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Combining FF & E Design & Procurement
Jens Boecher, ISHP – Getty’s Group

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June 2009

Combining FF&E design and procurement has many advantages, from start of a project all the way to its completion. A design procurement team with the right skill set, working in unity, will be a lot more likely to maintain design integrity and complete a project on time and on budget, than a team that is brought together at various stages of the project with often little incentive to support each other.

Bringing in a competent design/procurement team early on with relevant skill and experience levels is key to success.  The client represents an essential part of this team and should actively interact and participate to achieve team goals.  It is critical for a team leader to create a work plan, hold a project kickoff meeting, establish milestones, define roles and make sure each team member understands his/her function on the team. The combined design/procurement team needs to understand the project contract, deliverables and timelines. Ensure collaboration, but do not forget the “checks and balances”.  Assign the relevant experts to critical tasks, determine team captains and identify quality control, budgeting and accounting processes. Let the designer focus on the creative element of the project and have the procurement agent work on establishing and maintaining budgets. The procurement agent should early on qualify potential manufacturers not only based on designer’s direction, but also with project location, manufacturing capabilities, quality, reliability and financial stability in mind.

Consistency is a requirement, especially when working on international projects whereby the extended team might be located in different parts of the world. Determining how to document units of measurements, for example metric vs. imperial, can generate quite a few differing opinions and should not be left for discussion late into the project.

It is important to hold regular team and client meetings to support open communication to make sure everyone is on track or to quickly be able to change course should it be necessary.  The design team establishes tagged schematic floor plans, rooms and initial FF&E quantity matrixes. The procurement agent, while working on a preliminary budget, will also do quality control on before mentioned documents. Qualify suppliers early in regard to their financial health. Think of the financial consequences should a supplier go out of business right before scheduled deliveries. In a booming economy, a manufacturer might not be financially challenged, but may have to fulfill orders beyond their capabilities, adversely affecting project timeline and product quality. A seasoned procurement agent has the market intelligence and will be able to work effectively with a designer to target the appropriate sources of supply.

With procurement’s guidance, bidding could happen relatively early, especially if timelines are tight. The designer should play a role in determining which suppliers qualify to bid on FF&E. Should bidding not be an option due to time limitations, suggest select categories to be bid. Alternatively, negotiate with specified sources of highly customized designs such as carpet, wall coverings, or fabrics. Design/procurement collaboration is crucial should the result of bidding present the team with more favorable conditions offered by non-specified sources. In a team environment, reselections or approvals of alternates become a time sensitive, efficient and shared exercise.

Final budgets are generated quickly and issued for approval. Having approved FF&E specifications and an owner approved final budget allows for speedy issuance of purchase orders and processing of manufacturers’ deposits.
Maintaining files and processing cuttings for approval (“CFAs”) as well as shop drawings should be part of the procurement agent’s agenda and takes some responsibility off the designer. A well coordinated design/procurement team will also share quality control responsibilities. The best qualified person from a team will be able to visit a manufacturer’s facility for pre-production sample inspections or inspections during or after production to ensure quality of goods prior to shipping.

If well planned, combining design and procurement benefits all parties involved. Timelines can be shortened significantly by having a procurement agent being able to do a lot of leg work weeks before design specifications are formally issued. Ownership benefits from up-to-date budgets being developed early. Making adjustments due to changing factors will be fairly easy and reduces the “wasted” time effect. A supplier benefits from working with a team that has a common goal. A supplier’s representative, who is putting a lot of effort in helping to design a custom product, should be part of the team and have enough background information in regard to budgets and quality requirements to competitively price their product. Having team members be available for inspections before, during, or after production, helps the manufacturer to avoid costly mistakes that may otherwise not be uncovered until the goods are ready to be installed at the job site. The owner’s on-site project managers benefit from dealing with one unified design procurement team. There should always be one person at all times who is able to answer questions or make decisions. Most importantly, once things go wrong, a well functioning design procurement team will efficiently resolve any problems without pointing fingers.

Transparency is a concern to owners. There will always be an opportunity for parties involved to demonstrate unethical behavior, but that opportunity is not significantly reduced by separating design and procurement. The time saved and the end product, a project that is on budget, meets design intentions and owners’ expectations, will be worth looking at combining FF&E design and procurement efforts.

Combining design and procurement can save time, money and address problems before they affect a project.  Having a unified team working on a project from inception provides a more cohesive work experience not just for the project team but for the client as well.   In today’s marketplace, with projects pushing for low cost alternatives, there is no better way to provide aggressive pricing yet keep the design intent than with a combined team approach.

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