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State of the Art: Mechanical In-Sourcing

After Schuff, we moved on to Tri-City Mechanical who has an interesting relationship with Omni-Duct Systems. I'm not sure how long ago, but Tri-City is partnered with Omni-Duct, who does the prefabrication of ductwork. Tri-City used to do their own, but they could only process 75 lb/hour. Since Omni-Duct can achieve 130 lb/hour, Tri-City can offer a competitive advantage by using Omni-Duct - who is located in the same building as Tri-City. (I found this especially interesting because I just reread Tom Friedman's World is Flat for my 'Managing Collaborative Relationship class. In this he talks about one of the major 'flattening' strategies, insourcing.)

Tri-City spent some time reviewing their 8 step process (from modeling to installation). Although their process was very interesting (especially automatic nesting, where pieces are placed on sheet metal in a way that minimizes waste), one of the best parts of the came up during the Q&A.

We started discussing the workflow from engineering to fabrication, and John Tocci asked the presenter what he would do with magic fairy dust, that could change the engineering process in any way they wanted. Tri-City wants to have their tradesman sitting next to the engineers, as they are design and laying out the systems. Ideally, the engineer would work in CAD-Duct (their vertically integrated software used for just about everything), but to make that valuable, they would have to use Tri-City's database and bring them on early enough.

This of course, forced the question - what is the competitive advantage to bringing subcontractors on board early? Although I agree that there is value to bringing subcontractors on early, we need to prove to owners that they aren't losing the perceived competition of hard bidding. Tri-City said that this was the case, but couldn't supply metrics of any sort.

Which leads quite nicely into our next and final stop: Kovach.

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