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12 min read

SBA 286: How to Line Out Subcontractors

By Phil Zito on Oct 6, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Topics: Podcasts

In this episode we discuss how to line out your subcontractors so that they can properly execute your BAS projects.

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Phil Zito 0:00
This is the smart buildings Academy podcast with Phil Zito Episode 286. Hey folks, Phil Zito here and welcome to Episode 286 of the smart buildings Academy podcast and in this episode, we're going to be talking about how to line out subcontractors. So up to this point we've talked about performing a sales to operations handoff, we have talked about performing takeoffs and re estimates. And we've talked about creating submittals and project documents. So at this point in a building automation project, I would assume that you would have approved submittals and everything would be ready to go and it's time to go and line out our subcontractors. So in this episode, we're going to discuss how to do that we're going to talk about what specifically lining out a subcontractor means the different methods of doing it the different expectations you can place on subcontractors, how you can develop subcontractors, so you have your go to subcontractors, and much, much more. Like always, you can get all of our resources at podcast at smart buildings academy.com forward slash 286. Once again, that is podcasts at smart buildings academy.com Ford slash 286. If you haven't visited our website at smart buildings, academy.com I encourage you to do that. We have so many free resources 286 podcast episodes, hundreds of blog articles, dozens of free mini courses and guides and I encourage you to take advantage of all of that information I see almost weekly now folks asking how do I advance in building automation? How do I learn about building automation? You know, all those resources are readily available for you at smart buildings. academy.com Alright, so what does it mean to line out subcontractors? Well, I never really could figure out what the term line out means like if I go to Google and I turn right line out sub contractor or what does it mean to line out a sub contractor? Right, and you type that in, and you get nothing right? So I'll give you my interpretation of what lining out a subcontractor means from my experience. Basically, when you are having a subcontractor who is working on your projects, and typically we're talking about electrical, low voltage or extra low voltage subcontractors, what you're lining them out on is you're taking your MEP, set your mechanical, electrical, plumbing set of construction documents, and you're taking your approved submittals. And you are figuring out with them, how everything's going to be installed. Now you may say to yourself, but why do we have to do this? Didn't they quote the job done? They look at it didn't they go through a scoping process like we did, and you know what some of your subcontractors, maybe they did. I'm willing to bet though, most of your subcontractors, they looked at the basic floor plan of the project figured out, you know, it's square footage. And then they figured out based on the equipment schedule, how many pieces of equipment exist, and based on those two pieces of information, they were able to come up with an estimate for their labor, but they did not come up with a scope. So just like your sales to operations handoff, you need to have a operations to subcontractor handoff and the level of which you do this, that the effort you put into this directly correlates to the success of your projects outside of the sales to operations handoff, there is nothing else. Like lining out your subcontractors in regards to having an impact on the success of your project. I mean, I'll be honest, this sounds bad, but you can get away with skipping point point, you can get away with functional tests skipping.

Phil Zito 4:10
If you have really good subcontractors and really good submittal processes. What you can't get away from is lining out your subs because if you don't, and you give them zero direction, you're going to get a zero direction project result. So how do we do this? How do we line them out? Well, we take our MEP set and we take our submittal set. And the first thing we need to do is we need to review where our panel locations are going to go. So they can get ahead of the curve with the main electrical folks with the dry walling folks and they can get anything that needs to be stubbed out anything that needs to be pre installed before drywall, anything that needs to be pre installed prior to them laying foundation or for floor slabs. If it's a Multi Floor building, we need to get ahead of that. So we're going to look at floorplans figure out our locations for our panels, figure out our locations for our stub ups, figure out how we're going to be routing our wire in the plenum. And you should do this alongside your subcontractors. I know this is time consuming, I know it's a pain in the butt. And I'll be honest, it's time you probably don't have budgeted in the project. But if you do this now, if you take the time to get ahead of it, and actually, you know, figure out okay, we're coming out of the floor here, we're punching through the floor there, we need to have our stub ups on these walls, etc, right, we need to have these different things in different areas, we need to have conduit here, we don't need to have conduit there, you're not only going to get a better installed project product. But you are also going to avoid substantial delays due to not having things in the right location, having a core through floors, having to like cut holes in drywall, and then re dry wallet and pay the drywall or it just can get really ugly. So we're going to figure out our panel locations, stub ups, cores, all that stuff. Then once we've done that, we are going to go through our submittal documents. And we're going to make sure that our subcontractors understand the electrical details associated with submittals. And I spent some time on this in the previous episode, where I said, Okay, hey, you should have electrical details that correspond to your panel layouts and your controller terminations so that your subs know how to go and actually terminate things. And what I personally like to do when I line out my subs, is I like to do my electrical details, right, I like to take those, I like to go through them. With the subcontractor, the nice thing is there's not so many new things. If we really think about it, we've got about little less than two dozen things we can wire up, right, you've got flow meters, relays, sensors, actuators, etc. But at the end of the day, there's only so many ways to wire those up. So if you spend time you bring the subcontractor, whoever's going to be installing to the job site, or maybe to your warehouse, and you just spend four hours going. And this is only if you haven't worked with the sub before, and they don't know how to do this stuff. She spent four hours just going through and being like, Okay, this is how we want our relays terminated. This is how we want our actuators terminated. This is how we want our flow meters terminated. You just spend that little bit of time especially if it's like things like four to 20 milliamp with externally source power, things that are going to potentially throw them off. Excuse me, Oh, goodness, gracious, I got the hiccups. Sorry about that. So

Phil Zito 7:49
things that are going to throw them off things that are going to make the subcontractor make mistakes. These are the areas that you need to focus in on and you solve these by working with them. Now, as I'll talk about a little bit later in the episode, you can get more strategic and you can have subcontractor training. And you can actually qualify subcontractors to bid on your projects by having them go through a pre training that is required in order for them to work on your projects. But up to this point, all we've done is we've lined out our subs, right we've got them familiar with our controls diagrams, and we've run through at a high level with these are the things we're going to do. Next thing we want to do when we line out our subcontractors is we want to agree on material delivery, and material retention. Oftentimes, as soon as the material shows up on the site, you can bill for the material even if it's not installed. And that's a quick way to make margin, because you can defer paying your distributor while you are living off of the margin and cash from the project. Especially if you have like a paid when paid contract, something like that, like paid wouldn't paid plus 30. So you will pay the sub when you get paid or you'll pay the distributor when you get paid plus 30 days. So that gives you some time to cash flow. So what you can do right with that with that material is you can say hey, subcontractor, we're going to ship the material in sets in pallets by unit like for example, air handler, one that's going to show up on a pallet or handler to that's going to show up on a pallet. And by doing this, you're making it easy for them to not lose the materials. And you're making it easy for them to install. Like hey, I know all this stuff goes with unit one. And I know how to install this on unit one because I've done it on unit one. So I've done the installation practice with the building automation contractor prior to going and receiving this material. So that's how you can approach this right. This is how You can go and start to dig in and work through the stuff. The next thing, right is you want to get very clear on where materials are going to be stored. You want to understand, okay, where are you storing materials on site? How are you storing materials on site? And how are we going to have material management processes who signs for the material, who validates that they got the material, because material loss is a very real issue on construction projects. And it happens way more often than people like to admit. And it's something we need to be cognizant of. And we need to have processes in place to avoid. Okay, so you've done all this, right? You have lined out your subcontractor, you've run through the mechanical plans, you've run through the submittal set, you've run through the details on how to install individual devices, and you've went figured out your material management. That's all tactical, right? That's tactical related to a specific project. Now let's back up and be a little more strategic. What we did back when I had an operations team, in Dallas, Texas, is we brought in the subcontractors who were executing our projects, the electrical subs, and we put them through a one day training. And they went in they got trained on how do we install our resistive? How do we install this? What are standards for installation? What are our standard trees and j hooks? How far do should we have j hooks in between? For on runs? You know? How are we going to handle cat five at this house? Cat five? How are we going to handle various wire types? What

Phil Zito 11:35
colors wires do we use? How do we terminate in our panels, we got very prescriptive, and we put together a training plan. And this is actually something I've been considering doing as a course, is creating a building automation installation basics for subcontractors you all let me know if that's a course you would find interest in, feel free to just comment or message us on LinkedIn or just hit me up directly, you can find my contact info on the website. But this is something we did. And it was really effective. It really helped kind of that the subcontractors, the ones who knew how to do the installs, we really made sure that they knew what they were doing. We made sure that they were prepared. And then when they wanted to go bid, they had to have been through this training. And I think if I remember correctly, we did the training twice a year in the spring and fall. And that really helped. That helps substantially reduce our cost per point that reduced our subcontracted cost because these people knew what was expected of us, they could more accurately go and bid their labor because they understood. And they also got free training out of it as well. So I mean, I'm not going to pretend that they weren't using the skills that they learned from our training at other companies projects, I'm certain that they took what they learned from us and used it with other companies. But you know what, they used it with us as well. And that made our installations better. And it made things easier for us. And at the end of the day, that's really important, because a lot of you are short technical talent, you don't have the technical labor you need in order to execute all your tasks. And one of the ways you can really mitigate that is by making sure your subcontractors are able to properly install. Now let's talk about kind of the elephant in the room. And people ask me, where do I think the industry is going? Where could it go? And one area I think it could go is subcontractors doing Point to Point checkout. So this is really easy if you do self install if you do self execution of installation. But a lot of big companies do not do self execution of installation, the risk associated with that, and just the cost benefit and pay off. It's just really not there to be honest. So a lot of folks use subcontractors. But what if they were able to use subcontractors not just to do install, but also to do Point to Point check out potentially to do functional test? I don't see subcontractors doing functional tests because of the mechanical knowledge requirements. But Point to Point check out I could totally see that happening. That's just to check the box, does it meet this or does it not and then you could have a technician that comes in after and resolves all the deficiencies, but this would just be another level of training, you would just have to get them the tools, enable the electrical subs to go and log into the controllers and enable them to be able to go and then do basic point to point checkout. When I command this on, does it turn on? When I command it off? does it turn off? Does the temperature change? Is that accurate based on my meter versus what the temperature says? These are all things that you can have these subcontractors do and it's really where I think the future of subconscious tracted work is, I think that is a very important value add for electrical subs to do is to go and simply add that capability to their skill set. And that's something that, you know, they don't have to necessarily know how to do.

Phil Zito 15:20
by themselves, they can be taught that right so I don't expect people on the electrical subside to be randomly figuring it out on jobsite, that is definitely something where you have to be trained. And I think it would behoove you to consider training your subcontractors to do Point to Point checkout. So to recap, up to this point, we've talked about lining out our subcontractors, we talked about the importance of lining them out and how we approach that. We've talked about electrical details and reviewing and also doing some mock ups of installation with them in your warehouse. We talked about with your electrical subs, how to manage materials, how to manage delivery, and retainage of materials, as well as you know, Chain of Custody when it comes to materials. We talked about how that impacts billing, and your ability to generate profit from the project. We talked about setting up a, you know, semi annual training program for your subcontractors to get them up to speed. And we talked about using them to do Point to Point checkout a lot of stuff for you to approach with your operations team to have maybe in a team meeting, discuss this thing through your processes. How can you improve them? Do you have a checklist for these items? If you don't, I encourage you to go and create that checklist. That's something that we create in our building automation startup and check out course. So that being said, thanks so much for being here. In next episode, we're going to talk about how to schedule out labor and common tasks. That might be a one part episode. Honestly, that might be a two part episode. Part of me feels like it's going to be a pretty quick episode. The other part of me feels like it's going to be a pretty long episode. I'm not sure I really don't know which way it's going to swing. But I will be talking to you on Friday, with at least part one of scheduling out labor and common tasks. Thanks so much for being here. I hope you enjoyed the episode, and I look forward to your comments and engagement on social media or wherever else you are listening to this episode. Thanks a ton. Take care. I'll talk to you in the next episode.

Phil Zito

Written by Phil Zito

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