Aggressive Schedule, Quality Construction & Competitive Pricing… How to Get All 3! (Part 3)

There is an old saying in our industry that you can deliver a construction project with one or two of the following qualities but not all three:

  • Aggressive schedule
  • Quality construction
  • Competitive pricing

At Harman Construction we think it is possible to do all three but not without careful planning and a project that is set up for success right from the start.  In this blog post I will address the 3rd quality on the list – competitive pricing.

We are fortunate that most of our clients are repeat customers or referrals from previous customers.  The common theme is that they want quality and they want a contractor they trust to do the project right.  However, Competitive pricing is a must for any project.  In some cases our customers need to be in budget for corporate or board approval.  In others cases it is simply to get the best value for the dollar.  In any case our job at Harman is ensuring that the numbers are right.

I believe the following points are key to making sure competitive pricing is delivered.

  • Finding the right subcontractors.  It takes a little extra time and effort to make sure the right team is in place but we work very hard to make sure we find and develop subs that are right sized to fit our customers needs.
  • Delivering good clear well written bid documents or clarifications.  When the bid package is sloppy or unclear then less bids will be received and higher contingencies will be included.
  • Adequate time is given for bid completion.  Time is needed to check for errors and inconsistencies.  It is also critical because if not enough time is given for the bid process then less bids will be received.  Less bids can likely mean higher overall numbers from subs.
  • The GC (General Contractor) needs to treat subs and suppliers fairly and pay them well.  We learned long ago that treating our sub team members with respect will help us in the long run.  If we are consistently difficult to work with and don’t pay our bills promptly, then we will not get the best pricing from our team members.
  • Efficient scheduling and operational strategic thinking.  General conditions can be very expensive.  We work hard to make sure that our operations team can provide input on how to layer a schedule to reduce time.  Also sequencing strategies that could reduce equipment or safety costs are very important.

At the end of the day it all comes down to planning well for success and finding the right team members to help us carry out the plan.  Companies that don’t plan, or uncover details, end up throwing extra cushion in their pricing for fear of missing something.

So, it is possible to have all three –  quality, schedule and pricing – But it doesn’t happen by accident.  It starts with picking the right team and taking the time to build a plan that works for success.

This business can be a lot of fun when team members are pulling in the same direction and the clients’ goals are met.   We look forward to helping many more of our customers as we ”Deliver all three” now and into the future.

Wayne Witmer

President & COO

Team Member Spotlight – Jim Ellinger

Here at Harman we are privileged to have such a great team of people working for our clients. Once a month we will be highlighting one of our team members so that you can get to know them a little bit better.

Jim Ellinger

This month the spotlight falls on our Design-Build Manager – Jim Ellinger

Jim joined Harman in 1988.  His past experience working for a civil engineer and a pre-cast factory gave him the groundwork and tools for working with Harman as a design-build manger.

Here are a couple questions we asked Jim about his own experience at Harman and what he believes makes Harman a great place to work and a great company to do business with:

What has been one of your favorite projects with Harman? Why?
  • I have been with Harman for 27 years so it’s a little hard to pinpoint just one project.  However, a couple of key projects stick out in my mind: Rockingham Eye Associates (My very first project), Valley Pediatrics in Verona, the churches we have worked with over the years and the industrial project with Merck.  Every one of these projects have had something unique about them and it has been exciting to work with the clients and see their dreams become reality through our work.
What have you come to appreciate/value about working on team at Harman? 
  • I appreciate the effort that each team member puts into each project that we do.  As a design-build team we work hard to listen to our clients and really become the client.  When we understand at that level, it makes bringing a project together successful.  While we may work as individual teams – from sales, to design-build, to estimating, to the crews on the ground – working together we can accomplish the goals of our clients.
  • I also appreciate the strong work ethic our teams display and the Christian atmosphere here at Harman.  No matter how stressful the job may get we know we can rely on our team members to support us and even pray with us if we have that need.
Outside your Harman work, what other things do you enjoy in your down-time.
  • My wife and I love to camp.  We love to take the weekend, load up our two rescue dogs and head out.  We spend time walking and just sharing life together.  Other than camping, anyone that knows me knows that I love to bowl.  I’ve been bowling for 46 years, been all over the US for tournaments – sometimes on a team but also as an individual competitor on the Amateur Bowling Circuit.  My dad introduced me to the game at 16 and I’ve been bowling ever since.  I have one friend who has been bowling with me for 40 years, same day, same time every week.  I love to bowl.
What other life experience have you had that helps you in your job today?
  • Before I came to Harman I went to work for a Civil Engineer.  It was my first job out of college.  I didn’t know anything about civil engineering, but over the course of my 10 years there I learned a wealth of knowledge that has contributed to my success at Harman as a design-build manager.  I also spent 1 1/2 years working at a pre-cast factory in Waynesboro prior to Harman.  Both jobs helped to build my skills, especially in reading site plans, which is a critical part of my job today.

To read Jim’s full bio or to contact him – Click Here.

Client Spotlight: W. O. Grubb Crane Rental

Spotlight Grubb Crane 2
Recently Wayne Witmer and Brian Mininger had the opportunity to return to Grubb Crane Rental in Winchester to take a look at the finished facility that Harman built a few years ago for this growing company.  It was a great oppourtunity to learn more about the work of Grubb Crane Rental and find out just what had drawn them to Harman Construction when they were deciding to build their new facility.

Before taking a tour of the facility Wayne and Brian sat down with Scott McDougle – Vice President of Sales – Business Development – and talked about the history of Grubb, it’s ongoing values and priorities and their experience working with Harman in their most recent build.

Here is a transcript of that conversation.

Tell us about the history of Grubb Crane Rental?

WO Grubb Crane Rental was started in 1962 by Willy Grubb.  The company grew over a long period of time through the perseverance and dedication of the Grubb family.  In 1984, Willy’s son Bill purchased the business from his father with a dream and vision to grow the company even bigger than it’s than 15 cranes.  That vision has become a reality with the company growing from 1 branch, with 15 cranes, to now running 8 branches with 200 cranes.

What values are important to Grubb Crane Rental?

People are the heartbeat of our business.  Everyone from our team members to our clients are important.  Safety is also a high priority here at Grubb.  We want to create a safe culture for our employees and our clients.  By valuing people and valuing safety we feel our team members are invested in Grubb Crane Rental because they know we care.

Grubb 28

What was happening in business that you decided to expand to Winchester, Virginia?

Our goal is to get into areas that can use our services and be impacted in a greater way by them.  With the expansion of the power companies, expanding to Winchester would allow us to be available to the power companies and the wind farms going up in the area.  We were also able to hire good people with great talent to help get this branch off the ground and up and running successfully. Honestly, it always comes back to the people and we have some great ones working for us.

Top Priorities for Grubb when looking for a contractor?

Without a shadow of a doubt, Communication was the #1 priority to us.  We needed a company that would, and could, communicate well from beginning to end.  We saw that quality in Harman, which helped in our decision making process.  In fact, Harman went above and beyond in communicating with us, which adds incredible value to the ongoing relationship.

Why Harman?

Besides communication, relationship is really important to us too.  We already had a good relationship with Harman from the past and we appreciated the fact that relationship is also important to Harman.  Harman really takes a partnership approach, displays a great level of professionalism and gives great attention to detail.

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What was your experience with the Design/Build Process?

The design/build process was important to us because it allowed us to sit down and really see the project from start to finish, from the layout to the aesthetics, before we even broke ground.  We could see the process laid out in front of us through the 3D renderings and make changes without having to bring in an expensive architect.  Because of the design/build process we only had a few areas that needed tweaking, which allowed the project to move forward without getting hung up over and over again.

Why is the look of the building so important to Grubb?

Image is important and it helps convey who we are.  We are proud of what this company has become and we feel it’s important to present ourselves well to our clients.   We also feel it instills a sense that we value our customers.  If we take such great care with our facility and our equipment it sends the message to our customers that we value them and we will give the same attention to detail and care that we give to our own staff and facility.

Our motto has always been “We always want to be invited back.”  Taking time to care about the details, about our customers and their projects, hopefully conveys that message.  Honestly, we want to be the best in class.

To see photos of the project check out the Grubb album Here.


Construction & Technology: A Symbiotic Relationship

construction & technology harman inc

Construction and technology have not always had a symbiotic relationship.

Many people picture construction workers using old out dated technology, one step above a chisel and stone tablet, to deliver homes and commercial buildings.  Here at Harman we strongly believe that using the latest technology will help mitigate risk and improve the overall customer experience for our clients.

We do this from the design phase into the construction process through the use of 3D modeling capabilities and mobile construction management technology.

 What is 3D building model rendering?  

3D building model rendering is a 3D rendering process for the planning, design and construction of a building.

3D rendering is useful to owners, architects and contractors by allowing for virtual tours, fewer RFIs (request for information)  and an overall reduction in field changes.

Clients who are not familiar with reading standard construction blueprints can have difficulty visualizing the final look of their building.  3D Rendering allows clients to take a virtual tour of the building, improving the customers experience while helping to solidify pre-design decisions.

From conception to completion, 3D rendering reduces risk and ambiguity in the design phase. This means that revisions can be made prior to putting a shovel in the ground. This equates to savings, more efficient work time and a high quality product at the tail end of the construction project.

Implementation of technology in the construction field is another key to a successful project.

Submittals, drawings, RFIs, emails and invoices can be maddening on any sized project.  It is through the management of these documents that we are able to minimize mistakes and maximize efficiency.

How many times has the phrases been uttered, “you didn’t send me that”, “wasn’t that changed?” or “I don’t have the latest drawings”.  These all lead to negative results.  Lost documents, incorrect finishes, costly mistakes and delays are the project’s demise.

At Harman we are working toward mitigating that risk with the utilization of tablet technology and construction software in the office and field.  Now there is an effortless update with the click of a button. Revised submittals, RFIs and drawings are available in real time to managers and subcontractors on the job site.

Mobile technology is the future of the construction industry and at Harman we are taking the necessary steps to have that competitive edge.

A good customer experience is paramount to the success and growth of our company.  In a world with sprained thumbs and buzzing phones, we understand the importance to adopting the latest technology and see the value it provides to our team and our clients.


Dustin Harper-Dustin Harper

Harman Senior Project Manager

So You Want To Build A Building. Now What?

You Want to Build A Building w logo

So you want to build a building! That’s great news and we would love to build it for you.

First, however, you will need to decide which project delivery method you would like to use. It is a very important first step and could set the tone for your entire construction project. In this blog post I will discuss the pros and cons of the two most common delivery methods for small to mid-size construction projects.

  • The traditional bid-build model
  • The design-build model

Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages that owners need to be aware of.

In the traditional model, also known as lump sum bid, the owner selects a design team and completes the building design prior to selecting a contractor. Once the design is complete the owner solicits competitive bids from multiple general contractors. In most cases, price is the deciding factor in contractor selection.

Lump sum bid is typically the most cost effective model because it utilizes competitive pricing across the board. Suppliers competitively bid material to subcontractors, subcontractors competitively bid to general contractors, and general contractors competitively bid to the owner. Everyone is providing their best number.

While having the lowest possible initial contract price appears ideal on the surface, there are some distinct disadvantages to be aware of that can ultimately affect the overall success of the project.

  • Did the contractor miss anything in his bid?
  • Can he complete the building within your timing constraints?
  • Are the subcontractors capable of performing their scope of work?
  • Did the design team provide sufficient detail in the bid documents to allow bidders to include all the desired building elements?
  • Does the constructability of the design allow the contractor to be most efficient in his construction operations in order to minimize cost and time?

It is impossible to know the answer to any of these questions when a contract is awarded. However, finding out the answer is no, during construction, can result in delays and additional costs to the project.

The design-build model attempts to mitigate the concerns listed above by involving the contractor at the beginning of the process.  

Instead of splitting the design and construction responsibilities, the design-build contractor is responsible for both. Because the contractor is involved at the onset of the project he can provide valuable insight to ensure scope is complete, contractors are qualified, the design is constructable and he can meet the schedule requirements for the project.

Instead of having design and construction independent of each other, and sometimes at odds with each serving his best interests, the design-build model creates a collaborative team atmosphere where the success of the project is the foremost concern.  

There are certain considerations for an owner to be aware of, however.

In the design-build model the owner does not have the expertise of an architect at his disposal. This creates less control over design and quality of construction. An owner is completely reliant on his contractor.

For that reason, it is imperative that an owner selects a design-build contractor who is trustworthy and has extensive experience in design-build contract work.

To learn more about how we can help you meet your project goals through the design-build process you can contact us here.

– Seth Lind

Harman Senior Project Manager