Picking a Service Partner, Lowest Cost Is Not the Best Measure

Lowest cost is a measure that a Contracting Officer will use to judge the selection of a service partner, such as a laser scanning service provider. But, beware! Cost alone does not tell the whole story and must be factored in with other criteria. Choosing by cost alone may result in a final dollar investment much greater than even the original highest bid. Performance indicators such as project history, client satisfaction, technical knowledge and industry experience may be more telling.

Before service partner selection is considered, a company should look inward at its own performance, or related experiences, in the subject area. Is there a solid track record for success? Is this a field where there is an experience base, or is this a step into something new? You cannot judge the performance of a partner, or project, if clear objectives and goals for the project, or task, have not been defined. You cannot define solid objectives without knowledge of the field.

Defining clear objectives for the service partner begins with clear objective for the project. Precise and open communication within the group helps foster a team effort that will result in the ultimate success. The paramount objective of the team is to develop comprehensive project requirements and specifications.

Team stake holders are the ones that have a vested interested in the project. They are also the ones with a clear understanding of the project, and the clients ultimate goal. So, when selecting a company to perform your data collection for you, remember to look at the project in it entirely. Make sure that the scope of work has been defined by all stake holders from all divisions (piping, structural, mechanical, civil, etc.) Their combined input of data collection requirements is key to the success of the entire project. We have seen where the laser scan needs for an industrial project have been, in some cases, driven by the needs of the first discipline team on site, typically piping and mechanical. Often their needs differ from the needs of other design discipline groups, and functional groups such as maintenance and operations.

With up-front collaboration, including clear and open communication, all issues regarding design needs, HSE consideration, quality programs, schedule constraints, client goals/directives can be addressed and accomplished. When all the cards are on the table, a proper scope and specification can be developed to assure that data collection will support decisions throughout the entire lifecycle of the project. A communication breakdown up front can ripple through an entire project in a very negative way! Good choices and careful planning up front will help ensure success.

Once the team has clearly defined all goals and needs, the next step is the development of a clear and comprehensive scope-of-work-document that will eliminate the guess work for your contractor. A clear scope-of-work for the project is not just about defining needs of the design team, but also should include detailed parameters and information about data delivery, format, schedule and site logistics. In short, anything that could impact the performance of the service partner should be included in this document. How and when the project is going to use the data should also be clearly spelled out. A fast track project, with aggressive schedule needs, will dictate different field staffing requirements than a project with phased information needs. These differences will translate into higher or lower execution costs.

With the project needs and scope addressed, the focus turns to evaluation of bid responses and potential service partners. First and foremost, what are their qualifications and what is their past project history in the industry? If the project is stepping into uncharted territory, this can be one of the most critical questions to ask. The last thing you want is for both the project and service partner to be learning on a critical project. What equipment will the team utilize, and what is the crew size and composition? Do they have the resources to meet the objectives and deal with issues that can and will arise?

With responses in hand, you can begin to evaluate the information coming back. How do you know if you are comparing apples to apples? With a little up-front time spent developing a bid template, you can more easily compare bids side by side. The formal bid template will also allow you to make sure that all constraints are covered.

With the bids in hand, the first step of review should begin with the stake holders. They can evaluate if the key objectives are met, and what the impact of alternate project delivery methods or approaches might be. Often it is the seemingly insignificant details that have the greatest impact. Dont just look at the bottom line, but ask the question, Does the contractor understand my project challenges and goals? If they understand your project, they will be able to provide advice on how to achieve your goals based on their past experiences. Remember, they are the ones that will be in the field collecting the data you need. The project might require a client representative to accompany the contractor in the field. This is highly recommended for the fact that questions and discrepancies are encountered on all projects. Once again, who knows the project best?

So, does the lowest bid win the project? Is the highest bid out in left field? Someone once said that the lowest bid was the one that missed the most, the highest was one that was trying to make up from being the lowest on the last project, and the one in the middle was the one that understood the project needs. The middle man knew what it would take to deliver a successful project. The evaluation goals should be to have the bids within a specific range. How is this accomplished? It starts with the stake holders doing their own due diligence.

Lastly, and most importantly, if your client chose you because youre the best at what you do, and can deliver a successful project on time and on budget, make sure that your service partner , too, is the best at what they do, and can contribute to your ultimate success.

This article is for LiDAR News, written by the team at point3D. Articles are part of a series written on a periodic basis, covering all things related to 3D Data Capture. point3D provides 3D data capture consulting, sales, and training to end users, facility owners, and service providers in order to meet project needs and solve challenging problems.

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