Canadian Electrical Industry News Week

 

May 19, 2017

SonesBy Keith Sones

Okay, I need to put something out there. It might make me seem shallow, shameless or otherwise morally deficient, but here goes anyway.

I like money.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about dreaming of swimming through endless seas of cash like a comic book scene from Scrooge McDuck (for anyone under 30, that’s Donald Duck’s uncle). Nor is my stated love for dollars the main driver in my life, kicking aside family and hikes through the mountains in the tireless pursuit of a bigger bank account. In fact, I should probably restate the whole thing, more in line with what my Scottish grandmother would have said. What I really mean is, I don’t like wasting money.

A few years ago my wife and I decided to do some renovations on our 25-year -old house. We didn’t have anything too exotic in mind — update the kitchen, splash on some paint and add a deck out back to cover up the rain beaten concrete patio. For a bit more insight, we lived in Squamish, British Columbia at the time. Squamish gets a lot of rain, and much of it comes down hard. The concrete had fought a valiant battle with the constant downpours, but ultimately lost the fight. It gave me a good understanding of how water carved out the Grand Canyon.

We opted to start on the deck. After calling a few local contractors, we chose one that specialized in classic west coast carpentry. We settled on a price and, after a few weeks, our back yard had been transformed. Kevin, the contractor, had done a really good job, so we figured that he and his partner would be a good team to tackle some of the other renos we had in mind.

It was now October and life caught up with us. Work, kids in school, weekend coaching responsibilities, and an increasing desire to hibernate as the days shortened and the Squamish monsoons arrived left us thinking of anything but renovations. It just sounded like too much work, even though we weren’t actually doing any of it.

By the time February rolled around, the subject of the kitchen came up again. After some considerations (and friendly “debates” with my wife, who it turns out is quite a bit smarter than me) about appliances, flooring and the like, it was time to call up Kevin. He happily came by the house one evening to discuss the plans.

I say “happily” because his work circumstances had changed dramatically since he completed our deck. His order book was pretty full in the previous late summer and autumn, so he was able to schedule and price projects in line with the hot market that it had been. In the depths of winter, it turns out that other homeowners had the same feelings of malaise that we had felt, which had turned off the project tap. Kevin’s backlog was pretty thin. Being a very nice (and honest) guy, he leaned across our aging kitchen counter and came clean.

“I’m happy to take on your kitchen job. Things are really slow right now,” he told me. “In fact, you and your wife treated us well on the deck job, and we need the work, so I’m willing to cut our rates and get it done right away.” He then said something that has stuck with me for a long time. “We’ll do all of the work ourselves” (fortunately an electrician and plumber were part of his team). “It will keep the cost down and we can control the schedule.”

Now, his statement wasn’t exactly the Sermon from the Mount, or even a decent political stump speech. Most people wouldn’t remember what amounted to a fairly basic, albeit nice to hear, discussion between a local carpenter and a homeowner client about keeping costs down. Pretty unmemorable really. A forgettable moment.

But I’m a contractor myself. So I wanted to see if he would perform as promised. For me, it was about three things. Would I get the nasty surprise later, when he might tell me, “We’ve had some extra costs that we didn’t expect.” Or would he perform as advertised? So it was an exercise in trust. Second, I wanted a new kitchen. And third, it catered nicely to my somewhat frugal nature. Hey, I’m not cheap. I just like a good deal.

The next couple of weeks saw the kitchen stripped down to the studs, flooring ripped up, plumbing rerouted and finally, a brand new kitchen. Cool! It featured the first new appliances I’d ever had, and I have to admit I was like a little kid. “Hey honey, the fridge has a cold water tap in it!”

What didn’t happen was arguably even more impressive. No big extra bill. No delayed schedule. Just great service at a very good price.

So when I had a chance, I asked my contractor friend (yes, when you’re cooking on a temporary stove in your bathrobe and the contractor is framing the ceiling above your head at 8:00 at night, you either want to kill each other or you become friends) the uncomfortable question. “You gave me a heckuva price. Did you make any money?”

He admitted that the price was tight but yes, he and his crew did make a few bucks along the way. “We did all of the work ourselves with no sub-trades. It allowed us to schedule things as we needed and we didn’t have any other prices to mark up. I told the guys that they had a certain number of hours to get it all done. So they did. All of us were motivated to get the job done as quickly and professionally as possible. If I had one guy on the job that knew he was just getting paid by the hour, the whole thing would have gotten out of control.”


Okay, that made sense to me. I had watched them work on occasion and the crew definitely wasn’t slacking. No long breaks, no time wasted with idle chatter, just work. Then, given I’m in a similar line of work, I had to ask myself, would the same kind of cost and time savings apply to a much larger project? Something where the costs are measured in millions (or billions) of dollars?

It turns out that the answer is yes. I tested the waters with a few of our own projects and also asked a number of people who work in the same electrical industry as you and I. The secret is not in finding the best people, or even grinding the contractor down to get best price. It’s somewhat simpler than that. The answer lies in what I also learned as a sports coach and parent. It’s motivation that will bring the results.

Now, before you run out the door to buy some colourful pompoms and leap into your next management meeting with a rousing rendition of your favourite college cheer, I have some advice for you. Don’t do that. If you do, you will miss the opportunity just as much as you would have missed the point. Motivation is much stronger when you set up a project to be contractually motivating.

Whenever possible, you need to set up your contracts so that they motivate everyone on the project to deliver the final product as quickly and at as low a cost as possible. The nuance here is the term “everyone.” If you pay one person by the hour, he/she will be motivated to sell you hours, not final product.

If you contract someone to perform a certain scope, but they are reliant on someone else (who is selling you hours) to do their thing first, expect the schedule to be longer than you wanted. In other words, all of us are motivated by the contracts we sign and the methods by which we get paid. Set this up well and you will be on your way to project success. And it’s not chump change you can save. Industry estimates point to savings at the owner’s level of 10-30%. That’s real money, especially when the budget is in the millions of dollars, or more.

I recently gave a presentation on this topic and it’s amazing how quickly people understand the concept. It’s one of those “that’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that?” ideas. Like the wheel, or inside running water. Or the Clapper.
All of us in the industry like to say we are in the people business, and I agree wholeheartedly. It’s just as true that we are in the motivation business. Not the “you can do anything” Richard Simmons motivational video kind of business, but the kind that comes from inside our own minds. How do I make money? How do I please the boss? How can we get more business?

It turns out the answers are right in front of us. Cut costs, reduce schedule, increase quality. Life changing things. Just ask yourself, “Do my contracts motivate people to do these things? Or am I actually motivating them to do the opposite?” Check the terms of your contracts and you’ll find out pretty quickly.

I always thought, “Wow, if I could do all of that, I’d be rich.”

And then my kids went to college. Oh well, someday.

Keith Sones is Vice President, National Business Development, The Valard Group of Companies.

 

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Electrician Forum Brought to you by Schneider Electric

As industry experts you know the products you use everyday better than anyone and should have input on what information you receive about products and what could improve them.

Therefore, we want your insight on the biggest challenges or issues you face when installing loadcentres, breakers (CAFI, GFI's…) and other surge protection devices. We ask that you do not provide product specific details but rather your general issues and concerns or any questions that have come to mind while working with these product types. Provide us with your valued expert insight into the issues you have faced so manufacturers can better inform you about the installation and use of these products. Lets generate some discussion that will help guide the Industry.

Make your comments  HERE

 

SoneparSonepar Canada has announced the launch of new mobile applications for Gescan Vallen, Sesco and Lumen.

The mobile apps were officially released as of June of this year and features barcode scanning, access to pricing, product availability, store locator and much more – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The new mobile app is changing the way customers can interact with the Operating Companies within Sonepar Canada. The barcode scanning functionality is a popular feature amongst customers allowing them to scan an item easily and add it to their cart.

 

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Fredericton Transmission LineNB Power recenly announced it will seek approval to build a new transmission line in the Fredericton area, which will improve the reliability of the power grid in the region for approximately 25, 000 customers.

The new proposed 15-kilometre transmission line will run from the Rainsford Substation, in Fredericton, to the Mactaquac Terminal.

“NB Power strives to offer its customer a reliable power grid that meets or exceeds all utility standards,” said NB Power’s President and CEO, Gaëtan Thomas. “This will increase transmission reliability for customers in the Fredericton region with fewer interruptions that can be restored within minutes rather than hours or days.”

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Codes and Regulations Brought to You by the CSA Group

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Emergency Lighting PrinciplesBy Kevin Smee, Vice President Sales at AimLite

Most of us take light for granted. It has become so ubiquitous and cheap to use that we don’t really stop to think about emergencies. Thankfully most buildings are required by law since 1974 to be equipped with emergency lighting that automatically activates during power failures to facilitate our exit.

Emergency lighting is only one component of a building’s life safety systems, but perhaps one of the most important. 

 

 

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Open Office DesignOpen office design has exploded in popularity over the last 20 years. In fact, the New Yorker magazine claims that approximately 70% of all offices now have an open floor plan.[1]

How did we get here?

Although open offices have been around since the mid-1700s, the cubicle culture developed by Hermann Miller in 1964 became very popular in the 1980s and 1990s. By the early 2000s, open office design started to re-emerge in an effort to encourage more collaboration and Silicon Valley was among the first to embrace sleek, open office workspaces as the norm.

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EikoThese LED lamps are designed to meet or exceed the standards set out in the California Energy Commission’s Title 20 and Title 24 (JA8) Appliance Efficiency Regulations.

FEATURES

  • MR16 GU5.3 and GU10 base; B11 Decorative E12 and E26 base
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Peers & Profiles

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Copper $US Dollar price per pound

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