By Ryan Mears, Project Manager

Managing relationships between team members on a construction project requires effort from everyone involved. Understanding, mutual respect and consistency in communication are paramount. Oftentimes, relationships are forced (so to speak)  by the lump sum bid process. In this process, atypical relationships require additional effort to ensure smooth project delivery.

A recent example involves a supplier that I had not personally worked with before. They had, in recent past, a successful project with another project manager in our office. They were the low, competent bidder on the project, confirmed through thorough scope review. During scope review, expectations for submittals and material delivery times were agreed upon and written into the contract.

The project involved two separate buildings which would be phased. This fit within the supplier’s schedule and thus led to their submittal lead time commitments. The first phase submittal schedule was met and their submittals were approved with minimal markups. Delivery of the first phase of materials was according to schedule. The second phase submittal dates, however, were by three weeks. The timing of receipt of submittals, approval lead time, and delivery of materials, presented a scheduling issue.

When I received the submittals, I had a conversation with our supplier about how to meet our schedule within the late parameters we were now dealing with. As this was a supplier issue, the burden of fault rested with them. Instead of taking a hardline approach with the supplier, I utilized a common understanding approach.

I first established that they were to accept fault for the late delivery of submittals, which allowed us to move forward beyond finger pointing. Their previous submittals were reviewed with limited comment, as they had done a fine job of compiling them. With this in mind, I set the expectation that they should take on the risk and pre-order materials in advance of submittal approval. This would shorten the lead time between approval of their submittals, and us receiving the materials. They were hesitant at first but ultimately agreed. They even admitted that this was a risk they had to take on due to their late submittal delivery.

The lesson learned is that understanding, mutual respect and consistent communication led the supplier to acknowledge that their missed commitment required them to take on the risk. By working with them to find a common ground solution, we were able to maintain a relationship and put our schedule and team back in the driver seat.