Time to Tender?

Why is it that the time taken to put a bid together these days seems to go on at such a frenetic pace? Is it me getting older or is something else going on?

I’ve bemoaned the design teams before about the apparent lack of sending out co-ordinated information on cd’s/dvd’s and remote ftp servers and saying here it is go and get what you need we’ve given you everything you want.

These days though with the click of a few buttons we are being sent more and more information to wade through and less and less time to understand it. And it comes in such confusing layouts/styles/folders that sometimes you just don’t know where to begin.

I had a contractor call over to see me last week with another project to look at, and it made me stop and think about how we deal with things.

The scenario goes…. (insert the names of relevant folders or projects to suit your own story as you wish)

He hands me the cd of information, up pops the folder on screen and then the fun begins…..

What are we looking for?

Well some sort of guidance as to what we’ve got for a start would be good.

Where is that.

I don’t know have a look in that folder there marked folder 1

no, nothing in there…..says contract to follow

ok, look at that one there marked folder 2

Look it’s got dwg and pdf versions of the drawings!

Ah, good a nice list, what are the drawing titles?

I don’t know there aren’t any it’s just a list of numbers

Where’s the drawing register

There isn’t one, well at least not in this folder

And so it goes on…

Now I know the government is talking about making a 20% saving in its Government Construction strategy document that it has just published, but I seriously reckon that if we got our act together and introduced a standard way of issuing electronic information we could save many man hours of each of us trying to fathom out what on earth it was we were looking at that would go towards this target.

Perhaps that could be included somewhere in the very first item of the Action Plan on co-ordination and leadership?

Thanks to Zolna Murray for the inspiration for this blog for her discussion on LinkedIn ‘How to booby trap a contractor’ and the blog she posted on the 27th May with her list of her top 5 booby traps

7 Responses to “Time to Tender?”

  1. 1 Mike Smith June 8, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Agree with all you say but would like to add from the contractor that all that is happening is that the cost of tendering is being pushed up as somebody has to print this diatribe out! So the consultant saves money and the poor old contractor who tenders for free at a min of £1k a tender has to endure more costs. The quality of information is getting worse. There is far too much back covering crud hidden in the Preamble because the quality of Schedules of Work is appalling due to every one going through the degree route and not the learn by example route and see what is happening on site.

    • 2 derekmynott June 9, 2011 at 7:36 am

      Thanks for the comments Mike, it seems your voice is not alone others have commented to me in the same vein. Having read the Introduction of the Cabinet Office Government Construction Strategy document (page 5) and that the industry is made up of over 300,000 businesses and 99.7% are SME’s it’s easy to see why those at the end of the supply chain are feeling aggrieved and disgruntled. The attitude seems to be push the cost elsewhere but no consideration as to the impact this may be having. If your faced with a big bill for printing/reading/scanning drawings and information and someone has kindly either sent you the relevant information or reduced the quantity that you are going to review, its and easy decision which job to take on?

  2. 3 Rob Garvey June 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Derek / Mike,
    You describe a painfully real picture; we don’t want clients reading this, do we? I’m minded to think of the word professionalism; is this what is now missing?

    I’m also keen to pick up on Mike’s comment re: the outputs from a university education. As a new university lecturer I’m going to criticise universities (just yet!). But what I would like to do is open this issue up to further debate and assess whether tender production capabilities are something that should be changed/developed on the degree courses or whether it should be part of the on-going training following employment?

    I’ve just posed the question on Linkedin ‘on leaving university, what would you expect graduate QS’s to be able do with respect to tender documentation?’ and reference this blog article at the same time


    • 4 Mike Smith June 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm


      Actually I think Clients should be aware of what is happening in the tendering world: Clearly professionalism isn’t happening as Derek says. They need to know what they are getting for their cash. They know what they are getting from the builder but they aren’t aware of how much the builder has to do and cover up these days.

      It is fair to say from my experience that with the ‘educated builder’ the client is getting far more added value than he is aware of.

      As far as my experience of the current influx of graduates in our industry, they are great on buzz words but have no practical knowledge of the basics. I see Technical Colleges are being re-launched. Why did they go? As to tender procedures that is a good starting point and maybe the way to approach this is backwards – what the client wants and how the builder is going to actually produce it. Maybe then they will have an understanding of what should be in their tender documents in order that the client gets a fully comprehensive price. Maybe and only maybe then will some of the adversarial nature of this industry start to be diluted. Again there needs to be an understanding when tenders are being reviewed, of what the client is getting and not just a first past the post situation. I do speak from 34 years of experience and 32 of those as a QS/Estimator amongst other roles.

  3. 5 Kevin Smith June 10, 2011 at 10:24 am

    ‘In the old days’ 🙂 the packaging up of tender documentation probably had the oversight of someone who knew the implications of not correctly referencing those documents. It can lead to the formation of a contract and the arguments post-contract dealing with changes. Yes we did give you that information. No you didn’t!

    The tendency now with simple FTP/CD’s to dump everything in a folder structure and leave it to the poor contractor, and of course every other contractor tendering for the job doing the same thing, is hardly an efficient industry process.

    Good QS’s/Contract Administrators will produce the electronic version of the distribution list but you still need to ensure that the meta-data for all those electronic documents actually means something when you read the list.

    If the meta-data for those documents, and I mean more than just the title, has a rich set of tags (data elements) then arguably you don’t need to worry about creating a distribution list. You can create your own ‘contents list’ on the fly based on the meta-data. Give me all the documents related to electrical work AND main contract, for example. The onus is of course on the originator of the document to add the right tags. When a contractor needs to send out enquiries for the ‘sub-tenders’, and those ‘tags’ are missing, what is actually happening is they are creating their own meta-data. Doing this manually now does require practical experience/knowledge of the construction process.

    So what can happen if we have quality data in a BIM or other electronic project infomation? Software, once taught, can do the bulk of meta-data assignment and, importantly create a unique signature that can confirm whether a piece of information is contained in a set. Once we have some decent BIMs tender documents will simply become a ‘snapshot view’ of the data in a BIM.

    For now, until we get to a fully populated BIM, the new eTendering Standard from UN/CEFACT will allow the expression and exchange of a tender documents lists in a structured way so that automated processing of that list by recipient software becomes possible. A small but positive step in my opinion.

  4. 6 Rob Garvey June 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    ‘In the old days’ … a Friday afternoon nostalgia moment;
    My first job in a professional practice was working as a worker-upper (does this term even exist anymore)! only the close scrutiny of the production manager. I can’t remember his precise title but do certainly remember his attention to detail and the way he would notice when the surveyors had ‘missed’ things out. I assume this is the sort of person you mean Kevin?

    Have to say it almost put me of surveying and struggled to see myself taking-off for the rest of my life. But I can see the benefits of the ‘apprenticeship’ process that immerses an individual in the detail and starts to appreciates the complexities involved.

    I assume technology has overtaken the need for working-up and the compression of time in the process has removed the opportunity to make sure the documents are ‘right’. In my process understanding this would equate to failure demand; we need to make the costs of re-work more transparent in order to remove it. This is probably where Mike highlights that clients aren’t aware how much contractors have to do’.

    BIM doesn’t solve this …

    Also interested to see the other thread currently running on Linkedin re: stepping back in time and what skill with hindsight would you liked to have learnt. Common theme here is practical work experience.

    Interested in finding out more about the etendering standard.


  5. 7 derekmynott June 11, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Kevin, Mike and Rob thanks for the comments; it’s a challenging dilemma we face here. In one respect we want to prove our worth to the clients, and not show up the Design team we are dealing with, for fear of not perhaps getting the opportunity on the next project perhaps? Yet on the other hand those lower down the supply side are absorbing this cost in many man hours spent studying the details, making sure everything is covered correctly – and then more than likely not securing the project!

    There is definitely mileage in what Kevin talks about in making use of meta tagging data, perhaps there are some willing Consultants out there that would look at this, just think how much time could be saved in the tender process?

    I’ll have to get back to you on your Friday afternoon moment Rob, its Saturday today…..

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About Me

I’m now the Managing Director of Mynott Associates Limited my own specialist measurement business. I’ve been in the industry all of my life since I left school. My first job was with Bovis Construction as a management trainee where I trained to become a quantity surveyor. I’ve worked for contractors all through my career, I am FRICS, FCIOB and MCIHT qualified and act as an RICS assessor. I’m also a keen Arsenal supporter having followed them from a young boy

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