DESIGN SHADOW: ESTIMATING PROJECT HOURS AND TRACKING ORDERS

TIDLIC. At work we try very hard to be accountable to the hours it takes for a person who is assigned to a project or task. It’s the only responsible thing to do when it comes to keeping employees employed and running a financially sound business. To this end the Project Managers (PMs ) assign individuals on their projects the amount of hours it takes to fulfill what they think it will take to get the work done. This usually (hopefully) involves a conversation between the PM and the individual to confirm or adjust the hours estimated.

When the PM is an individual that hasn’t acted in the role of designer and FF&E manager, it is hard for them to estimate how many hours a staff member will be working for the week (coming weeks)… Heck, it’s hard for an experienced designer to get the hours exact. That’s because there are so many unknowns when it comes supplying interior services. Most think it’s as easy as selecting a chair, picking fabric for upholstery, specifying its frame finish, and then buying it. It is rarely that easy.

For instance, today I spent a good portion of the day calling and emailing different vendors and manufacturers to carry out unplanned follow-up on a high volume orders.

It all started when I found out that two of our Purchase Orders (PO’s) were sent to the wrong vendor by mistake. I got on the phone and made a call to a supplier and spoke with the individual that issues the PO’s to get it corrected and resent to the right vendors. Unfortunately we have lost over a week in our shipping schedule because of it. Another phone call led me to discovering that fabric purchased for a different chair order was delayed three weeks by no fault on our part. This pushes back the chair supplier’s lead time to a 4 week delay, because this chair manufacture won’t begin producing the chair until they have fabric in-hand.  We are now out of range of getting those chairs when we need them. Though I spoke with a number of individuals about this, pleading our cause, we couldn’t achieve a quicker lead time. I am in hopes to continue the conversation each week with the suppliers, applying gentle pressure to see if we can push the dates up closer to target delivery.

Another item I worked through today was on the phone with a supplier to track down wood finish samples that they mailed to us for sign off and approval. Though the finish and wood species isn’t a custom on the chair orders, an individual in the company thought it was and would not proceed with the order until I approved the submitted samples. I had thought it had all been cleared up three weeks ago when they said they were sending me the samples, but today I found out it was still unresolved in their minds and the samples were still being held. Another delayed order.

The last item I will share that I worked on today was a reviewing drawing for a chair order. We purchased a standard chair from a manufacturer but without the standard button tufting. Because we did that it was pushed into a custom order with this supplier. We then had to wait for a drawing from the manufacturer to review and approve for them to proceed. Days prior, we had found this drawing was sent to the wrong firm. Today I received the drawing, but after reviewing it, I found that the height of the seat back on the drawing didn’t match the marketed photograph and literature of the chair. After a number of emails with the project manager for the chair supplier about this, I received a concluding  email at the end of the day that the drawing would need to be updated and they would submit to me a new one in the next day or two.

My intent is not to complain in writing this posting. It was meant to show two points:

  1. No process is perfect, even though we try to be without error, mistakes can happen, and delays can occur. When it comes to tracking or estimating how long it will take you to complete a task or order, make sure you budget in some time for unforced errors. For time is money!
  2. To create that perfect space it takes a lot of work behind the scenes. It isn’t always fun or glamorous… Nor is it something people like to bore others with, but the better you plan and strategize for it, the better you will be able to deliver for your client.
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