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The old adage describing the way to spell D-O-L-L-A-R-S = “change-orders” and “back-charges” is not only wrong but grossly inappropriate in today’s information “is everything” material handling industry.

It is my belief that any qualified material handling integrator that makes substantial, additional profits utilizing such tactics are working in a less than professional manner. Some of these tactics include, but are not limited to:

  • Purposefully withholding information from clients that could educate them about project pitfalls
  • Neglecting to take the time necessary to fully educate clients on project scope in its entirety
  • Assuming the clients know all of their project responsibilities without discussing them
  • Refusing to work as a true partner with the intent of transparency in assisting the client

My feeling is that it’s the “experts’” (i.e. the integrators’) responsibility to help clients look around the corners and see what’s not readily visible. After all, it is this ability that makes them the “expert’s”.

The ethical integrator should be committed to help the client on the pre-sale and post-sale side of every project to expose all of the potential issues and pitfalls that could cause concern. They don’t just note these potential issues and pitfalls to be exposed at a later date; instead, they discuss them all up-front and advise the client as to the steps that need to be taken to insure a successful project outcome. Required most from material handling integrators’ is their expertise and transparency.

Lately, it seems like we’ve been hearing many stories about uninformed clients being forced to pay additional, premium, high margin dollars for changes or back charges that could have easily been avoided. Often times, these additional charges can range 20% to 30% of the initial project cost! Am I the only one that thinks this seems crazy?

One of the professional practices that we’ve built at PeakLogix includes the philosophy of the ethical integrator. By this, I mean that it is our professional practice that each project proposal includes all project specifications, all scope and deliverables with a theory of operation encompassing the full project plan, including plan, elevation & perspective drawing views. This plan is then reviewed in detail with the client. All client responsibilities are reviewed, discussed and agreed upon. Those responsibilities can include: presenting a free and clear area to the integrator within which to work, hours of operation, safety requirements, egress expectations, power drops, sufficient lighting, available power, heat, sufficient concrete slab, sample product for testing, throughput requirements, maximum/minimum product sizes and weights and ultimately a thorough definition of success. Our project managers spend the appropriate time with each client up front at the beginning of the project so as to avoid “assumptions” and change orders on the back end or during the project.

If change-orders and/or back-charges are a frequent line item for your projects or if you feel like they are a part of the overall business strategy (quote low and make up for it with change orders, etc), then perhaps it is time to audit your relationship because believe me, the only party that has failed in this situation is the “expert” or integrator.