Forward Pass!

Vince Bailey

May 2009

Finally! After paring your markups to the bone, bumping up productions to the max, and wheedling every possible nickel out of your suppliers, you’ve landed a job! Given the current atmosphere, this was no small feat, and it didn’t come easily. You had to haggle incessantly with the GC over inclusions that "the other guy had,” and conceded on a few minor items in the bargain. But concessions notwithstanding, you’ve managed to redeem yourself in the eyes of your superiors and your peers after a losing streak of several months, and redemption at this point is what really matters.

Now what? If your firm operates on the "divided house” model (project management segregated from estimating), you are going to go through some sort of handoff exercise with your project manager. This effort may range anywhere from a formal, written procedure, to a simple handing-over of the bid file and a few verbal comments. But if you sincerely care about the eventual success or failure of the project, you’ll want to give it the best send-off possible. You will do your utmost to make certain that the production team—the project manager and the onsite supervisor—has every scrap of relevant information that you managed to glean during your creation of the estimate. Common sense dictates the amount of time and degree of detail you’ll want to devote to a handoff, but a pre-job checklist covering the items suggested below can be a vital tool for passing forward any sizeable commercial project.

Jobsite and contact information. The masthead of any good pre-job checklist will include such vitals as the general contractor (including project manager and superintendent), job location, site telephone and fax numbers, projected start date and key personnel from your own firm.

Scope review. This may come from the proposal, the contract or from notes made during pre- or post-bid conversations (or any combination of the above that are available) involving inclusions, exclusions and qualifications to the proposed scope of work. Value-engineering changes, either potential or approved, should be discussed, as well as any differences between the bid documents and the construction documents. Clarity at this point can eliminate future disagreements regarding what you have agreed to provide and perform.

Review of drawings and specifications. This may entail a perusal of each relevant page, or just an overview of any critical details or potential problems. Possible cost-saving measures involving means and methods might be considered during this review.

Contract review. There may already be a contract, or you, the estimator, may have reviewed a typical contract in the bidder’s instructions. Either way, your production team will need to know the terms and conditions under which they will be working.

Pending RFIs (Requests for Information), ASIs (Architect Supplemental Instruction forms), PCOs (Potential Change Orders). Any potential changes in the works that may impact coordination and/or cost should be logged for tracking.

Purchasing. Job-specific material pricing, specified products, long-lead items, preferred vendors and site access for deliveries are pertinent topics relating to this item. Early determination of products intended for use will help the PM assemble his submittal package in a timely and accurate manner.

Project schedule. What you have committed to in terms of milestones and durations is going to be crucial to your production department’s manpower and procurement planning. If phased scheduling has been proposed, your production team will need to know this. If a contract is still pending, a suggested manpower-loaded schedule may be appropriate for your PM to submit to the GC.

Specialized manpower needs. Demand for specific skills, such as welders, plasterers or specialty ceiling craftsmen will be valuable information for your PM.

Labor budget/tracking plan. Your PM will need your man-hours allocated to each labor cost to build a budget and a cost-tracking plan.

Potential quality issues. During your preparation of the estimate, you probably came across some possible quality issues on your project, such as a Level 5 finish in an area that will receive harsh natural light. Bringing such issues to the fore ahead of time gives your production team an opportunity to resolve them before they become quality disasters that require costly callbacks.

Equipment requirements. Your production team will want to know how you budgeted for equipment and what you anticipated during the estimate. Manlifts, welders, scaffolding and Dumpster are all common items for consideration. Specialty tools like tile-saws, dustless sanders and pneumatic fastener tools may have to be purchased for a particular project.

Such information exchanges often result in generating as many questions as answers, which can be equally valuable. Listing the questions and further research assignments to follow up on can be captured with an action item checklist. Both the pre-job checklist and the action item checklist have the added benefit of generating a written record that can be filed and referred to at a later date.

It is easy to see how valuable a checklist like the one above can be in preventing crucial information from "slipping through the cracks” when passing a sold job on to a production team. And by following through with a bit of extra effort after the job is sold, an effective estimator can ensure that his project is afforded the best chance for a successful completion.