We all have a responsibility to perform the best job we can for our employers/customers. That is why I am sharing my thoughts with you, my clients, the Inspectioneering Journal readers. In 12 years of being on the owner/user side of the fence, as a chief chemist for NL. (National Lead) Industries and a senior member of the materials engineering and corrosion staff for Monsanto Chemical Company, combined with another 9 years in the role marketing, consulting and sales of NDE and engineering services to the process sectors, I have seen where we often become our own worst enemy. Yes, I mean either as the service provider or the client.
Contractual arrangements like fixed bid or lump sum, time and materials (T&M), partnering agreements or strategic alliances, are in themselves neither good nor bad. They are merely different tools at our disposal for establishing an understanding between client and service company via a legal document. The client and contractor make them what they are.
Here are a few good tips to consider when making a decision on a contractor or client, regardless of the type of contract:
1.) Always "begin with the end in mind" (the rest of the "7 Habits" can assist in keeping yourself on track). Make sure the contract and estimate/bid/quotation contain the scope of the agreement. Like effective communication, one party makes his/her needs known and the other repeats them back in their own words, to assure an accurate understanding.
What exactly do you want to accomplish? What level of quality do you require? What is your budget? Are you just throwing warm bodies at a project to say you did it?
2.) Look at methodologies or tools to help you determine the impact of mechanical integrity on your company's bottom line, like the NPV (net present value) consideration. This should include not only mechanical costs but safety and environmental impact, too.
3.) Be careful not to fall into the trap of relying solely on the feeling of trust you have with your current or intended contractor. While he/she may be a trusted friend or associate, even when based on past experience, you are really not too busy to protect your employer's best interest. Make sure the technology and personnel will satisfy the overall requirements of the job.