The Decision-making Supply Chain

The quality level of all manufactured goods assembled and delivered in the curtain wall supply chain flow downhill from design and engineering decision-making, whether good or bad. The assembled system of products that is a “curtain wall system” applied uniquely to each building type and layout is only as good as the decision-making that is input throughout design and engineering, regardless of how well the quality of glass, metal, sealants, thermal breaks and other components perform or adhere to specification. That’s why the decision-making supply chain is so important.

There are two basic elements to a supply chain: the decisions that feed into it, and the materials that make it up. Much is discussed and defined in the material supply chain. Conversely, little is done often in the clarity, definition, operating procedures, limits and boundaries in the decision-making supply chain.

Decision-making in the supply chain
These decision-making elements of the supply chain are delivered as a service and as intellectual capital to the project team members, while goods and products are produced in the design, engineering, and project management process. We think, often without appropriate self-awareness, that since much of this is made up of what we think of as “soft skills” (which are really “hard” and have everything to do with success) that we can’t define and govern them.

Taking responsibility for decisions
So much of this aspect is left to chance and good will. We hear phrases like “well I have no control over the architect” or “I’m at the mercy of the owner on this one.” Not true. We have the opportunity to control ourselves, our company behavior and approach, our processes and to define with clarity what each person and business in the decision-making supply chain is expected to be responsible for. We can define accountabilities, procedures, chain of command obligations, and how decisions will be made and approved. These things are too important and there’s too much at stake to leave it to chance.

Getting on the same page
We should do all that we can to treat decision-making, decision processes, milestones, submittal reviews, operational procedures, scope definitions, design criteria, submittal processes, design meetings and other instruments of service or expression of intellectual capital in the same manner by which we define material specifications and tolerances in the material supply chain. 

This means sharing standards, communication platforms and protocols, QC lists, product specs, decision-making protocol, and similar areas, getting design professionals on all sides, including those at the vendors and suppliers, on the same page and under the same set of standards.

Most breakdowns on projects, in customer service, and in creating a quality product, occur in the area of communication. If there’s a lack of clarity, there will be a problem.

Defining decision-making processes is a good thing. When decision-making fails, and it will at various points along the way, we should confront it, mitigate it, manage it, reveal it, use it as a time to learn and adjust, and then move on to better outcomes.

Nothing should be taken for granted. Everything is best done in a collaborative manner, with professional candor, with as much clarity as can be created, and with accountability on all sides. Let’s not throw stuff over the wall and leave outcomes to chance.

John Wheaton is the founder & co-owner of Wheaton & Sprague Engineering, Inc., also known as Wheaton Sprague Building Envelope. The firm provides full service design, engineering and consulting services for the curtain wall/building envelope/building enclosure industry, and works at “Creating Structure” for clients. He can be reached at jwheaton@wheatonsprague.com and on Twitter, Instagram and Word Press @JohnLWheaton1.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

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