AWI Certification

After landing a commercial job, a woodworking shop finds out the job requires Architectural Woodworking Institute cerification. Now what? June 23, 2006

I was low bid on a job that is now requiring that I be AWI certified in cabinetry and millwork. While I'm sure we can get the certification, it seems to be a costly and time-consuming effort. Has anyone found this certification to be worth it? This is the first time I've been asked to do it in 13 years.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor J:
If the certification requirement was not in the original bid package, I would tell them that they will have to pay for the process. Adding this on after should not be an option.

From contributor A:
No way you should be bidding if it was an AWI job and you did not have the certification. If they are changing in midstream and want you to be certified, tell them that it's too much money and time for a one-time job, but that you can build to the AWI standards. I did this recently and worked with the architect, owner and builder and it was beneficial to all involved.

From contributor C:
If the AWI cert was required for the job, your bid should not have been accepted. Since you were awarded the job, any add-on requirement like this is a change order and corresponding upcharge. I would offer, out of the kindness of my heart, to build everything to AWI specs, which you probably already do. If they insist on this point, let them buy you out of the contract for a nominal amount to cover your time, or offer to split the cost with them for obtaining the certification. Knowing the time constraints on this type of bid work, there may not be sufficient schedule to allow you to complete the certification, but if you are undergoing the process during the job, this should suffice. If your company is going to continue pursuing millwork jobs in urban areas, you will run into this requirement periodically. I would get the certification so you won't face this hassle again. Print it in all your literature and shout it to the heavens - it may give you a significant advantage over other bidders in lots of lucrative jobs.

From contributor R:
Certification of your shop is not generally required to bid a job, but it is required to do the job. If certification is included in the specification and you are awarded the job, you can either go through the certification process, become a certified shop, remain in the program for a year, and then decide to rejoin the program or not, or you can get certified only for the job you have been awarded, which takes about the same amount of work and costs nearly as much. In neither case do you have to join AWI, although the costs for the certification program are less for active members. In your situation, if the certification requirement is in the spec and you are awarded the job, certification would not be an add for you. If you are negotiating the waiving of the certification requirement, you should expect to be asked for a deductive change, because the costs of certifying each project are .5% of the project cost or $250, whichever is greater, and should have been included in your price. We encounter this all the time and we usually show the certification costs as a line item in our proposal.

On the other hand, if you are being asked for certification after the fact and the requirement was not in the specifications when you bid the job, it is a legitimate add for you, and you would have to consider asking for not only the .5% job cost, but also the costs of getting certified, which are significant. The only reason I can see that you would be asked after the fact is that the architect doesn't know you or your work, and if this is the case, you may be able to negotiate out of certification by showing your work and your references. As for the time constraints, this problem comes up a lot and the program is designed for speedy processing when required.

As to whether the program is worthwhile, I can certainly say it is for us. We do a lot of work for out of town architects who don't know us, and certification is an excellent first step for building the confidence required for a negotiated relationship. We use it as a selling tool all the time. Also, we have been awarded a significant amount of bid work on which we were not low bidder because the low bidder could not or would not qualify for certification. Our customers seem to find it worthwhile, because for a relatively low cost, they can pre-qualify bidders and have objective help throughout the process in getting the end result they are after. In my opinion, certification is most worthwhile on public jobs where relationships are less important than price. If the low bidder on a public job has not read the contract documents or hopes to get away with giving less than is required by specification, certification will help rectify this very quickly. The process is somewhat time consuming and it costs money, but, also in my opinion, anyone who actually can't get through the process should not be bidding this kind of work, and anyone who won't go through the process may have something to hide. Certification is not perfect but it is a powerful tool for the owner and architect and a useful way to level the playing field among competitive bidders. The most frustrating thing about it is when it is used in the specification and then not enforced by the very people who stand to gain the most from it.

From contributor U:
For us, the certification is valuable and has been for 20+ years. Yes, it is time consuming and there are costs involved. You may want to call AWI national and get the ball rolling as long as your client is willing to pay and understands the time process involved.

From contributor E:
My company is a member of AWI, however, we have never undergone the quality certification process. The majority (>90%) of our work is residential, and I have yet to see a AWI QCP (Quality Certification Program) requirement on a residential bid package. One of the few times we bid a commercial project, the job required the millwork company to be certified for premium work by AWI. Our proposal clearly stated we were not certified by AWI, but that we would meet or exceed the premium level standards. We weren't even considered for the job, and rightfully so.

At the time, I contacted AWI and inquired about QCP certification and made the deliberate decision not to pursue this because of the time involved. The cost actually seemed reasonable. If we were competing in the commercial/public market, I wouldn't hesitate to apply for QCP.

I disagree with the statement that those who don't apply for QCP may have something to hide. Some shops may have something to hide. Others, however, may not be applying because doing so may not be the best use of their resources.

From contributor R:
I almost left that phrase out or changed it because I knew it didn't say exactly what I intended. I was referring only to businesses that bid certified work and then try to evade the requirement, which happens on occasion. Certification is definitely not for everyone and declining to participate is usually a business choice, not a sign of something to hide.