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How Integrators Can Handle the ‘Punch List Creep’

OK, I admit it; I like the title of this blog because the first thing that comes to mind is the nickname for the person doing a punch list on a project. As in, “You’d better get those things done before the punch list creep gets here.” Although, truth be told, I’m sure “creep” would be a lot nicer than the terms that are more frequently used.

We are all familiar with “scope creep” — when the project requirements increase exponentially, usually without a commensurate increase in time or funds available to do the work. However, over the years, I have noticed that punch lists get longer and longer, often through no fault of the integrator, the equipment, or the installation.

The reasons for this are varied, but I suspect the main one is a reluctance to let the integrator move on. They are on site, you kind of get used to seeing them, and there’s some comfort in having Mr. Fix-It on hand and available. So, at the time when all efforts are being made to close out the job, the pile increases. These added items generally fall into three categories:

  • Forgotten – These items legitimately belong on the punch list but weren’t high enough profile in the past. The card reader that is crooked. The camera with the scratched lower dome. Or the software feature that wasn’t implemented. The best way to avoid items like these is to deal with them as they come up, but that isn’t always practical. These items are legitimately why a punch list is created.
  • Broken – Some items break during the beneficial use milestone and the project closeout. This is normal, and it’s why there’s a warranty. This shouldn’t affect the completion of the project, and the integrator should be paid. If you don’t trust that the integrator will handle warranty repairs properly, you have bigger problems than a punch list.
  • Changed – We often see change order items rolled into a project punch list, and that can be OK if they are changes that should have been completed in conjunction with the installation – camera moves, system programming, and things like that. But if the changes represent a legitimate alteration of the project scope, such as the addition of cameras or card readers, they should be treated separately and have their own punch list.

It’s helpful to remember that a punch list is not the end of a business relationship, but the passage from one phase to another. The goal is to close it out and move on, not to prolong it.

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