It’s been a busy week! I just got back from a four day training seminar given by my cabinet manufacturer back in Iowa. Before I left for training I had to make sure I had all the last minute details completed for my purchase orders I need to process for order cut off deadlines with two different manufacturers for three different clients! Ironically enough, My blogging buddies are posting on this very topic with some great comments on the purchase order process. On the east coast, Susan Serra’s Blog, The Kitchen Designer has posted pictures of her purchase order process and talks about her method of taking the design to purchase order. Back on the West Coast, at the Kitchen Exchange, Peggy Deras has some cautionary information to share when clients modify the design to cut costs without consulting the designer to make sure the modification will still work in the plan. One minor change can have major implications. Your designer has gone to great lengths to make sure your design works. Making changes on the job with your contractor or when purchasing alternative appliances can impact your design. Make sure you consult your designer when you need to make changes.
The purchase order process is an intense process, and absolutely mandatory for a designer to check the acknowledgments. I will never forget a horror story I heard in design school from my drafting instructor. It has stuck with me ever since. The story goes that a designer in a large design firm was in charge of purchasing desks for a large suite of law offices that occupied two floors in a high rise downtown LA. Desks were ordered for the offices but the size of the desks were never verified with the finished built rooms. The desks arrived and were delivered to the 22 and 23 floors but the desks were too big. None of them fit the offices they were built for. That designer was quickly fired for costing the design firm thousands of dollars and I am sure a lesson she will never forget. The moral of the story: never order off a plan without checking the actual room dimensions.
Kitchen design demands that measurements are considered down to the fraction of the inch. Thus the purchase order is a critical time in planning to make sure a project will be installed without delays. Your designer should take great lengths to make sure every angle, height and depth have been factored into your cabinet order. Cabinet lead times may take 5 to 8 weeks so timing is of the essence. Customers and contractors expect projects to get underway by a certain date. It is my job to make sure that cabinets arrive on time. It is no doubt a stressful time for me when I have deadlines for several clients at once. If a client wants to rush this process, I may want that client to buy from someone else. The errors that will cost me money is not worth rushing your job. The time in between “plan approval” with the client and “cabinet delivery” is filled with at least two and sometimes three weeks of order editing, acknowledgment editing and scheduling. It equates to reams of paper with faxes back and forth between designer and manufacturer. Knowledge of cabinet manufactures specs will vary and the designer needs to be aware of the differences to prevent mistakes. My notebook tab that holds all my purchase order information for each cabinet order can wind up being over an 1 1/2″ and sometimes 2″ thick just for the acknowledgment paperwork between me and the manufacturer.
For each client, I maintain a binder specific for each project to keep all the information organized. Some projects may be just the kitchen while other projects may be a whole house full of cabinetry. The process is tedious and takes patience as the cabinet order is examined inside and out. Plan view and elevations are pulled out and scrutinized as the purchase order is prepared. The contract is checked against the drawings and from the drawings a purchase order is generated. Once the purchase order is printed each cabinet is checked from the drawings and goes through a through examination. The purchase order is checked to make sure the following details are examined:
- Cabinet openings for appliances have to be checked against manufacturer spec sheets.
Manufacturer appliance spec sheets are notorious for being difficult to interpret. The dimensions are hard to interpret with the very small print, sometimes dimensions are missing. Phone calls have to be placed to appliance manufacturers if something is not clear. Clients need to know that changing appliances sizes after cabinets have been ordered can make for disappointment later when they discover the new appliance does not fit.
- Does the door swing of the refrigerator clear the adjacent wall or an oven handle next to it?
- Will the oven fit cut out size for the cabinet? Will the reveal for the doors above the oven need to be adjusted to avoid big gaps between oven and doors?
- Will panels need to be ordered for refrigerator doors and dishwashers?
- Did the client select the sink and will it fit in the sink base?
- If it is an apron sink do the reveals on the doors need to be changed?
- Are the exposed sides of cabinets finished or decorative end panels included?
- Are the details at the bottom of bases specified? Wide bottom rails, recessed toe left or right, decorative valances? Toe kick lengths calculated?
- Light rail and crown molding heights and projections calculated?Lengths calculated to allow for cuts? Check for scarfing, order longer lengths of molding to prevent this or change the design.
- Cabinet interiors checked for which will receive finished interiors? Doors prepped for glass?
- Hood sizes and venting requirements checked against appliance specs.?
- Custom heights, depths or custom cabinets checked?
- The interior accessories specified for the cabinets?
- The cabinet hardware should be specified now to ensure it arrives on time with the cabinets.
- Touch up materials, extra hinges, shelf clips, plastic door bumpers, tape edges?
Once the order is received by the manufacturer, they send back the acknowledgment and assign the order an so # for production. Custom cabinets will be drawn in CAD by the cabinet manufacturer. They will interpret my drawing and it is my job to check it to make sure their interpretation agrees with my drawing. This process may go back and forth to make sure the the custom cabinet is engineered as I envisioned it and approved by the manufacturer. Sometimes this process may take two, three or four faxes back and forth before it is confirmed. We maintain in our design showroom a simple tickler system to keep our orders easy to access and identify. “Orders Pending Acknowledgment” and “Orders Pending Delivery” stay in a tickler pocket on the wall by the fax machine to make it easy for the either me or my design associate to check each others orders.
Two sets of eyes. The acknowledgment not only is checked by myself , but by another associate designer so that another set of eyes views the drawings against the measure notes and the drawings against the purchase order to make sure nothing is overlooked. Many times a client has gone through their own extensive process of selecting and reselecting a color for their kitchen. To make sure there are no mistakes, It really makes sense to also put in another reminder call to my client while I am editing her order to verify a final time the color we signed off on is indeed what she wants. Homeowners buy a new kitchen maybe once in twenty years, so it in the best interest of your designer to show patience and know that it could be very easy for a client to be thinking she order Alma Late when in actuality she changed it to Alma Coffee. I like to give a color chip to my client, have her sign the back of the label, make a copy of it and keep this in her file as a final verification this is the color decided upon.
Behind the scenes of Kitchen Design is most definitely not glamorous or easy. There is a lot of preparation involved. Work comes home with me. I leave work at 6 and turn my computer on at home to continue designing or checking orders in a quiet place at home to fax back acknowledgments back to the manufacturer the next day. The thing to know about this process is that manufacturers will most typically provide only 48 hours to acknowledge an order. If an order is not acknowledged on time, changes to an order once in production can be very costly. The purchase order process is the part of a job that can make or break an installation. Pressure for your designer? You bet!