My sliding scale of contract value contributions

Certain people or things can add more value to a project than others. While each part of the process to complete a contract may be equally necessary, they are not of equal value. You need to differentiate what actions have the greatest leverage on successful contract completion. If you pay equal attention to all contract components all the time, you create a false sense of covering all your bases

Certain people or things can add more value to a project than others. While each part of the process to complete a contract may be equally necessary, they are not of equal value. You need to differentiate what actions have the greatest leverage on successful contract completion. If you pay equal attention to all contract components all the time, you create a false sense of covering all your bases and your behind. That's why you need to ascertain what gets you the most bang — in this case the highest reward for the least risk — for your checkbook.

Contrary to popular fiction, installing the system(s) on a job contributes the least return for the highest amount of risk and is last on my personal sliding scale of contract contributions. Sure, your plumbing, duct or piping needs to actually go in the building or you won't get paid. But the truth is that labor accounts for 80% of a contract's risk and 20% of a contract's added value, even if you know your crews well and have a reasonable sense of their probable productivity. Any number of things can go wrong, even if you know that Old Joe and his crew can run 200 ft. of sewer mains or do an entire 3,000-sq.ft. floor's ducts in a single day because they've done so forever. Such factors include weather, personal problems (yours, theirs or both), equipment breaking down or job-related problems, such as another crew accidentally or intentionally sabotaging your work (we all know this happens from time to time).

Next to last in contract value contribution is the quality of plans and specs you have to deal with. Yes, I know you're not the architect or engineer, but I get so tired of hearing fellow contractors whine that they can't keep up with my crews because of the quality of the job plans and/or specs. Hey, guys, we're both playing music from the same score, right? The truth is that all but the largest jobs could be sketched out on a napkin, and everything eventually would go in correctly and to code. It has to, or the local municipality won't issue a CO. All but the most perfectly designed jobs end up being a mishmash of A/E nonsensical concepts wedded to what eventually becomes our professional design-build knowledge and execution anyway.

Ascending in order of importance, a good owner or better construction manager can make or break not just you but the job in general. They may have no common sense, or worse yet, they may have grandiose or unrealistic expectations for the job schedule or for what's actually going to be installed and how it's going to perform once the job's done. So do what you have to do to make sure you feed and water them on a regular basis and keep them happy. All they want or need are assurances they can have your attention when necessary and your tender loving care when they ask for it. Give that to them and you'll be fine, all other problems aside.

Money to buy the materials and equipment for the job, when and where they are needed, ranks next in importance. Money to “incentivize” (don't you love the new language of project management?) higher than expected levels of field productivity also can be a powerful tool because you're exposing the contract to the least overall risk the sooner the stuff goes in.

Your skill sets as a project manager are the second most important on this list of my job value priorities. Always be a perpetual student of our/your trade, continually remain in learning mode and always be your own worst critic. If you're not doing your job to juggle and keep all the plates in the air while cooking a five-course meal for the owner and simultaneously kissing your boss's rear, then you're not doing your job.

And lastly, your hard-earned reputation and your equally honest company are most important to maximizing the contract's value and making the most with the least within its legal confines. If your word isn't worth anything and if you perpetually over-promise and then under- or non-perform, I guarantee your job won't make money no matter how fat the estimated gross and net margins were. And when the job does have problems, your word that they will be fixed can buy you time that money simply can't purchase. You can use that time to add real money to the contract's bottom line. In the end, that contract and job will be done one way or the other, so you might as well make it a profitable one by correctly prioritizing who and what can make or break it.

Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor and project manager with unlimited Master's licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating, and plumbing. He may be reached by calling 919-291-0878, or via email at [email protected]. His Web site is http://hkentcraig.com.

Lasco suspends plant activities

ANAHEIM — Lasco Bathware recently announced it temporarily will suspend certain manufacturing activities at its production facility here.

“Challenging market conditions require efficiency, and we continue to make necessary adjustments across all of our plants to ensure we're operating at that level,” said Stuart Leigh, president of Lasco Bathware.

The recent realignment will affect the manufacturing of Lasco's FRP product line. All other manufacturing functions at the plant will remain in place. Additionally, the warehouse and distribution center will continue to function, and Lasco will continue to offer installation services to builders in the Southern California market out of the facility.