Security System Procurement

Back to basics on IFBs, RFPs, contractors and the bidding process

The contract should include construction documents, which may contain plan and detail drawings, riser diagrams, equipment schedules and detailed specifications. Some public bids require contractors to pay for contract documents, others to submit a deposit.

How much time should you allow for contractors to prepare and submit bids? If the project is not complex, and the security contractor does not need to obtain quotes for sub-contract labor, a week or two may be sufficient. Larger projects, and those requiring detailed proposals, may require up to four weeks.

It is recommended that a pre-bid conference be held five to seven days after the issue of the contract documents to allow contractors to see the field conditions, for them to clarify any design or contract details that are not clear, and for you or your project manager to reiterate special conditions or design features. The conference also gives you an opportunity to meet with contractor personnel and encourages that contractors read the documents before the meeting.

It is important to lay down some ground rules for communication. Depending on the formality of the bidding procedures, you may wish to insist that all contract or technical questions be submitted in writing (typically by e-mail) to a single contact (i.e., no phone calls) and that all questions and answers will be forwarded to all bidders. A time limit of, say, five days before the bid due date, should be imposed.


Selection Criteria & Proposal Analysis

If the procurement is public, as might be required for a government agency, the criteria for contractor selection may be as simple as “the lowest price from a technically responsive bidder.” For most purchasing decisions, however, the selection criteria can be many and varied.

Early planning will make the analysis of contractor proposals easier to perform. Prior to issuing construction documents, the selection criteria should be determined and each given a weight or importance factor. Representative criteria are:

• Price: a preformatted pricing sheet is useful for comparison. The sheet can be issued as a spreadsheet file and responses in file format will allow more efficient analysis.

• Company Experience: the number of years in the industry or the quantity of similar projects completed.

• Employee Experience: resumes of key employees who will be assigned to the project, in particular the project manager.

• Financial Stability: basic financial reports.

• References: for completed projects, with names, positions and phone numbers.

• Training: experience levels and factory training/certification on specified equipment.

• Responsiveness: ability to follow instructions on proposal content and format, and timeliness of delivery.

• Understanding: of the intent and goal of the project.

• Capacity: backlog of current and anticipated workload for employees being assigned and ability to perform the project on schedule.

• Contract Acceptance: acceptability of any technical or contractual exceptions to the proposed contract.

• Creativity: design suggestions for improvement in performance or reduction in cost.

Once the analysis has reduced the number of contractors, a face-to-face meeting to evaluate contractor personnel is beneficial. Insist that the proposed project manager — the most important person in this process — be present, and allow that person to answer some of your questions. If you are not technically oriented, find out if the project manager has the ability to explain technical problems to your understanding.

Contractor interviews provide an opportunity for negotiation. There are limits to the reduction in price that you should seek without a corresponding reduction in scope — if the contractor’s margin is too small, the project will not be given top priority and the contractor will seek every opportunity take shortcuts or to claim additional costs.


Online Procurement

Many large companies have implemented online procurement, or “sourcing” systems. They can be one- or two-step (pre-qualification and proposal) processes. All contract and design documents are posted online and selected proposers receive e-mail notification of each step along with credentials (user name and password) to access the sourcing website. Responses to requests for qualification materials and proposals are uploaded to the website database as complete files and/or the candidate completes questionnaires online.