The term partnering has become a buzzword in business. However, Candia, N.H.-based Action Equipment Co. turned the concept into reality at a project in Suffield, Conn. Representatives from the rental company and the contractor of the large project met in advance to put together cooperative methods of equipment delivery pickup and billing structures in exchange for Action's becoming the exclusive equipment supplier for the project.
In October 1998, contractors and subcontractors celebrated the unveiling of Phase One of the Stony Brook Aqueduct Repair project in Suffield. Originally constructed in 1827, the scenic and historic Stony Brook Aqueduct functioned at full capacity until 1986 when partial timber reconstruction on a 30-foot section, about one-third of the original 90-foot-wide canal, was undertaken. The remaining two-thirds of the canal lay dormant until 1998 when owner Dexter Corp. hired Bancroft Contracting Corp., South Paris, Maine, to carry out a two-part rebuilding project to update the structure.undertaken. The remaining two-thirds of the canal lay dormant until 1998, when owner Dexter Corp. hired Bancroft Contracting Corp., South Paris, Maine, to carry out a two-part rebuilding project to update the structure.
Phase One of the two-phase project required both removal and replacement of structural elements of the canal. The work updated the remaining 60 feet, or two-thirds of the canal, which had not been in use for 12 years. This included removal of the existing timber aqueduct and its masonry supports. Bancroft then installed the concrete sidewalls, headwalls, steel sheet piling seepage walls and precast decking with a cast concrete overlay necessary to complete the upgrade. Phase Two of the project, completed at the end of November, prepared the smaller 30-foot-wide section of the canal for retirement.
What made this project unique was the partnering of Bancroft Contracting with Action Equipment in order to efficiently manage equipment. Action's sales representative Randy Beaton met with Bancroft's project superintendent Pete Belgard and project manager Greg Bove before the project began to discuss working cooperatively to supply the contractor with large and small construction equipment and supplies.
"The chance to work closely with Bancroft was a chance to step outside our regular way of doing things and really help a customer in a way most rental companies wouldn't consider," said Beaton. "It was a great opportunity."
The project began in mid-June with a scheduled late-fall completion date. The concept of cooperative partnering was new to both companies, but they shared a common objective to find new solutions to outdated, inefficient ways of coordinating equipment needs. By meeting to discuss alternative means of coordinating equipment delivery, off-hour pickup and billing structures, Bancroft and Action were able to find common ground and work through difficulties. Bancroft got the equipment it needed when it needed it, and Action got the steady exclusive rental contract. Action also performed regular maintenance when required.
"We thought the arrangement that Action's sales rep suggested was acceptable and doable," said Belgard. "We even discussed the same deal with another equipment rental house, but the bottom line was that Randy Beaton was more aggressive in making things work."
The partnering agreement involved much trust. Having worked together in the past on plant shutdowns in Groveton and Berlin, N.H., Action Equipment and Bancroft Contracting already enjoyed an amicable working relationship. That confidence was further developed and nurtured during the development of this cooperative rental agreement.
Planning was key. Because Bancroft is located in Maine, its workers commuted to Connecticut to work on the project during the week. Bancroft was interested in prudentplanning to minimize rental costs. Action's Portsmouth, N.H., location offered the perfect place in the middle of the Bancroft team's commute to drop off and pick up equipment each week.
Action constructed a gated and locked area at its Portsmouth location especially for Bancroft and made sure the equipment it needed was ready and available inside the area, along with a forklift to load it. The gated space made off-hour pickup and drop-off easy for Bancroft employees during their weekend commute. "We gave Action a schedule of what we needed and when we needed it, and they had it ready for us," said Belgard.
Action also designed a special rental agreement whereby long-term large equipment was billed by conventional methods, but small equipment was billed on an as-used basis. Action trusted Bancroft to submit an equipment usage log each week that honestly reflected actual usage. Gary Lee, Action's Candia rental manager, devised a method of tracking and billing equipment that the Bancroft staff could easily understand and work with.
The cooperative renting plan was a new concept for both companies that could have had dangerous outcomes. The job could have been delayed if equipment wasn't available when required. The rental company could have lost rental revenue if the contractor was dishonest about equipment usage. Both companies could have come up short on their end of the deal. However, the willingness to communicate and work through the fine details helped keep Bancroft and Action on track and secured the success of the project.
"Constant communication was really important," said Beaton. "Without it, this type of arrangement would never have worked."