How to successfully navigate the architect-manufacturer relationship
A new AIA study surveyed 400 architects to examine how they specify products and how manufacturers can best support them.
Common notions in the design and construction industry seem to be that architects don’t like dealing with building product manufacturers. But according to a new study conducted by AIA, that’s simply not the case.
The Architect’s Journey to Specification: Rethinking the Relationship Between Architects and Manufacturers surveyed 400 architects and interviewed a cross-section of manufacturers to examine how architects specify products and how manufacturers can best support them. The results reveal that architects rely on building product manufacturers (BPMs) more than those manufacturers may realize—but that they still have to do a better job of providing what architects need.
Architects want relationships with manufacturers
Overall, architects have a positive impression about BPMs and recognize the important role they play.
“Architects know a little bit about everything, but not everything about everything,” one survey respondent said. As a result, architects rely on manufacturers to supplement their knowledge of product categories and provide more technical information.
According to the study:
- 88 percent of architects say that building relationships with manufacturers is important to their professional success.
- Nine out of 10 architects want BPMs to be involved in the spec process, and a quarter expect assistance with writing, editing, or reviewing the specs.
- Architects prefer to interact with manufacturers via face-to-face meetings or events, calls with their representative, or by visiting their website. Unfortunately, in-person interactions aren’t always easy, either due to architects’ busy schedules or the dwindling number of manufacturer reps available.
Despite this line of thinking, the study revealed a disconnect between what architects believe and what manufacturers perceive. While the majority of architects in the survey indicated a desire to build relationships, only six out of 10 manufacturers recognize this, and many don’t seek out those relationships because they feel architects don’t want to be bothered.
While the survey reveals improvements manufacturers can make, the desire from both sides to form mutually beneficial relationships is strong; for architects, communication might be the key. To eliminate misperceptions about the level of contact desired, architects should be proactive in communicating with manufacturers, identifying the types of interactions they prefer and the level of information and technical knowledge required to work with them.
“It’s very important that an architect establish early on what their expectations are,” says Nik Werk, research director for B2B International, which conducted the study on behalf of AIA. “So many times we see relationships deteriorate because of little things, like calling too much or too little. Manufacturers are desperately trying to understand what the architect needs.”
Werk is leveraging this and similar research to help manufacturers improve and ensure architects’ voices are heard. “We’re taking this out to educate manufacturers on what members need,” he said, including hosting training sessions and helping them redesign websites to ensure designers can more easily and readily find the up-to-date data and BIM files they need. “We’re working with manufacturers to help make that journey smoother. We think architects are going to start to notice.”
After all, manufacturers are eager to help: 88 percent of those interviewed feel their company would benefit from focusing more on architects.
To see more from the study, request a complimentary download of the executive summary. For a full copy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.