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Focus on Clear Specs

Well-Written Specifications are Paramount When a Project Reaches the Tendering and Warranty Stage.

June 1, 2003  

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The RFQ has been written, the paperwork completed and now comes a phase in an installation that can make or break the entire project. We’re talking of course about tendering and warranty issues.

To get an inside track on what organizations should consider and be on the lookout for, Cabling Systems turned to three members of the magazine’s advisory board – Rob Stevenson, Keith Fortune and Zdravko Crne – and Owen Pawson, a Vancouver-based lawyer who specializes in construction law.

Whether on the tendering or warranty side, good communication, says Crne, a senior consultant at the firm of Mulvey & Banani International Inc., is paramount, as is knowing both the current and future requirements of an organization.

“Some companies have well-defined standards in place, ” he says. “Others are not educated in cabling systems and they need a lot more assistance when it comes to determining their requirements.”

In terms of tendering, Stevenson, communications manager for Guild Electric Ltd., in Toronto, says a clearly written specification, which “obviously includes a lot of things” is key. Organizations should review any tender carefully and establish a realistic operating budget.

The need for detail will eliminate the types of problems that can arise in the Request for Proposal phase. As Chuck Siebuhr, an expert in the RFP space, noted in Part One of this series, you “get what you spec, not what you expect.”

It is, he says, a case of pay now or pay later, and if it isn’t in writing it doesn’t exist.

Without clarity, organizations run the risk of an intended product not being supplied or an intended design not being followed.

All documentation, says Fortune, communications facilities manager with the Bank of Montreal, must be clearly written and well planned out.

“If you go out to tender, you’ll get the best price,” he says. “If you go with one company, you may end up with product they need to sell and quotas that need to be met.”

Organizations, he adds, may end up paying for an installation by not tendering, or worse yet, end up with a “short-sighted” solution.

There is also the issue of cost. Companies that put out a low-bid tender based solely on the lowest bidder should, in theory, be prepared for problems arising either during or after a job is done.

It’s called lowballing and it could impact the overall quality of a finished installation. “The standards are a minimum compliance,” says Stevenson. “Some products barely meet the standard. Others meet it with a little bit of head room.”

Pawson, a lawyer with the firm of Miller Thomson LLP, says a pivotal document is the instruction to bidders because it sets out specific requirements, which all bidders must meet.

These include bonding, the time and place of bid closing, identification of sub-contractors and method of submission of bids.

“The manner of receiving tenders is crucial,” says Pawson. “The bid process is typically a last-minute scramble, however, all bidders understand the importance of submitting their bids on time. In this regard, faxed bids should not be considered because one bidder may tie up the fax line just prior to bid closing thereby preventing other bidders from submitting their bids on time.”

Any late tenders, he adds, must be returned unopened to the bidder.

On the warranty side, there may be as many minefields to avoid as in the bid process. A typical contractor’s warranty will cover material and workmanship for 12 months, while a manufacturer’s warranty may last five years and tend to cover what Stevenson calls the “big picture.”

“You need to ask who you are getting the warranty from,” he says. “There are all these alliances of (firms) who make connectors and (others) who make cable who put together warranty programs.” To that end, it’s important to know who will oversee a warranty should a problem occur.

Having certified installers on the job will also help. What it means, says Crne, is that a commitment has been made to perform quality control.

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