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Cheap Schemes are Made of These: 4 Materials Vendors Sneak In to Lower Costs (and How to Protect Yourself)

Cheap Schemes are Made of These: 4 Materials Vendors Sneak In to Lower Costs (and How to Protect Yourself)

The relationship between you and your vendor should be like a marriage. It takes a lot of trust, commitment, and working together. But when going from design to manufacturing to installation it is often difficult to realize when a vendor tries to sneak in products that lower their bottom line without changing yours. Bad husband indeed! While value engineering is important to try to find ways to keep the look but lower the price, it is important for you to know which materials a vendor may sneak into your production in order to cut costs before it’s too late. Here are 4 common materials vendors may swap for a profit:

1. Particleboard for Plywood

Working with wood products can get pricey, especially when you are talking about solid wood. Many times a project will include designs with plywood as a cheaper alternative. Swapping particleboard for plywood is an easy way for a vendor to try to help their bottom line.

2. Gatorfoam for Sintra/ Komatex

Expanded PVC sheets made of Sintra or Komatex are often replaced by gator foam, or foam board. While many people couldn’t tell the difference between the two, Sintra is a rigid PVC shell with PVC core interior foam. It is stiffer and won’t dent as easily as Gatorfoam. Gatorfoam also costs less, and could be an area where a vendor may try to swap out one type of material for one that looks similar.

3. Iron for Steel

Metals are a big category that can be swapped. Because steel is expensive many vendors would prefer to use iron, a less expensive and more malleable alternative. The bad part is that when you are paying for steel and are instead getting rod iron that is sand blasted and powder coated, you probably can’t tell the difference in the final look.

4. Standard Ink for UV Resistant Ink

Printing with standard ink or UV resistant ink usually looks the same when first printed. However, a year after sitting in the sun will fade a standard ink print while the UV resistant ink will remain unfazed by weathering. Knowing that you are getting the ink you are paying for is important to ensure that you will not have to shell out extra money to replace what your vendors snuck into your project.

So what you should take out of this? Value engineering is important. We want to get you the look you want at the cost you want, but we know that sometimes getting the cost you want comes with changes in the materials we use. In order to protect yourself from getting into a vendor material scheme, here are tips we came up with to remember along the way.

Be Upfront:

Tell the vendor what materials you expect to be using and what areas you may be able to use value engineering to cut costs. If you want that solid oak wood, say you want solid oak wood and are not willing to consider other, possibly less expensive, alternatives. Being upfront with your expectations will leave less room for error or vendor decision-making if it comes down to selecting a certain material.

Get Suggestions:

Your vendor knows a lot about this stuff, it is their job after all. Ask your vendor what materials they would suggest using for certain projects. It will help you stay on top of what is being produced while trying to work with your vendor on coming up with the best possible solutions for your projects.

See Materials:

There’s nothing wrong with asking for a sample (Hey, why do you think people love Costco and Sam’s Club so much?). Request that your vendor send you tangible concrete examples of materials being used, especially when prototyping a project. That way you can see it, look at it, get to know it, take it out for a nice steak dinner, and really feel comfortable with the materials you are selecting. Plus, it’s a great way to test a look on two materials if you can’t decide.

Ask Questions:

Remember when your grade-school teacher told you no question is too small? That applies to your vendor as well. It’s your project, and the more questions you ask the less likely you will be left in the dark. Remember, there are a lot of steps in this process and putting a project that someone else designed into your vendor’s hands can create some confusion and human error.

Manage the Project:

Make sure your project managers are keeping you in the loop. It is important that you know how the product is unfolding so that you aren’t displeased with the outcome. Make sure you know: what is the quality, what is being produced?

You have to be willing to build a trust and partnership with a vendor where you know you are going to get what you pay for. We don’t value our customers as customers, we value them as partners. Their success is our success and your success is our overall goal. Hopefully these tips will help protect you. If your vendors aren’t tricking you into material schemes, then you are probably already using Southeastern Products.


October 1, 2014

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