The program is a timely reminder that construction companies are responsible for the quality of the construction materials they use, and that products incorporated into the project must comply with the client’s specifications as well as the prevailing legislation in the country where the project is situated. Installation of these products should be done by professionals in accordance with these specifications.
Construction companies and clients are always seeking ways to construct projects at the lowest possible cost. Often the easiest way to lower costs is to use cheaper construction materials or the cheapest subcontractors. But there are sometimes inherent dangers in this. A previous post; ‘Is the cheapest really the cheapest’ highlighted steps to be implemented when adjudicating quotations or tenders to ensure that construction companies get value for what they are paying.
Procuring construction materials from foreign suppliers
We are living in a globalised world which has many advantages, allowing for cheaper or more innovative products to be imported from foreign suppliers. However, there are some important things to consider:
1. the items must comply with the project’s standards and specifications (other countries use different standards)
2. the items should be compatible with local products
3. spare parts should be readily available
4. warranties and guarantees must be valid in the project’s country as well as qualified people available to repair and service the product
5. there may be additional costs for the importation of the items, such as additional taxes and import duties
6. include the transport costs into the overall cost
7. there could be additional costs for staff to visit the factory, to ensure the quality standards are met has been taken into account
Consideration may also have to be given to the stability of the foreign country, since disruption to the manufacturing process (due to strikes, unrest and war) will probably not be grounds for an extension of time claim.
Source of construction materials – environmental, health, safety and legal considerations
Even when procuring from local suppliers it may be pertinent to conduct some investigations.
Consideration must be given to the source of the materials and the manufacturing process. Products must be manufactured using materials that will not cause a safety or environmental hazard when being worked with, during the life of the facility, or even when the facility is finally demolished, since these could result in costly legal problems for the contractor.
The construction company should also ensure that materials are not procured from manufactures who are performing an illegal operation, or suppliers that are operating in an unsafe environment or not paying or treating their workers according to the required laws and standards. Not only can this be awkward for the contractor should it be exposed in the media, but it could result in the manufacturer being closed down, thereby affecting the supply of the materials. In addition, the contractor has an ethical duty to ensure the project is not contributing and supporting unlawful practices.
It’s advisable that major manufacturers and suppliers are visited before the order is placed to ascertain that the facilities are adequate to produce the quantity of product, to the required standard and schedule, and that the facilities are not obviously violating any rules and standards.
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(Paul Netscher is the author of the acclaimed books ‘Successful Construction Project Management: The Practical Guide’ (Read more) and ‘Building a Successful Construction Company: The Practical Guide’ (Read more). Both books are available in paperback and e-book from Amazon and other retail outlets. This article is adapted from information included in these books.)