Subcontractors play an important part in the success of many construction projects. It’s important that subcontractors aren’t chosen purely on price. The subcontractor’s ability to deliver the project on time and to the required quality and safety standards is equally important. I’ve worked on construction projects where the selection of the cheapest subcontractor ended up costing the project more money than if a more expensive subcontractor had been selected.
"Subcontractors are viewed by the client as an extension of the main contractor"
Subcontractors are viewed by the client as an extension of the main contractor (general contractor) and a failure by the subcontractor can adversely affect your company’s reputation.
"there is a lack of communication between the contractor and the subcontractor"
Unfortunately some contractors don’t manage their subcontractors. They appoint them and then leave them to get on with the job. Often project staff aren’t briefed about what the subcontractor’s scope of work is. Time and again there is a lack of communication between the contractor and the subcontractor - particularly with those doing the work. When there are problems the subcontractor is blamed.
"communication with the subcontractor of a contractual nature must be in writing"
Some important points to note when managing subcontractors are to ensure:
1. the contractor’s person managing the subcontractor understands:
4. regular meetings are held with the subcontractor to discuss safety, quality and environmental matters, as well as progress on the project and any delays and claims, and that minutes of these meetings are distributed to the relevant parties
5. subcontractors acknowledge the receipt of drawings and information issued to them (or there’s proof they have received them) (I have had subcontractors claim they hadn’t received a particular drawing revision when they had) construction project drawings
6. where relevant, the subcontractor supplies shop drawings in accordance with the project schedule, including allowing for obtaining the required approvals from the contractor or the client
7. communication with the subcontractor of a contractual nature is in writing (any verbal instructions should be followed up in writing)
8. only the contractor’s delegated responsible staff communicate with the subcontractor (I have had subcontractors receive conflicting instructions from our staff resulting in confusion and errors)
9. action is taken as soon as it appears that the subcontractor could be in trouble (see my last article ‘Are your subcontractors profitable? Should you care?’)
10. the subcontractor is forewarned of the contractor’s intention to back-charge them for work or services supplied by the contractor and that these charges are invoiced regularly
11. the subcontractor is paid in accordance with the contract
12. the subcontractor has suitable quality, safety, environmental and industrial relations procedures in place that comply with the project requirements Why Safety Is Important On Your Construction Project
13. subcontractors don’t begin work until there’s a signed contract in place and they’ve supplied the required sureties and insurances
14. the subcontractor’s staff, equipment and their own subcontractors are approved by the contractor The Alarming Truth about Using Old Construction Equipment
15. the subcontractor’s personnel attend the contractor’s project induction Site or project inductions
16. correspondence from the subcontractor is promptly dealt with
When subcontractors let the project down
Sometimes subcontractors do get into problems. It’s important to understand the reason for these problems which may be due to the main contractor’s poor management, delays, lack of communication or change of scope. However, it is also often due to the subcontractor’s poor management, lack of cash flow or incompetence. By understanding the problem you may be able to take action to rectify the problem or at least prevent it from getting worse.
It is important to follow the contract and ensure the correct notifications are given. Withholding payment for poor performance without providing the appropriate notifications may result in the GC being in breach of contract.
Subcontractors are an important part of the construction team
Subcontractors need to be managed by the main contractor (general contractor) to ensure that their performance meets the project’s safety and quality requirements, and that work is in accordance with the project’s schedule and specifications. Failure to manage subcontractors properly often leads to disputes, claims, project delays, substandard work and even accidents. This leads to project failure, often resulting in all parties losing money and the client getting their project late which negatively impacts the contractor’s reputation.
#subcontractors #constructionmanagementtips #constructionprojects
Other articles by the author:
Are your subcontractors profitable? Should you care?
Is the cheapest really the cheapest?
The importance of planning your project.
"A practical and really helpful guide to navigating the myriad of things to think about when managing a construction project. I found that referring to this book was like having my own mentor on tap. Excellent." (Reader Amazon)
(Written by Paul Netscher the author of the acclaimed books ‘Successful Construction Project Management: The Practical Guide’ and ‘Building a Successful Construction Company: The Practical Guide’. 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.)
© 2022 This article is not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission from the author.
construction management construction project management
20/2/2017 07:32:11 am
This is very helpful! thanks!
24/5/2017 11:30:34 pm
can I please get more information/journal/article on CONTRACTOR MANAGING CONFLICT WITH SUBCONTRACTORS
25/5/2017 03:37:54 am
Hi Maxwell, thank you for your interest. My book 'Successful Construction Project Management: The Practical Guide' has a chapter on subcontractors. My book 'Construction Claims: A Short Guide for Contractors' also has a number of pertinent sections dealing with subcontractors and claims from and against subcontractors. My book 'Construction Project Management' has a few sections on negotiating claims amicably. Some of these sections are covered in various articles on this website.
29/6/2017 05:23:55 pm
Really interesting article! We just published a similar post about subcontractors with an infographic, take a look: https://geniebelt.com/blog/how-to-find-good-subcontractors-for-construction-jobs
30/6/2017 04:08:28 pm
6/4/2019 01:08:15 pm
do you have books regarding subcontrator management alone?
7/4/2019 09:22:06 am
Hello Arvie, I don't have a book on subcontractor management only. Maybe a book for the future. However, my book 'Successful Construction Project Management: The Practical Guide' has a chapter on subcontractors. This book is available from Amazon and other stores and is available in paper or ebook format. The price depends on where you buy it and whether you purchase ebook or paper. My new book 'The Successful Construction Supervisor and Foreman' also has a short chapter on subcontractor management.
9/11/2019 09:28:20 pm
This a really interesting article, its helped me a lot! I was wondering, are you aware of any cases where the sub/s carried out all the work and the main contract just over saw it?
25/11/2019 09:44:44 am
Hello Mbilia, thanks for your feedback and question. There are many companies that only employ subcontractors to do all the construction work and then they only act as project managers - even some large construction companies operate in this manner. Regards, Paul
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Copyright 2016 - The attached articles cannot be reproduced for commercial purposes without the consent of the author.
The opinions expressed in the attached articles are those of the writer. It should be noted that projects are varied and different laws and restrictions apply which depend on the location of the contractor and the project. It's important that the reader uses the supplied information taking cognisance of their particular circumstances. The writer assumes no responsibility or liability for any loss of any kind arising from the reader using the information or advice contained herein.
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