Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Permission to beat the laundry consultant, Sir.

We hire consultants for everything: structure, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), and electricity in the building, to name the basics. When the building is complex, like a hospital, there are more systems and things for which one needs consultants, such as low-voltage systems (like communications and nurse call systems), medical equipment, and kitchen/food service and laundry equipment. The company that I've used for laundry and food service in the past was hired on for Wheatlands started out pretty helpful, but the guy who got the project after we got past design development makes me chew glass.

Skip could not seem to send me drawings on time. When he did finally get them to me, he would add walls and doors to the plan I had sent him. First of all, this is a no-no: don't fuck with the architects drawings. Second of all, if you need a door or wall added, you tell me and I put it in. Again, see rule number 1: don't fuck with my drawings. Skip's specifications (the written directions of how and what to build and products to use in the project) were incomplete, unclear, confused (like he wrote the equipment list twice with different machines listed in each list), and also late. There was a great deal of confusion after the construction documents went out because the 100% specs still had Skip's 95% specs--he didn't send me his final specs until the contractor and I caught the mistake and I had to poke Skip with a sharp stick.

Now, Wheatlands is nearly done. The building will be opening in mid-June, two weeks early. The contractors and the hospital had a sudden shock: each thought the other was going to buy the laundry equipment. We all understood that the contractor would install said equipment, but no one had planned to buy the stuff. So, suddenly, the owner's got to come up with over $75,000 to buy washers, dryers, carts, soap dispensers, and so on. I asked Skip for an equipment dealer from whom the hospital could get the equipment needed. Skip finally found me a name, but not before he groused about how crappy it was of the contractor not to spring for the equipment and how his spec was written such that it was clear that whoever's installing the stuff should buy it too. The owner wanted to confirm the washer type: two different ones were listed in the spec. Skip emails back the name and model number and said, "It's the only one listed in the spec."

Finally, the owner calls me, saying that the equipment vendor whom Skip recommended was giving them some seriously conflicting info: the washer Skip specified didn't exist according to the national distributor; the dryers were oversized for the hospital's size, they didn't actually need a pass-through washer, as the job could be done with a single-sided washer; a pass-through washer costs $50,000 and requires seven weeks to get to the jobsite, while a single-sided washer could be to the site in a week and only cost $8,500. I felt like the pass-through washer had been a code requirement, so I passed the owner's concerns on to Skip in an email.

I got back a cranky, snippy, adversarial nastygram.

I got curtly, typed answers, like, "Yes, that washer does exist." Really, well where? Who told you it did? Give me a name and number so we can call them. He told me to disengage the guys that he'd recommended and gave me a new name to speak with. The last straw was his response to my polite emailed urging to help the owner and equipment vendor work through this because time was of the essence and the pass-through washers have a long lead time. His response was roughly, "Lead time doesn't matter because the contractor has had this project for a while. If they failed to get the equipment because of oversight or plain old incompetency, that's still no reason for the owner to go rewriting codes to save a little money."

My eyes crossed. My fists flexed reflexively. I forwarded the email to Howie, who was at home with a cold, and typed one line: "I've had enough of Skip."

Howie called me a couple hours later after breaking through his Benadryl haze. "You'll be glad to know that I've demanded that Skip not be on any more of our projects."
"Thank you, Sir," I replied with clenched teeth. "What shall I do with this particular love note of Skip's?"
Howie sighed. "Call him and tell him you understand his frustration, but we need an email from him that we can forward to the owner that doesn't sound like it's blaming anyone. Talk him through his answer to each question; you're good at wording things clearly but politely."
"Will do," I replied.

I put in a call to Skip and got his voicemail. I told him I understood his frustration but needed an email we could forward on.

A few minutes later, I got an email from Howie. I spoke with [Skip' s boss] and he's going to talk with Skip about keeping his emails professional, more team-oriented, and less adversarial.

Damn skippy.


BaxterWatch said...

ah. contractors who don't really want to have a job.

I *love* those. There's something horribly sadistic in me that likes to string them up in front of my and their superiors. Especially when co-workers claim "there's nothing here worth dumping this guy/company over. Chill out." Ah, NO I will not chill out because I have to do the contractor's work for them. That's complete and total bullshit.

I just had one, a big company, come in and try to undo what his local rep had done (for the third time, and we finally ditched them) by telling us there was all this great technical information available through them and we could stay up to date on all our models by searching the data base on a regular basis.

HELLO that's what I pay YOU for since you're the service expert. Its not my job to stay on top of the service bulletins, especially if I have to hunt for them. That's why you get paid 50K a year.


at least Howie is on top of it. Good call.

faded said...

sound like Skippy needs to take a run thru the big automatic ironer used for hosptial sheets and get a few wrinkles taken out.

He could also be the bait boy on the Cornilea Marie or the Northwestern.

Mile High Pixie said...

Bax: no kidding! Either do what I've asked you to do or you're not getting my business anymore. Simple math, Skippy, simple math.

Faded: I say the Northwestern. I want to see Captain Sig take a chunk outta Skippy!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately there are a host of kitchen consultants that claim to have laundry expertise as well. Most of these organizations get there information off the internet or, worse yet, get the manufacturer to do their work for them for free.

One results in bad design, the other can be a free ride at full tilt list for the vendor.

Production laundry is a specialty that requires years of field experience to understand best practices in varied applications. There are a few professional laundry consultants out there. Our certifications and affiliations include ALM, HLAC, and quality references.

David Chadsey
Managing Director

Philip Charlton WSD said...

Went to google a laundry consultant that I could not remember the name of and found this. Laughed so hard its all so true.

If you need help call someone who actually knows.