3 Modern Tips for Specifying Products on Commercial Building Projects
By Bob Hasulak, Partner & Director of Operations, QuickFrames
We’re lucky to call structural engineers our friends and colleagues. And as QuickFrames has grown and seen our engineered RTU frames specified in countless building plans, we’ve learned a lot about how the process works. Most of all, we’ve learned about how specifying products on commercial projects can ultimately impact structural engineers’ customers…for better or worse.
Of course, we all want the former, but sometimes it takes a modern mindset to get there. So, here are three things we’ve found that can modernize your specifying approach and can help position you – and your customers – for better results.
1. Be open to new products.
Many engineers have told us that they have their go-to specs and details on hand, ready to insert into building plans on autopilot. We understand this. It’s easier and faster for you to do your job when you work with options you already know and trust. But how often are you open to exploring new products? It might not seem like something pressing for you to consider, but we’d argue it actually is.
Here’s one example. Deloitte recently released its midyear 2020 Engineering and Construction Industry Outlook report, which found that “most engineering and construction firms continue to experience low profitability and margins.” The report goes on to recommend exploring “the potential cost savings that pre-assembly and modularization could bring to projects.” The researchers explain that these types of products not only help firms save on labor costs but “might also ensure better quality and shorten the project schedule with less labor required on-site. This can avoid rework and help improve safety as well.”
We happen to know one product (ahem, our RTU frames) that checks all those boxes and more. So our interest in this is admittedly somewhat self-serving. But, it’s also in the best interests of your customers. The structural engineers who specify our frames regularly hear from their customers that using our product helped them enjoy many of the benefits cited above. If those engineers had stuck with angle iron frames in their plans and not looked into an option like ours, their customers very likely could have ended up spending more, requiring more onsite labor and experiencing a reduction in quality and safety.
If you’re unsure about new products, we challenge you to accept some free lunches. Many companies offer lunch & learn programs, many of which are accredited for CE hours (again, like ours), and attending them is a no-risk way to see if a product or idea excites you or fits with your comfort level. You can ask other engineers if they’ve tried specifying any products you hear about and get their feedback. Even if you don’t end up including new products in your plans, you’ll at least increase your knowledge and become more open to offering additional possibilities to your customers down the road.
2. Proactively poll your customers.
In many industries, asking for customer feedback is the norm. But in engineering firms, we’ve learned it’s not all that common. What if you adopted a feedback-seeking approach, in the hopes of learning how to better serve your customers? Isn’t it better to proactively fulfill wishes rather than wait to hear something is broken?
This doesn’t have to be sophisticated or time-consuming either. Simply get in the habit of emailing your customers after a project, and asking what they thought about the products they used. If you included something in the plans as an alternate, did they use it? Did they like it? Were there issues with it?
Or, reach out to them during a time you’re not actively working on a project. Ask them their goals, and if there are any aspects of projects that frustrate them most. Then do some research (whether online or by asking colleagues) to see if anything exists on the market that can solve those problems for them. This helps you mature in your role and provide excellent customer service.
3. Share the wealth.
When you come across something your customers love, whether a new product, new application or new idea, don’t keep it to yourself. Let other engineers in your company know what’s worked well for you and your customers, so they can see if it’s beneficial for them too. If they’re unsure about a new product, invite the provider in for a lunch & learn with your team to give them some education about it. The more you share what you know, and your colleagues do the same, the more the industry as a whole grows and excels.
We’d love to hear more about the specifying process, and how we can make it easier for you to specify QuickFrames on our building plans. In the meantime, check out our engineering documents. Here’s to you and your success!