This is not a story that I wanted to write. In fact, I had intended to write about “Drawdown Lines in Custom Color Matched Samples”. That subject will be addressed in an upcoming installment, so get ready to discuss it.
What I am writing about is the Changing Market. It is not news that there will be more challenges for anyone in the Construction Market going forward. Many in our industry have adequate backlog for 2009. The wildcard is what we are bidding now that will either make or break us for 2010. None of us expect to be able to book business at the same volume and margin levels that we were able to book in the recent past. That would be an unreasonable expectation.
In other words, I expect to lose some work to valid competitors at reduced margins because the market is smaller. That is classic economics and I am willing to compete on a level playing field.
However, the playing field is becoming less level. I will give you an example. We recently lost a medium size Project (Approximately, 5,500 SF) to a company that we are certain has no tested systems. They will not be fulfilling the requirements of the specification, in all likelihood, and no one seems to care. The GC is looking at price (the lower the better); the Architect probably does not fully understand the Specification that has been published because he probably subbed this out to an outside Spec Writer. The Architect probably had his fee reduced to get the Project in the fist place and has little money left in his budget for doing Contract Administration, so the likelihood that there is no tested system being provided will probably never be challenged.
Meanwhile none of the “full service” MCM Fabricators, that have made this product such a success, will get this Project. Why?
One of the reasons is that the knowledge base of the design community is very low on our Product. Many designers still specify; Alucobond®, Reynobond®, or Alpolic® and feel they have provided an adequate Specification. That type of Specification is for sheets of MCM Material.
Transforming the MCM Sheets into high quality MCM Panels that can actually be used on a building is the expertise of MCM Fabricators. They are the ones who cut the panels to size, rout the panels along their folding flanges, design and provide tested attachment systems, then assemble the panels and install them on buildings. A specification that only calls for the name of the MCM Sheet Manufacturer addresses none of the following: Attachment System, Experience, Services Offered (Fabrication, Engineering, Installation), or Financial Strength.
As I outlined in my first Blog, the Metal Construction Association has developed a Certification Program for Premium Certified MCM Fabricators that does address these requirements.
See the attached link: HERE
As an industry we must get the word out that specifying a Manufacturer of MCM Sheet is not adequate.
Another thing is also happening. With the shrinking of the Construction Market, suppliers and subcontractors, who are not MCM Fabricators of any type, are entering our Market and bidding against MCM Fabricators. Roofers are “throwing in” the panels in order to get the Roof. They have no experience in fabricating panels, no tested systems, and no expertise in installing the panels. They have one thing, and one thing only to offer, a low and uninformed price.
These problems will never be completely solved but it is important that we point them out and make an attempt to better inform Architects and Owners about our industry. There is no “free lunch”. A low price from an incompetent bidder hurts not only the Owner but our industry as well.
Let us all covenant together to take every opportunity to “tell the story” of how great MCM Projects are built. Use the tools we have; the Premium MCM Fabricators Requirements, “face to face” visits with Architects and Owners, Association Meetings, etc., whatever works. The bottom line is we have a great story to tell but it does no good if we do not tell it.
So, to paraphrase the Chicago mantra on elections, “vote early and often”. Let us tell “the story of quality” early and often.
If you have ideas to add, please post them to the Blog.
Ted S. Miller