Nov 14 2012

Using technology to win more work during pre-construction

During the years I’ve worked for CONJECT (and before that BIW) I regularly speak with construction contractors. Our collaborative systems are used by such contractors during the feasibility, early design and tendering phases as well as during construction.

Last year we were approached by a bid manager from one such contractor who enquired to see whether we could configure our project control platform to remedy issues they experienced when managing sub-contractor and supplier enquiries.

The pre-construction process of gathering bid information from suppliers and sub-contractors when submitting tenders for work is a time-crucial period for any contractor. Normally an estimating or bid manager would break down the project into work packages and send enquiry requests with the designs and drawings to a range of suppliers and sub-contractors and await their bid responses. This activity involves burning the data onto CD’s and posting them out as hard copy documents, or uploading the data to tender portal websites.

With speed of bid turnaround being the main priority, the administrative workload is often shared amongst the team with staff mucking in by filling jiffy bags with CD’s. One bid manager explained to me that he would take home boxes of CD’s and bribe his daughters to spend Saturday’s filling envelopes!

Once this busy part of the activity is done,  the estimating team have to wait for the responses to return and when relying on mail this takes days at a time, putting more pressure on bid managers who quickly have to compile the responses and submit a final tender. With Royal Mail’s staggering 39% price increase in April this year, it’s no wonder that recession hit UK contractors are now looking at ways to save time and money during this key activity.

There are alternatives to posting and technology has helped to reduce the delays and inefficiencies. For instance, bid information can be sent via email, but with file sizes typically being on the larger side its often not possible to send complete enquiries via this medium. Tender portals can help get round this issue as they can host the large files and permit authorised viewers to access the data, however many sub-contractors find such portals to be hard to navigate and don’t like having to register, set up user accounts and enter passwords. As well as tender portals some contractors use cloud storage tools, but with no audit trail and open access for users to edit and delete files, this approach is unsecure, unreliable and unsuitable for sensitive projects.

When we undertook the request from our bid manager customer, we set out to meet the needs of all parties. There’s no point in providing a system which the direct customer (contractor) likes and the supply chain hates, it’s not all about technology, it’s essential that the system benefits all users. The key ingredients during development was the ease-of-use, speed, simplicity and efficiency of the application. These considerations defined the very purpose of our Enquiry Management module which we released in February 2012.

The key difference between Enquiry Management and email/tender portals is that it merges the best of both worlds. Files of any size can be sent instantly via email without the recipient having to log in. Bid managers no longer have to burn and post CD’s as they can send the data via a click of a button. We added audit trail functionality to ensure that bid managers can report on and see that who has opened and responded to the bids.

The results?

One estimating manager identified a “drastic reduction on what was a £1000 per month postage cost”. He also said that “We used to have to wait days for some responses, now it’s only a matter of hours in what is a time-intensive period of activity“. Another has said that they have been able to bid for greater volumes of work with no increase in the amount of resource.

We’re now helping both small and large contractors to speed up and streamline their bid management processes, if you’d like to find out more about our Enquiry Management we have a brand new case study available here.

If you’d like to see a demonstration or discuss how our Enquiry Management module could help, call me on 01483 712620 or email me: michael.bull@conject.com

About the author

Michelle Mason

Michelle Mason leads the UK and MEAP Marketing team, with far too many years in B2B marketing to mention. A CONJECT newbie, Michelle is eagerly climbing a steep learning curve.

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