediately understand?
Unfortunately, product representatives must overcome the back wash of less enlightened sales types that have gone before them. However, it is relatively easy to overcome this type of resistance by using a solution-oriented approach rather than a typical product-oriented approach. Architects are primarily concerned with finding the most appropriate range of solutions not the best or greatest product.
In a survey done (editor's note: many years ago) by McGraw-Hill Sweets, architects were asked what they wanted from product representatives. The top 2 results were ‘recommended uses & application of products (92%)’ and ‘guide specifications (88%)’. The last choice was ‘manufacturer’s history, experience, overall capacities & range of products (40%)’. This means that architects want to know how to appropriately apply and integrate products into their designs, not be confused by competitive features and benefits. The need for guide specifications clearly indicates the need write clear, competitive, and enforceable specifications. Lastly, horror of all horrors, the least thing architects want to know is about your company.
Another critical element for effective architectural sales calls is the ability to listen. Practically every time a rep calls on me, the first words are about company history, the president’s ancestors, and how many products have been installed in Outer Slabovia last week. Next, we hear how many years he or she has been in the business, how big their territory is, on and on. Then, a guided tour through the product binder, page by page by never ending page. In all this time, usually 30 minutes, never once has the rep asked about projects, how products are selected, are the office master specifications up-to-date, and the like. The best advice I can offer for effective architectural sales calls is to SHUT-UP AND LISTEN!!!! You will be amazed by the knowledge and insights you can discover about what the architect knows and wants to know about your product. There is a definite reason why the Creator gifted us with 2 ears and one mouth. Here is the outline that I used when making architectural sales calls. These are basic issues and touch points that I found highly effective when dealing with project architects, curmudgeonly specifiers, and firm principals.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Followers of the Let's Fix Construction blog know of our adoration and appreciation of the CONSTRUCT conference, held annually in the Fall. Born originally as the Construction Specifications Institute's (CSI) annual meeting and trade show, CONSTRUCT continues in its dedication to bring together all disciplines in the AEC industry.
Much like the membership of CSI, you can join Architects, Designers, Specifiers, Engineers, Contractors, Construction Managers, Owners, Product Representatives, and Manufacturers at this event. Starting Wednesday, October 9th and concluding Friday the 11th, National Harbor, Maryland is the location for this years conference.
From Emerging Professionals Day to 50+ accredited education sessions, from 175+ exhibitors to the demo and learning theater, from CSI Night Out to the latest event to be added, Product Rep University, CONSTRUCT is truly the conference to attend if you are in the construction industry.
This early posting of the weekly Let's Fix Construction blog is meant to save you money if you plan on attending CONSTRUCT. Registration is open and early bird rates expire Monday the 24th at midnight.
This year will be my ninth consecutive CONSTRUCT show attended and I consider it to be the bargain of the AEC industry. Its foolish not to save money in this day and age if you can, so I implore you to take advantage of these rates before they go up at midnight. Just $420 for a Construction Specifications Institute member and $460 for a non-member today, these rates go up to $550/$625 starting on Tuesday the 25th.
And if you're interested in only attending Emerging Professionals Day or the Product Rep University on Wednesday, October 9th, the rates are even cheaper. As a product representative myself, I know how difficult it is to get education that benefits my day-to-day job. As the primary instigator of the Product Rep University, I helped select some great education sessions for fellow reps like "Discipline Roles & Project Goals: How Do I Fit In?", "Why You Need to Read Division 01 on Your Projects: The Rules of the Game" and "Substitutions and Submittals: Not So Dirty Words". There are three other education sessions for the PRU, including the "Power 90 for Product Reps: Greetings, Meetings & More To Know", which I will be a part of.
Ask anyone that has attended CONSTRUCT in the past and you'll hear the benefits first hand of why you should attend. I hope to see you in National Harbor in October. If you make it, please stop me and say hello.
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
On a recent project of mine, the lack of a submittal for the contractor’s proposed solution to an unexpected situation caused a problem. The contractor didn’t think that a submittal was required by the contract documents, and the architect didn’t realize that a submittal was required by the contract documents. The contractor could have saved himself some money and time, and could have saved the architect and the owner some time, if the contractor had just prepared a submittal for the architect’s review before proceeding with the work. (Oh, yes, some freshly-installed flooring underlayment had to be removed before the project could proceed. THAT was a waste of time and money.)
If something is added to a project, because of an unforeseen condition, everyone (architect, owner, contractor) often acts as if it’s the first time this sort of thing has ever happened. It’s not. Unexpected things happen all the time on construction projects, and that’s why we have standard processes to deal with them.
Anything that wasn’t originally in the project, but is part of the project now, is in the contract as the result of either a change order or a minor change to the contract. Whether it’s a moisture mitigation treatment for an existing slab, or a whole new roof assembly, whether it was initiated by an owner as a late addition to a project, or it was initiated by the contractor as a solution to an unexpected condition, or initiated as a substitution request because of a sudden product unavailability, it ends up in the contract as the direct result of a change order or a minor change (such as the type authorized by an ASI, Architect’s Supplemental Instructions). Even when the change results in no added cost to the owner, and even when its purpose is solely to repair a mistake made by the contractor, it’s a change, and it should be documented (and submitted on).
Architects and specifiers can make sure that the contract documents require submittals for things that weren’t originally in the project. Requiring submittals for items added to the project during construction is a good idea. In fact, requiring submittals for items added to the project during construction may be even more important than requiring submittals for things that were originally part of the design, since the new element wasn’t originally thought through along with the rest of the design. The contractor’s preparation of the submittal, and the architect’s review of the submittal, act as a double-check mechanism to help make sure that the added item will be appropriate.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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