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You get what you pay for

Discussion in 'Safety' started by Stoldal, Oct 25, 2008.

  1. Stoldal

    Stoldal Active Member

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    A little background, i am working with a private school. This school is building a theatre. The theatre was finished about a month ago. It is a great theatre, minus two problems, the fly system, and lighting system.

    A unnamed company, those who know me know what company it is, installed the lighting system, that included the dimmer, Architectural system, etc... Now the problem is in the Architectural system we have had tech from this company fly down and work on the system 5 time in the last month. This does not count the coming down for this install. The hand over for the lighting system was going to be about a month ago, but they can not get the lighting system working. The system crashed/locks up twice a day, or more.


    No one is happy with the system, and that is why i say you pay what you get for, the school i am working with went with the lowest bid. There have been nothing but problem with this system, i know that the install of this system was just finished, but still all the problem are a little much.

    On the up side, the schools administration, said that if i can get the money, I can buy an ION from ETC.

    I am getting picture of the theatre soon, sorry i have not gotten them sooner.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2008
  2. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    For what it's worth, I could post almost an identical story, down to my plans to purchase an ION next year. They botched my sound installation as well. The more I speak with technicians at other schools, this seems to be the norm, and it wouldn't surprise me if we all share the same lighting company.
     
  3. elite1trek

    elite1trek Active Member

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    Just to touch on low-bid contracts...

    If you look at any organization, academic or otherwise, especially government, they bid out most contracts. I know that this does not always turn out for the best when it gets down to your end, but you have to remember why they do this.

    Contracts are bidded out to ensure fairness. The school doesnt want personal connections to influence a job. The school does not want to be paying twice as much as they need to for a job, because somebody's uncle owns the company. If you bid out all contracts, you can ensure that somebody only gets a job if they can truly do it for the least amount of money.

    To try to avoid problems, whenever I have to write up a bid request, I am very specific, down to how cable is run, what kind of conduit to use, and any other minute detail that I can think of.

    Just out of curiosity...what is wrong with the fly system?

    And I really would like to see pictures if you can post them!
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2008
  4. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Occupation:
    Project Manager, Stagecraft Industries, Inc.
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    This probably THE Most overlooked issue in Theatrical Building Construction. The End results are a direct result of how well and how detailed the original "specifications for bid" are. In some cases Specifications can be written or provided by specific manufacturers of a product so that it is the only product that will meet the specs. This is "tailoring the specs". Some institutions/States will allow this other won't.
     
  5. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    The problem for us has been the people in charge, school side. When I do bids, I do exactly what is mentioned above, including specifying the level of expected service from the vendor. Unfortunately I was left out of my building's work, so not only did we go with low bids, but often the lowest bidder didn't know a thing about theater, and the supplier isn't local. Furthermore, those above me couldn't care less about the theater (or apparently the rest of construction on campus), so getting them to fix mistakes is close to impossible.

    As an example, a non-lighting company was hired to install a lighting system in my Black Box, and they were clearly making it up as they went. The final installation included pipes hung in such a way that you could not attach a C-clamp, home made stage pin outlets that pulled apart, built out of cheap Home Depot parts, and multiple non-working circuits. Two years later and we're still waiting on a fix, and my emails to district officials are typically deleted without being read (thank you Outlook read receipts!).
     
  6. DaveySimps

    DaveySimps CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Occupation:
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    I have had similar problems with the past 2 spaces I have helped to build. Both were educational instituations, and allowed electrical contractors with no prior theatre or entertainment venue expirence bid on the project. The end result was that we had CAT5 cable for our ACN run in conduit with the power to a dimmer rack, and a whole list of other issues that we have had to fight with. In both cases we had to take contractors and other to court to get them to fix their misteaks. In one case that was an almost 4 year process. I am sure Gafftaper could also share many stories of contractors and building a new facility gone wrong.

    ~Dave
     
  7. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Occupation:
    Controls Technician - TAIT Towers
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    I am sort of in an odd situation as my theatre operates under the umbrella of the University of Utah but we operate as an independent entity. So, any purchase over $4K has to be sent out to bid through the University Purchasing Department. However, at least for us, I can tell the purchasing department: "This is what I want, and these are the vendors to whom you should send the bid." After that, I am obligated to go with the lowest bid that meets the criteria, which unfortunately isn't usually a local company. However, I always get what I ask for (I do pay for it too).
     
  8. Sayen

    Sayen Active Member

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    Can you specify a level of service? I can usually add on that the vendor needs to be capable of providing service locally or on site for expensive items, which helps the bids go to my local vendor - who's help I do need from time to time.

    Another gem - http://www.controlbooth.com/forums/what-went-wrong/9663-fire-alarm.html#post109995 - we have an optical fire alarm system, despite my recommendations. Forget fog and haze, pulling drapes across the stage wrong sets the dumb thing off, or flying scenery that isn't flat.
     
  9. Traitor800

    Traitor800 Active Member

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    An Intresting thing that I learned the other day about the bid process in NY state (at least at the university level) is that you can bypass the bid process if you use a company that is minority owened (this includes a company that is owned by a women) and it just happens that Syracuse Scenery and Stage lighting is minority owned. So whenever my TD does a large order or install he gets exactly what he wants because he just orders right from SSSL.
     
  10. elite1trek

    elite1trek Active Member

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    I have never heard that before. I believe you, but could you cite a source, because I think that would be an interesting read.
     
  11. Stoldal

    Stoldal Active Member

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    Ya next time we bid something out i will try to do thing a little better, but the problem is the admin think that they know what is the best gear to get.

    The lighting system has been fix a little better, but it is still very easy to crash the system. They have stop reply to our messages, but in there defense the last time we talked was LDI weekend, we are finding some of the dimmer curve are way off, they are iseries dimmers. We just need to be able to trust our lighting system so we know when we press button "A" action "12" will happen.

    The fly system is not layed out very nicely, the gerneral line sets that are next to the first two electrics are catching on the cable for the electrics, so we have to bring do both if we want to bring down the elctrics 1 and 2, and on eltrics 2 and 3 the sound shell are way to close, where when the sound shells are flown out they some times hit the lights, so now we have to bring them both "in" and the both "out" at the same time, it is just a big pain. And drama teachers adding weight, and then makes it very arbor heavy, well i guess this is not a problem with the fly systems.

    A new problem that we found is there is two air currents in the stage. The first current start center stage and "sucks" everything to stage left, and then they second one start at center stage and "sucks" every thing stage right.

    Yes i know i have not gotten they picture, I just keep for getting to bring my camera, sorry.
     
  12. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    While nothing would surprise me about how New York State operates, many government agencies/entities and government contracts/programs include goals for contracts awarded to women-owned, minority-owned, and other ownerships. These goals may be absolute requirements (that is, if the goals aren’t met, the funding/contract is reduced or terminated) or they may be softer (that is, not meeting the goal would affect future considerations, or just public relations).



    Joe
     
  13. Smurphy

    Smurphy Member

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    Ill tell you what this is one of those story's we have all heard a million times. Yet schools never seem to learn form their mistakes and continue to be cheap as all hell. Why to with things that help the production like lights and sound I love those things and they really are only hearting the productions they put up in the end anyway.
     
  14. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    Occupation:
    Acoustical, audio and audiovisual consultant
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    Almost 25 tears of putting out packages for public bid or bidding on public bids have taught me that it is a good concept too often poorly applied. I find three aspects that often get overlooked or abused.

    One is as Van mentioned, that of poorly prepared bid packages. Many times this is actually a result of a second layer of the same problems where the design services were also approached and bid in a less than ideal fashion. Low bid designer putting together the package to be bid on by the low bid contractor is often not the best approach to a quality end result.

    The second aspect is "Value Engineering". Value engineering is supposed to be where the bidders offer suggestions to increase the value without increasing the contract cost or to decrease the contract cost without decreasing the value. It's a great idea and when applied properly can work wonderfully. Unfortunately, it has greatly devolved from the original concept of addressing value to simply addressing cost and it often becomes more a "what can we cut to get the budget down" than it is a matter of improving the value for the money. People also sometimes forget the value engineering can apply to more than equipment, it can apply to designers and contractors. This sort of segues to...

    It is interesting that this was even left out in the posts here but the concept is supposed to be low, qualified bidder. Three common problems here. The first is who is determining the qualifications. If the party contracting the system designer does not know how to qualify the designer then that can compound into having a designer that does not know how to qualify the bidders. The second problem is how to qualify or disqualify someone. You can say you want someone with the proper experience and ability but how do you quantify that into something that somebody like a state purchasing agent can work with? You may know someone is not really qualified, but can you point out a specific qualification that is missing rather than it being something more general? With very few professional (not manufacturer) licenses and certifications in any of the related industries this can sometimes be difficult to do. Finally, even if you do have good qualifiers defined, that doesn't always get enforced, especially when going with a lesser qualified or even unqualified bidder resolves some budget issues. I still remember one state project where the direct end users were very worried about getting a good contractor, so we put together a fairly extensive list of qualifications and information to be submitted with the bid. When it was bid, and being a public bid it was a public bid opening, the apparent low bid turned out to be deficient in a number of the documents and qualifications required. Stupid state purchasing agent stands up and says "since we reserve the right to waive any qualifications, we might overlook the discrepancies." It took hours of work and dealing with calls from attorneys threatening lawsuits in order to finally get the state to stand by the bid package issued. What is really bad is that I have run into similar situations numerous times.

    A related side issue regards the designer's or consultant's role during construction. The recommended process is for this party to stay involved throughout construction to hep ensure that the design intent is maintained and that the Owner receives what was bid. This approach is applied almost universally for architects, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, etc., but quite often it is not applied to specialty systems. Usually a matter of minimizing design service fees, it is not unusual for public projects to end the designer's involvement when they issue the bid package, I have had a number of projects where I had no part in the bidding process or construction. In the past this effort was assumed to be provided by the Owner, a more recent process of third party commissioning relies on a separate party to provide much of this verification. The problem in many specialty areas is that neither the Owner, or at least the people involved, nor the commissioning agent have people qualified in these areas.

    So over the years I have found that many techs know what they want, but there can be great value in having someone experienced with how to make that happen involved. The value a good designer/consultant brings is often related as much to the procedural and process aspects of a project, an area where many technically quite competent people have little experience, as it is to the technical aspects.
     
  15. museav

    museav CBMod CB Mods Departed Member

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    Also the second part to this, which is how well they are enforced. I've seen too many good bid packages reduced to poor ones by people, in many cases the Owner, not enforcing what is in them.

    The goal is usually a "competitive bid". The specific requirements for what constitutes a competitive bid vary from state to state but typically it means either a) a performance based product description, b) a minimum of three acceptable products or c) a product that can be bid by multiple bidders with no one bidder having a clear advantage. In theory, a performance specification addresses only the directly relevant issues, for example specific dimensions may be specified but they should be based on the project requirements and not simply to define a specific product. However, this is often abused and instead used to try to define a proprietary product. Proprietary products where one bidder may have an inherent advantage (exclusive distribution, is themselves the manufacturer, etc.) can usually be accepted if there is justification, such as compatibility with existing systems or with spare parts stock. In cases where I have modeled a room and the predicted sound system performance in order to select one optimal speaker system, I have also used that process as justification for a proprietary product.

    In the past I have been asked by state and federal reviewers, who are typically reviewing more the compliance of the documentation with their documentation requirements than they are the technical content, to revise or justify situations they feel may violate their interpretation of the requirements for a competitive bid. This is much less a problem recently as the number of restricted distribution products has decreased making for fewer situations where one bidder would have a obvious distinct advantage. One thing I did learn, at least for here, was to avoid identifying two acceptable products, either one or a minimum of three, listing two just led to questions.
     
  16. Anonymous067

    Anonymous067 BANNED USER

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    "You get what you pay for..."

    I love that line.

    The guy who was the lead sound guy "putting his two cents worth in" decided on a Audiotechnica system over shure about 6 years back....

    His reason was "well shure has the same features just more expensive"

    Our current sound consult simply said this..."well, you get what you pay for".
     

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