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John Bunzick, CCS, CCCA
New member
Username: Bunzick

Post Number: 65
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Friday, February 07, 2003 - 09:43 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I'm interested in what other specifiers and architects do with regard to requirements for experience minimums for manufacturers and products, and also criteria they use when evaluating products (besides the obvious basic performance requirements). These would be for the purpose of controlling substitutions where it is not desirable, or perhaps possible, to limit to a selected list.

For example:
- Do you specify that products have been in production for a certain number of years?
- That manufacturers have been in business for a number of years?
- When researching newer products, do you look at things like a manufacturer's quality control procedures?
- Do you require factory-visits as part of an evaluation process?
- Review of company financials?
- Evaluation of distribution methods and facilities?

We are trying to be sure that we are being objective in our review of products. We are finding this a bit more difficult than it might seem. In our somewhat specialized area, there may be only two manufacturers for an existing product. When a third comes along, there is great concen about "allowing" them to submit their product in case they can't deliver on time, or at all, or have quality issues. At the same time, we want to encourage competition and advancement in the product technology.

I'd appreciate your thoughts.
John Regener, AIA, CCS, CCCA, CSI
New member
Username: John_regener

Post Number: 52
Registered: 04-2002
Posted on Friday, February 07, 2003 - 11:26 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Specifying manufacturer and installer/applicator experience is an attempt to ensure quality. The assumption is that a manufacturer or installer/applicator with a certain number of years of experience or certain amount of successful installations/applications will do a better job. It probably helps ensure quality.

However, it's not foolproof and it can be discriminatory.

It's conceivable that a manufacturer or installer/applicator has had many years of experience doing mediocre or marginal quality work. They're cheap and keep getting work.

Or, a highly reputable manufacturer or installer/applicator has had an ownership change and does not produce the same quality as that on which their reputation has been built.

Checking the financial status of manufacturers and installers/applicators? That's a lot of investigative work if it's done thoroughly and before bidding.

I see in many master specifications typical paragraphs specifying a certain minimum experience level. The text is included in almost all Sections but there's no guide about how many years of experience are sufficient. Should all manufactures and installers/applicators have three or five or twenty-five years of experience? Does the experience need to be in the same products as specified? What about new products and new technologies? We all can think of examples of manufacturers with decades or experience producing new products that have performed poorly (especially in the roofing industry).

I wonder, how does a new business compete, especially on projects with very competitive pricing requirements? At the same time, why should an Owner and Architect/Engineer take risk on unproven manufacturers and installers/applicators? This is business and not charity, right?

Another caution is putting too much emphasis on experience for one product and then in another Section not specifying any experience requirements. Does that mean the Contractor can use inexperienced manufacturers or installers/applicators unless the spec says otherwise?

I think it comes down to the specifier's judgment. If the specifier thinks it's important to specify experience and the consequences are worth the cost and hassle, then do so. If the purpose is to exclude or restrict competition (i.e., copying text from a manufacturer's self-serving specification), then that's not a good idea.

Perhaps the focus should be on describing the attributes of the end result and not trying to control those results by prescribing the process (those means, methods, techniques and sequences of construction that the General Conditions of the Contract say are solely the Contractor's responsibility).

Perhaps much of what is desired to ensure the capability of the manufacturer and installer/applicator can be achieved not by specifying experience but by specifying mock-ups and sample installations.
Jo Drummond
New member
Username: Jo_drummond

Post Number: 44
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Sunday, February 09, 2003 - 02:21 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I put mandatory experience requirements in a few sections, but not in many.
I think the reason for doing it is to give architects and owners a reason, particularly in public work, for rejecting something they feel is inferior.
e.g., if I know that the coating I want has been around 10 years and there is a pushy salesman trying to overturn specs., who is working for a firm established last year, the experience record - list of installations together with Owner's name and phone no. can do that. In addition to listing performance criteria, and asking for zillions of submittals, the experience list is another cause for rejection if you need to use it.
I don't think it has much, intrinsically, to do with the quality of a specified product. One firm might have been making something for years and do a lousy job, while another started up last year and has a terrific product.
Layla Bettar
New member
Username: Layla_bettar

Post Number: 6
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Monday, February 10, 2003 - 12:52 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

This subject has been of a concern to me for a long time. As an Owner dealing with projects that are processed through a public bid. I have carefully reviewed those requirements on each section of the specifications. I have found that more often than none, I had to increase the required years of experience and make the requirement more specific. In one or two sections, I would require that the Installer provides references on previous projects, designate the installation team (in a reasonable time before proceeding with the installation), submit their work experience and reference projects, for the Owner’s review and approval, before commencing with the work. Some Subcontractors were screaming about my requirements, but I was firm on what I asked for. This helped me keep away low bidders, who want to use their forces or inexperienced subcontractors to do specialized work.
Anne Whitacre
New member
Username: Awhitacre

Post Number: 41
Registered: 07-2002
Posted on Monday, February 10, 2003 - 02:08 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

just as a note... in some jurisdictions (Seattle is one) it is very difficult to list "years of experience" as a legitimate requirement. That requirement is considered to be discriminatory against new businesses that may be started up by someone with... say 20 years in the industry but a business that is only 2 years old. What we can ask for legitimately is "projects of comparable size and value performed by the bidder" and that seems to help us weed out the new/inexperienced/shlocky construction. There are legitimate reasons that someone may be a low bidder -- they may simply have lower overhead, they may want to get the job and cut their overhead and/or profit, or some other reason other than bad performance or bad bidding. I think previous project references by the installation team is probably the best quality assurance for bidding.
David Axt, AIA, CCS, CSI
Junior Member
Username: David_axt

Post Number: 91
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Monday, February 10, 2003 - 04:16 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

...plus the more experienced firm could have been installing the products all wrong for 20 years or he could have been installing it according to manufacturer's instructions/codes circa 1982!

How many times have you heard a subcontractor complain, "But I have been installing it this way for XX years!"?

John Bunzick, CCS, CCCA
New member
Username: Bunzick

Post Number: 66
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Monday, February 10, 2003 - 05:59 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

These are all thoughtful comments.

In some of our projects, I am encountering much conservatism in the review of potential new products. There is a feeling that some other project should be the guinea pig. The problem is that this particular market is small, and all the designers, owners and existing product manufacturers tend to know each other. Thus, a new product cannot easily find the projects willing to be the guinea pig. We must look at other criteria if we are to get out of the catch-22. New products are needed to create innovation and foster competition. The installers are not the issue, as they will be on the projects regardless of the manufacturer used.

Under this kind of situation, has anyone gone so far as to:
- Look at company financials? (What's acceptable?)
- Visit the manufacturing plant? (What do you look for?)
- Talk to references? (what do you ask?)
- Evaluate company production capacity? (How much is enough?)
- or other similar qualities?

My belief is that this is essentially a risk-assessment exercise, like many others in business. The particular challenge is trying to establish the criteria for this, yet allow for the judgement of experience to be the best guide. Since many of the currently acceptable manufacturers in this field are small, overly strict requirements, applied to everyone, would have the unintended effect of eliminating some that we want to keep.
Dave Metzger
New member
Username: Davemetzger

Post Number: 29
Registered: 07-2001
Posted on Monday, February 10, 2003 - 06:54 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I fully agree that this is a risk-assessment issue. As part of that is it important to get the project owner to buy into the risk, as early in the process as possible. Explain what you want to do and why, how it would benefit the project, and what the trade-offs are.

The point here is to minimize or eliminate surprises for anyone, in particular the folks who pay the bills.

Jo Drummond
New member
Username: Jo_drummond

Post Number: 46
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 - 09:39 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Layla and Anne:
I thought we were supposed to specify results, not workers.
Layla Bettar
New member
Username: Layla_bettar

Post Number: 7
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 - 03:17 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I have done it all. It was still not enough when it comes to a public bid.
A low bidder, who can deliver the project per the Contract Documents, is a dream come true.
When I was dealing with the Private Projects (as the Executive Architect) it was much easier to control quality. But dealing with Public Bids, as the Owner, is a whole different ball game.
When it comes to a new product, it boils down to what this product is offering me that is superior to all existing products. Depending on the nature and scope, if I think it is worth to try it, as the owner, I would study the product’s technical information, meet with the reps, visit the factory, and look into the financial stability of the manufacturer if the product has a long term warranty. All and all, I am still taking a risk

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