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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

“Bid Services, Can I Help You?”

By Shaun Meany
The PEiR Group

For the past two years the PEiR Group has been promoting bid communication solutions and some of the opportunities technologies like BidCaster and SubHub can offer General Contractors with their Bid Processes. Some of our members understand this area of opportunity. Many do not - or just don’t see how it can benefit their customers and their own businesses.

I have talked with several reprographers who understand the bid process, have embraced our bid technologies and have enjoyed new sales as a result.

As our industry continues to evolve, many of the traditional services that you have grown to depend upon for sales and profits simply will not be demanded in the same volume as before. As the construction industry begins to crawl out from under its current cloud many of your customers, like General Contractors, will be looking to change the way they do their business processes; particularly the pre-construction or bid process.

When it comes to the bid process (often considered an overhead activity) most GC’s want to reduce expenses and boost productivity. Reducing bid set printing is one of the most obvious areas that GC’s focus on when trying to reduce expenses. There are two primary alternatives that GC’s tend to choose for reducing their printing costs: (1) send out cd-roms (2) post drawing and specs to a FTP site. While both these methods will reduce printing costs for the GC, neither approach improves productivity for the subs and suppliers. Sure, the documents get to their intended parties fairly quickly, but there are still inefficiencies (and costs) that could be controlled more efficiently with bidding solutions like BidCaster and SubHub.

Let's look at distributing bid-sets on cd-roms. The cd-roms still have to be mastered, duplicated and distributed (by mail, pick-up or express couriers). Any updates to the documentation must also go through a similar distribution process.

The next time a GC asks you to create a bid-set to be distributed via cd-rom here are a few questions you may want to ask: Why are the music and video industries moving away from cd/dvd media? How do you (Mr. GC) plan to update your subs when changes take place? How long does it take to update and notify plan holders of addendums? As you already know, with plan rooms like PlanWell or SubHub the documents are always up to date. Changes can be made real-time and anyone who has access will know what the current documents to bid upon is.

The same applies to FTP sites. It may sound simple for a GC to upload documents to a ftp site and send out instructions on how to download the documents. But when you look at this process in more detail FTP actually creates more headaches than it alleviates. First, the sub needs to know about ftp. Second, the sub needs to know a user name and password. Often the same user names and passwords are used by everyone who want access to the FTP site quickly breaching security. Third, how does the GC track who has documents? If a sub just wants to look at a document he has to download it and then view it. This can take a considerable amount of time if they have a slow Internet connection.

Here's something to ask your GC’s: Why do subs want a digital file?

An important component of bidding is tracking who is interested in bidding and who is still kicking the idea around. CD-Roms and FTP sites do not track who is interested in bidding the project. Sometimes this is the most critical information that a GC needs to know. Does he have coverage of all trades required on the project and if not how can he get more bids before due day?

More than at any other time in our industry’s history, it is vital that reprographers begin to market services beyond mere printing - and bid communications offers a perfect opportunity.

There are two approaches that you can consider with bid communications:

1. Offer bid communication software tools such as PlanWell Bidcaster or SubHub that your GC's can learn and deploy.
2. If your customers don’t want to take on learning a new system there might be an opportunity for you, the reprographer, to provide “Bid Services“ as an outsourced service.

One very progressive reprographer I've talked with recently said they've introduced a new department in their business called Bid Services and they've put a person with construction industry experience in the manager's position to make sure things run smoothly.

Either way, be it with BidCaster, SubHub or a dedicated Bid Services department, you will be offering intelligent choices that can address your GC’s needs, help them reduce costs and increase productivity. It’s a win win for both you and the customer!


Tom Taubenheim said...

Shaun...thanks for taking the time to write this detailed review. You are spot on in my opinion. I've been preaching against CD's for a couple years exactly as you mentioned. There was one ftp site from a major GC in MN that we worked with yesterday whose ftp site forced you to download one file at a time...NO BATCH DOWNLOADING! Hundreds of plan sheets and about a hundred spec sections! Argggh! They ended up putting them on a CD and sending them to us via FedEx. Unbelievable? Nope. It's happening right in your backyard. These are called "opportunites" for all of us.

The PEiR Group ( said...

You've got it, Tom. Thanks and great to hear from you as always!

Keep plugging!