News & Press: President's Letter

TRENDS 2020 President's Letter

Monday, March 23, 2020  
Posted by: Trish Moss
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Is it really Value Engineering”
A TREND we can do without

 In the commercial market, we rely on highly competent professional distributors and suppliers to coordinate the logistics of importing and expediting products from all over the world. The suppliers provide high quality, custom-manufactured, expertly-engineered tile materials selected by professional designers for their size, texture and color. Those products are shipped to coordinate with evolving construction schedules painstakingly developed by studied engineers responsible for constructing beautiful buildings conceived by world renowned architectural firms, built by internationally recognized general contractors for Fortune 1000 clients.

The alternative is: “We just ‘Value Engineer’ everything… I know a guy who can get us tile on the cheap...” These are two very different perspectives to get to the same basic finish line.

Things have changed since the world shrank to the size of the smart phone in the palm of your hand. That device provides instant access to entire libraries of materials and their availability for inclusion in your project. That is a powerful opportunity. It can allow you to take advantage of the full value of the expertise offered by each of the elements described in the first paragraph.

It also allows you entry to the “I know a guy” market. That guy is expert at finding the cheapest look-alike product available. Don’t cheat yourself out of quality porcelain/ceramic tile projects and future opportunities with “I know a guy.” Those products/projects have a following and a place in the market, but not every project.

“Value Engineering” (VE) and “Basis of Design” have become euphemisms for alternate ways to get to a desired intent without much concern for quality. There are clients who expect this. When asked, assisting the GC/ owner should be an opportunity to educate. Because of your expertise, you can identify efficiencies with products equal in performance, offered at a more competitive price. Allow the decision maker the opportunity to evaluate risks/rewards for products that satisfy project requirements. This is quite different than a rushing to the bargain basement tile closeout bin to eliminate quality products on every project. Contractors who ask you to provide slash-and-burn alternates for every project are unlikely to be looking for anything but the low price. IS that where you want to compete? Those projects are actively eliminating quality products and likely are also eliminating quality competition. We can’t offer, in good faith, a proposal we know is providing “less” than is required by the specification. We simply don’t compete at that level. We see owners/builders frequently misled into VE compromises that they truly do not understand with products that do not meet the project’s needs.

What to do? Build relationships with industry partners who understand your vision and have a proven interest in working with quality contractors.

I had the opportunity to spend a few hours today with a quality manufacturer whose company I consider master marketers. We talked about our shared desire to build value into projects rather than “Value Engineering” the best products out with materials that under perform or present risk to the installation. Ultimately, the odds are that cut corners today turn into punch list and failures tomorrow. Keeping premium products on a job is difficult in competitively bid projects where competitors may not share your vision and whose low presumably qualified bid sets the price in the marketplace. We just continue to refine our target client list by client type and project type. We aggressively pursue projects we feel showcase our strengths, focusing on that has reduced stress and allowed us to be more competitive on target projects. These are projects we feel will provide us with an opportunity to perform and manage well. In those situations, our true value is shown as we build trust with our client and provide opportunities to find economical solutions without sacrificing the quality of the project and installation. This is true Value Engineering!

Chris Walker
NTCA President
Vice President, David Allen Company
Chairman, ANSI A-108
Chairman, US TAG ISO TC-189
Board of Directors ABC-VA
Voting Member TCNA Handbook
Voting Member 
NTCA Reference Manual