Construction Information Technology Blog

So what is e-Procurement?

Posted by Dave Robertson on Jul 28, 2014 12:00:00 PM

Like so many things it depends who you ask. For some it refers to the entire workflow from the moment a need is identified through to the final payment and warranty administration for a service or item. Others describe it as online sourcing and purchasing of items from a catalogue. Wikipedia says: “E-procurement (electronic procurement, sometimes also known as supplier exchange) is the business-to-business or business-to-consumer or business-to-government purchase and sale of supplies, work, and services through the Internet as well as other information and networking systems, such as electronic data interchange and enterprise resource planning.

Elements of e-procurement include request for information, request for proposal, request for quotation, RFx (the previous three together), and eRFx (software for managing RFx projects).

Purchase-to-pay, often abbreviated to P2P and also called req to cheque, refers to the business processes that cover activities of requesting (requisitioning), purchasing, receiving, paying for and accounting for goods and services. Also commonly referred to as procure-to-pay.

In this Blog the term e-Procurement is used to describe the workflows that relate to the external (Vendor and Contractor) facing processes required to purchase goods, services or construction over the internet.

e-procurement

In this very simplified description of the procurement process, the externally facing activities (elements 4, 5, 6) and the interface (element 3 and 7) between those and the internally facing activities are the areas that our software and services streamline.

Topics: Online bidding, Electronic document management, E-procurement

Innovative Construction Technology

Posted by Dave Robertson on Mar 27, 2013 9:38:00 AM

It’s easy to say that you deliver innovative solutions for your clients. It is much harder to actually be on the forefront of inventing new methods and processes. We have been actively inventing new solutions for many years and made the decision to seek a patent for some of our latest innovations.

Infinite Source is pleased to announce that we have been granted U.S. patent number 8412618 by the US Patent and Trademark Office. As part of our System for Managing Construction Project Bidding we have developed methods to efficiently manage bidder verification and bid bond applications. These key elements of the online construction bid submission process help ensure the authenticity of the bidder and of the bid security provided with the bid. When coupled with Infinite Source’s complete online bid submission process, both bidders and those receiving bids can have confidence that the online process delivers verifiable, complete and fully compliant bid submissions. This reduces the risks and problems arising from non-compliant or incomplete bids while maintaining a highly secure yet competitive environment to manage and receive bids.US patent

This latest achievement is a great indication of our ongoing commitment to research and development leading to more efficient and effective ways to meet the ever evolving needs of the construction industry.

Topics: Online bidding, Company announcements, Construction industry

All about online bidding

Posted by Dave Robertson on Aug 31, 2012 9:30:00 AM

Try googling “online bidding”. It is several pages deep that you find the first reference to anything relating to construction bidding. Try “construction online bidding” or “online bidding construction”. Again, several pages deep (except for the references to our company or clients) before there are any results related to the actual submission of bids online. My point … there is clearly a general lack of clarity around what “online bidding” actually is.

I follow several blogs and a number of industry publications and for the most part the phrase online bidding is used in reference to the ability to access a planroom (plansroom, plan room) or a bid opportunity notification service. The reality is that technology has advanced significantly and it is now possible to consider online bidding in the full context of its meaning including the complete bid submission process.

There are ten key elements to a complete online bidding system including:

online bidding complete elements1. Bid Advertisement – If the project is not by invitation only it is important to be able to notify interested bidders that there is an opportunity to bid on.

2. Invitation to bid – For when there are bidders who are to be proactively advised of the opportunity.

3. Prequalification – For some projects the bidders must demonstrate their competence and ability to complete the work prior to being invited to submit a bid.

4. Document Distribution – Distributing the drawings, specifications and any supplementary information is an essential element of the process. When properly integrated into the system there is no possibility of missing or incomplete information being used in the formulation of a bid submission.

5. Addenda Notification and Distribution – All bidders must be quickly notified of any new addenda and be provided quick and easy access to the information to avoid delays or errors in the submission of bids.

6. Creation of the Bid Form – The system must provide the ability to securely create the bid form including all the varied elements that make up a construction bid at a minimum including; base bid, separate prices, alternate prices, unit prices, cash allowances, stipulated sums, tax clauses, bond requirements, time to completion, labour units and other required schedules.

7. Submission of Bid Security – The bid bond when specified is an integral and essential element of a complete bid submission and must be able to be included as part of the bid package.

8. Submission of the Bid – The ability for bidders to follow their normal practices when preparing the complete submission is essential. It must be a fully secure environment that offers the ability to; apply for and receive a bid bond, allow others in the bidding company to work on the submission if required, withdraw the bid prior to closing time if required and of course enter all required elements of the bid call.

9. Bid Tabulation – Once the bid closing time had been reached the recipient must be able to easily compare and evaluate the information using a tabulated set of bid responses.

10. An Audit Trail – A complete and accurate log of all the activities required to complete this process is essential to assist in avoiding and resolving issues of non-compliance or claims arising from missing or incomplete information.

These 10 elements when enabled within a secure and reliable IT infrastructure combine to form a complete bidding system that provides every participant in the process the tools and information they need to successfully complete the aspect of the bidding process that they are responsible for.

So … as you might have already guessed, I think it is time to reframe the references to online bidding. It is much more than just the ability to view a document online or send out invitations to bid. When viewed as a system it is a more efficient and effective way to deliver online bid submissions that are complete, compliant and easily evaluated.

 

Topics: Online bidding, Construction bidding, Construction industry

Infinite Source continues to Innovate

Posted by Dave Robertson on Aug 15, 2012 5:00:00 AM

Infinite Source Systems Corp. is launching its latest innovative service today. Our years of experience delivering high quality online services combined with our ability to deliver practical, user friendly innovation have resulted in a new industry leading service called i.s. on demand. It is a low cost, secure subscription based document control and bid management system that is expected to quickly replace ftp sites and brown envelopes as the industry standard for sharing information and submitting bids.

Since 1997 our technology solutions have been used to manage and control the project documents for tens of thousands of projects delivering huge cost savings and efficiencies. In 2010 we began delivering bid management solutions and since then our technology has been used to receive thousands of bid submissions eliminating the need for the physical production and transportation of bids to a closing location. i.s. on demand takes the best of these two solutions and combines them in an innovative and highly competitive new service. Users simply sign up and start using it.

i.s. on demand

The service is offered directly to anyone wanting to use it at infinitesource.com or through a growing network of distributors throughout North America and New Zealand. At a price point of $10 per month or $100 per year for unlimited use of the system to manage documents and receive bids it offers unparalleled value. There is much more innovation in the Infinite Source pipeline and subscribers will benefit from our continuous efforts to provide the best possible solutions at the best possible price.

Topics: Online bidding, Company announcements, Electronic document management

Construction Bidding Court Case #3 – Forms

Posted by Dave Robertson on Jan 31, 2012 9:15:00 AM

Learn how PlanSource could help construction professionals to significantly reduce the risk of costly delays or claims arising from errors or omission from real court cases.

An essential requirement to ensure you are conducting a fair and equitable bidding process is making certain that all bidders receive the same information and documentation in an equal and timely manner. Doing so will ensure a successful bid process and minimize costly risks that could result in the loss of the low bidder to clerical error and/or a coinciding court claim by one of the bidders.  While it sounds basic and obvious, the nature of a paper-based bidding process is such that control over what documentation is in the public domain is out of the bid authority’s hands and an unintentional error by one of the bidders could cost the owner a low bid’s disqualification, as the following Court decision illustrates:

The Bid Documents:

  • The Owner issues Addendum 1 which has a bid form with non-negotiable prices for pre-selected materials and a $400,000 contingency – Pre-Printed on the form.

  • Subsequently Addendum 2 is issued:
  1. The Owner was able to negotiate lower prices for pre-selected materials and that was reflected on an amended bid form – containing pre-printed contingency allowances.
  2. Instructions to bidders made use of the addendum 2 bid form mandatory.

The Bid Submission:

As a result of the issuance of Addendum 2, bidders had 2 paper bid forms in their possession.

  • Contractor 1 used the Addendum 1 bid form for its submission and Contractor 2 used the Addendum 2 bid form.  If Contractor 1 had used the Addendum 2 bid form it would be low.

    construction bidding case bid forms

  • The Owner sought declaration that Contractor 1’s bid  was “materially compliant”
    • It was obvious what Contractor 1’s new price would be given the pre-printed form.
  • The price of the pre-selected material was not one over which the bidders had any control.  This fixed price was a mandatory component of the total bid price.

 

The Court Ruled:

  • In order to accept Contractor 1’s bid with the lower total bid price, the Owner would have to amend Contractor 1’s bid and then accept the new bid.
  • The terms of the instructions to bidders permitted the Owner to ignore any arithmetic error or simple omission.  However, the Court ruled there was no arithmetical error in Contractor 1’s bid.  Therefore there was nothing for the Owner to waive or ignore.
  • The Owner is attempting to create a new tender from one that which Contractor 1 intentionally submitted as their bid price.

The Court therefore concluded that Contractor 1’s use of the wrong bid form was materially non-compliant.

 

The result is that the “otherwise” low bidder lost an opportunity because it used the wrong bid form and, the Owner ends up paying more for the work because it had multiple bid forms in the open marketplace.  It is further unfortunate that both the owner and the bidder spent considerable time, effort and money in court on an issue that can be effectively eliminated.

Today’s solution:

PlanSource’s Online Bidding module ensures there is only one bid form available to bidders at any given time.  Whenever a change is made to the bid form, or any part thereof, the bid calling authority deletes any previous version of the bid from the system ensuring that all bidders complete the same bid form and all bids are submitted compliant and on an equal basis.


construction bidding case bid forms auto version 

Click here to learn more about the PlanSource online bidding module.

Our thanks to Mike Demers, Partner with the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada law firm of Jenkins Marzban Logan for providing the synopsis of this court decision. Mike’s practice at JML is focused on construction related matters. This includes advising clients on tendering, construction contract drafting, dealing with on-going project disputes, builder’s liens and, finally, the resolution of claims through trial, mediation or arbitration proceedings. Mike also provides advice on non-union employment matters for both employers and employees and general corporate and commercial litigation services.

Topics: Online bidding, Construction bidding, Court cases

Construction Bidding Court Case #2 – Mandatory Site Visits

Posted by Dave Robertson on Jan 24, 2012 9:30:00 AM

Learn how PlanSource could help construction professionals to significantly reduce the risk of costly delays or claims arising from errors or omission from real court cases.

In some instances an owner will determine that bidders must attend the site in order to familiarize themselves with the unique site conditions so they can prepare a bid that will include any distinctive characteristics.  If so, instruction to bidders will include a “mandatory” site visit so bidders can review site conditions and ask any questions they may have regarding the bid requirements.  Whether or not contractors consider these visits to be material to the acceptance of their bid, failure to comply may lead to rejection of their bid.  The following case study illustrates the importance of attending mandatory site visits.

Instructions to bidders required:

“A mandatory site tour for general contractors will be held on [date] at 8:00 a.m. beginning at [Building 1] and immediately followed by [Building 2].  Agents must register their presence with the owner of the site tour stating the name of the contractor they represent. Failure to attend and register will lead to the non-acceptance of the tender by the owner.”

The following sequence of events transpired:

  • Contractor attends at 8:15 but group already gone to Building 2.  Contractor Shows up at B2, goes on tour, and declines offer to have tour go back to B1.  Goes back on his own next day, then submits bid on time and otherwise compliant.
  • Owner returned bid, unopened, because of failure to attend first site visit with everyone.  Contractor sues.

The Contractor presented the following arguments to the Court:

  1. Because it attended the site tour and signed its name and then returned to visit the first site, albeit the next day, it complied with the mandatory site visit requirement.
  2. The mandatory site visit clause was ambiguous because it did not say that the potential bidder had to attend the entirety of the site visit

 

The Court ruled the bid was non-compliant and therefore incapable of acceptance in law because:

  1. The mandatory site visit clause NOT ambiguous.  It was “obvious” that attend means attend both locations starting at 8:00 and “failure to so attend” set out clear consequences.
  2. Failure to attend first site visit at all was a material, rather than technical breach.  Failure to attend is also different than showing up 5 minutes late but still participating in the tour of both locations
 

So, even though the contractor submitted its bid price on time and made the effort to complete the other requirements at a later time, the bid submission was deemed non-compliant and was therefore rejected.  A more unfortunate result is that both the owner and the bidder spent considerable time, effort and money on an issue that can be effectively eliminated.

Today’s solution:

The PlanSource Bid Module allows the bidding authority to require contractors to “pre-registrator” their intention to bid.  This places the contractors name on a “bidders list” in the bid module.  After conducting the mandatory site visit and taking attendance, the bid authority can then check those conformed bidders who did not attend the visit and bar them from submitting a bid eliminating the requirement to return an unopened bid and creating the environment for the contractor to litigate.

construction case mandatory site visit 

Click here to learn more about the PlanSource online bidding module.

Our thanks to Mike Demers, Partner with the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada law firm of Jenkins Marzban Logan for providing the synopsis of this court decision. Mike’s practice at JML is focused on construction related matters. This includes advising clients on tendering, construction contract drafting, dealing with on-going project disputes, builder’s liens and, finally, the resolution of claims through trial, mediation or arbitration proceedings. Mike also provides advice on non-union employment matters for both employers and employees and general corporate and commercial litigation services. 

Topics: Online bidding, Construction bidding, Court cases

Construction Bidding Court Case #1 – Faxed Bid Amendments

Posted by Dave Robertson on Jan 9, 2012 9:00:00 AM

Learn how PlanSource could help construction professionals to significantly reduce the risk of costly delays or claims arising from errors or omission from real court cases.

As technology has evolved, owners have amended the bid submission process to accommodate bidders to ensure they (owners) receive the most competitive pricing within the specified time period. A prime example of such an accommodation is the advent of the fax machine and the subsequent adaptation of accepting amendments to a bidder’s submission by fax. In this situation the bidder would submit a completed bid form in a sealed envelope as per the instructions to bidders well in advance of the specified closing time. This would ensure the bid is submitted on time. The bidder then continues to work on their bid and make last minute adjustments to their price. Once they reach their final price, the bidder adjusts the bid previously submitted by sending an amendment by fax to a number designated in the instructions to bidders.

However, this process is not without its tribulations as the following Court decision illustrates:

The [Owner] sent out Invitations to Bid containing the following language with respect to faxed amendments:

  • "Bids must be received before 2:00 p.m., local time, Monday, December 12, 2011 at the reception office of [Owner].  Bids received after the closing time will be returned unopened."

  • "Revisions will be accepted by signed letter either delivered to the address stated in the Invitation to Bid or faxed to the fax number given in the Invitation to Bid."

  • "For faxed revisions, the clock used for the official bid closing time shall govern. Where a faxed amendment is received at the fax number designated in the Invitation to Bid and the time of receipt is deemed valid, this faxed amendment will be accepted even if said fax is not at the location where the bids are opened."

  • bid package fax number The bid form in the Bid Package contained a standard Faxed Bid Amendment Form as Appendix F. That Faxed Bid Amendment Form contained a pre-printed fax number (250-555-1234). That was the fax number at the location where all bids which were not faxed were required to be delivered.

  • The Bid Package included a Contact List, where the Owner contact was listed as Mr. Greg Z. Bidders were provided with an address, a phone number, and fax number (250-555-9876). The fax number was a fax at Mr. Z’s office.

  • [Contractor] sends in hard copy bid the day before and, a few minutes before close, faxes in a revision – To the 9876 number, not 1234 number.

The Court concluded that the bid revision was not sent to the proper fax number
and therefore was invalid.


So, the unfortunate result of this owner’s effort to accommodate bidders to ensure he receives competitive bids, is that they lose the lowest bid because the bidder is confused by the instructions to amend his bid by fax. A more unfortunate result is that both the owner and the bidder spent considerable time, effort and money on an issue that can be effectively eliminated.

Today’s solution:

Fortunately, technology continues to evolve and PlanSource’s online bidding module allows bidders to amend their bids right up to closing time without worry.  The online bid form is created by the owner and made available to bidders.  Bidders complete the form and submit it through the PlanSource application.  Bidders are able to withdraw their bids at any time prior to closing.  The withdrawn bid is returned to “draft” mode, changed and re-submitted.  This bid can be withdrawn and re-submitted any number of times prior to the bid closing time.

Benefits

Amendments can be made quickly and easily right up to closing time.  Bids are ALWAYS located at the designated closing location (online in the PlanSource application).  Bidders can submit their most competitive pricing and owners will never have to reject a low bidder because of a clerical mistake by the bidder.

Click here to learn more about the PlanSource online bidding module.

Our thanks to Mike Demers, Partner with the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada law firm of Jenkins Marzban Logan for providing the synopsis of this court decision. Mike’s practice at JML is focused on construction related matters. This includes advising clients on tendering, construction contract drafting, dealing with on-going project disputes, builder’s liens and, finally, the resolution of claims through trial, mediation or arbitration proceedings. Mike also provides advice on non-union employment matters for both employers and employees and general corporate and commercial litigation services.  


Topics: Online bidding, Risk management, Court cases

Construction Technology Outlook 2012

Posted by Dave Robertson on Dec 13, 2011 6:30:00 AM

As we draw near the end of 2011, there are many predictions around the IT industry trend for 2012. The recently published "Nucleus Research Top Ten Predictions 2012" places emphasis on the rise of cloud computing (prediction #2). According to the article, cloud computing was proven to be nearly five times more productive than the traditional development in 2011. Furthermore, the article also states, “When companies do have money to spend, their two main choices are technology and people. A recent Nucleus survey found technology is winning hands down, with 50 percent of US companies planning to increase their technology spend in 2012 [Nucleus Research l106, Nucleus 2012 IT spending survey, September 2011].” Thus, many firms will look into increasing their productivity via technology adoption next year.

Another 2012 outlook by M/C Partners published in the TechJournal South titled “Top ten communications, tech, and media industry trends for 2012” also acknowledges the emerging enterprise adoption of cloud-based services (prediction #2). Consequently, this will “drive demand for network-based managed services that will provide critical monitoring and management of application and service performance across LANs, MANs, WANs and the public Internet.

IT predictions 2012

So the trend is clear. Businesses are moving towards cloud computing to take advantage of its many benefits including increased productivity, cost savings, accountability and sustainability. In today’s construction industry, online document control, online planroom, and online bidding are examples of cloud computing technologies that are increasingly adopted.

Topics: Online bidding, Electronic document management, Construction industry, Online planroom

Green Construction at the Bidding Phase

Posted by Dave Robertson on Nov 21, 2011 8:17:00 AM

A few years ago most bidders would not have pictured themselves submitting their construction bids online in a paperless environment. It represents a major change from decades of travelling to closings, faxing bid amendments, last minute decisions and all the drama that comes with it. Today, this green construction technology has finally arrived. Online bid submission has the double benefit of being a sustainable process along with the benefits of substantially improved efficiency. Supported with a complete document management system and audit trail, it ensures a complete record of who saw what documents and when. This combination greatly reduces the risk of costly bid related errors or omissions.

A great example of an early adopter of this technology is the city of Prince George in British Columbia, Canada. It leads the way in the electronic tendering of capital projects closing many of the projects that have utilized the recently introduced Owner Bid Management and Bid Submission applications within BidCentral. green construction technologyBidCentral is powered by PlanSource and is a suite of services that was designed specifically for the construction industry and is modeled after the processes that have long been accepted as industry standards. The City of Prince George procurement team and the bidders involved in the bidding process gave BidCentral very positive reviews and recognized it as the new construction procurement standard (view video).

Earlier this month, BidCentral was honoured with the presentation of the TechGREEN Award by the Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of British Columbia. The TechGREEN Award winners are recognized for their contribution to a 'green' economy and sustainable society.  >" target="_blank">Click here to read the news release >>

Topics: Environmental impact, Online bidding, Electronic document management, Construction industry

Construction Software - Buy it or ‘Rent it’?

Posted by Dave Robertson on May 26, 2011 7:48:00 AM

Our company has been delivering Software as a Service (SaaS) since we were founded in 2000. At that time what we did was generally described as Application Service Provider (ASP). The latest iteration incorporates the more ethereal sounding ‘cloud computing’ reference. Whatever term you use the functionality consists of accessing software via the Internet rather than from your local computer or server. So, is this an effective way to acquire and use software applications?

cloud computing saas
In his recent report titled Construction Software State of the Industry Report, Don Fornes who is the CEO of Software Advice concludes that “Software as a Service is in the right place at the right time”. In the report he says, “Software as a Service is gaining momentum in many software markets. In fact, we would agree with other IT prognosticators that SaaS is a major structural shift in software deployment and is here to stay. We’ve seen this model succeed in the project management segment where there is a clear need for the collaborative benefits of web-based software. Moreover, the current recession is making the SaaS model more attractive to contractors because:

  • Subscription pricing can easily be added to a project’s general conditions;
  • Low up-front costs allow project managers to avoid an onerous approval process; and,
  • Faster and less expensive implementation makes the new systems more digestible.

We have not seen much demand for SaaS accounting, estimating or service management, although we do get asked about it now and then. We also have not seen many vendors emerge to deliver that sort of solution. We would not be surprised to see SaaS accounting and/or estimating solutions emerge over the next few years.”

As a company that has been significantly ahead of the wave on this method of delivering useful functionality to the construction industry for many years we can easily agree with Mr. Fornes statements. We already deliver powerful solutions for the estimating community and are experiencing significant interest in some of the latest functionality we deliver online including planrooms, document control, onscreen takeoff, online bid submission and submittal management. The industry trend is definitely moving towards increased use of SaaS.

Topics: Online bidding, Construction industry, Online planroom, Construction software