I was on a site doing a pre-tender survey recently when two of the contractors I favour (because they actually pay on time!)  “bumped” into each other.  The conversation went quickly to the recent upturn in enquiries.  Much was made of the fact that the contractors had cut their workforces in the last two years and so, heaven forbid, even contract managers were now needed to support the estimating team and organise pretender surveys. 

Conversation quickly moved to subcontractors.  Complaints were made that neither company could get quotes from subcontractors.  Enquiries were being met with a blank silence and even after spending hours on a site with a specialist they still did not quote.  I am pleased to say that I provided a price to both contractors and I await the tender result.

But then I get back to my office and see I have yet another enquiry comprising a page of A4 and a DVD.  I am being asked for a price.  I do not know what for but I have a disk.  It has the same cast as a telephone directory but not even in alphabetical order.  I search through Architects Drawings, specifications, Safety Method Statements, Engineers drawings, list of everything but details of nothing.  Of course there is no bill of quantities because that would mean that the client would have to pay the quantity surveyor more money. 

After 30 minutes my attention span is at an end and I simply bin the whole enquiry, not aware of whether my company could have done the best job or not because frankly I have no idea what I am being asked to price.  No doubt that is another contractor who can say they have sent out an enquiry to a subcontractor and got no response.

The trouble is I am old enough to remember my early days when I was in the industry in the 80s.  The professionals on the project were still in charge.   What the quantity surveyor measured got supplied.  What the architect had designed got built.  Now the architect provides concept and mood drawings.  The QS is not apparent until after the battle when it is his job to pick up the pieces.  I am not sure who is in charge but I suspect it is the lunatics.

On this blog over a year ago I said that the professionals needed to protect the specialist contractors because we are the people who carry out the work on site.  I am not surprised but they have not taken my advice and so they are responsible for the result.  Specialists are now hopelessly underfunded and have taken out all of their “fat” that previously provided design services for architects and produced bill of quantities for the QS.  I am not sure of the outcome but my experience tells me that things will simply get worse.

If contractors think that it is difficult to get competitive prices from subcontractors now – just watch this space.  You have treated us so very badly and you will reap your own rewards.