When the President of Columbia Specialty, Mike Taylor, asked me to get an article ready for the January CSC Newsletter I automatically started to panic. My initial thought was to figure out a way to get out of this task. I tried telling him that I was just too busy with our new facility in San Jose and, like all people, time is the one commodity I can’t seem to find enough of. I tried the excuse that I was not a columnist or writer; moreover, my writing skills resemble fragmented sentences as if I were writing a bid to a customer. After repeated pleas to get out of it, Mike finally said, “Look Dude, it’s important to help offer solutions to the industries we serve. Just think of a topic that might offer solutions to our customers and their industries.” With that said, I accepted the challenge.
Next came the topic, what to say, what to talk about….valve actuation? Instrumentation controls? Our new location in San Jose? In all, I was stumped so I took off to jobsites to see what other topics might exists in today’s business climate that I could write about. After spending a couple days on the road visiting with clients, from OEM’s to both Mechanical and Industrial Contractors, the message from the field began to be more clear. How can companies better manage their purchase overages and better handle their returns to the suppliers? With that said, here are 5 ways to prevent material overages on a current or your next project:
1) Know your product and choose a supplier that can best provide the material needed for your project. All suppliers cannot be everything to everyone. Choosing a supplier that specializes in the material you are looking for ensures that when the project is complete the supplier will be much more flexible when it comes to accepting returned material. In the case of Columbia Specialty, we aren’t going to try to sell you finished plumbing goods when there are other wholesalers positioned to excel in that supply chain. We strive to be experts in piping solutions and our goal is to stay focused and driven towards both commercial and industrial projects. Go with the supplier who specializes in the product group you need to successfully complete a specific project and not a supplier who tries to supply all items for all projects.
2) Consider a negotiated priced job trailer. While most piping contractors are hesitant to have a job trailer at their jobsites, they are becoming increasingly efficient at saving the contractor time and money. Reach out to your supplier and discuss the potential of a job trailer. Having a trailer on your jobsite will not only allow for more efficiency with labor usage but will minimize any dispute about returns after the completion of the project.
3) Negotiate the potential of returns on the front-end of the project. Before your project begins meet with your supplier and ask which items on your bulk-buy material list are returnable at the end of the project. Be sure you to educate yourself in regards to which items are returnable and which are not. Similarly, make sure you understand the timeline of the allowed return. When you have something to return, don’t waste any time. Contact your supplier immediately. The ability to return an item often depends on timing. While it is always the goal of the supplier to work with their customer and be flexible, timing and communication is everything when it comes to returning material.
4) Share your final take off with your supplier. This is extremely important because your procurement take off may differ from the original bid take off. When your supplier sees the final list rather than the estimator’s original take off, they can help ensure you are purchasing the correct material. When the supplier has your approved final take off they can help manage the order and can communicate when items procured exceeds the estimated amounts. Moreover, the wholesaler can use their expertise to discuss long lead items and discuss well in advance buying certain items that might be more cumbersome to procure other than the typical “A” items.
5) At the end of the day, you must know your project. If you are stepping outside of the types of projects you are most familiar with, be sure you truly understand your project before submitting a bulk-buy material list. We often see customers who specialize in specific piping construction background come to us with a take off for a project that differs from their normal niche business. The customer’s prior project experience can cause major challenges if they don’t amend their purchasing behaviors and practices. Ultimately, not understanding the different construction.
I know that many of you after reading this might have some other examples. If so, please send to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do a follow-up story in the coming months to discuss all of your points of view from the contractors or factory side of the business. At the end of the day Mike is right, if we can help further our industry to be more productive and more streamlined, then we all win!!