Writing bid specs can be stressful– often, facility managers get stuck in the process while searching for the best products and equipment for their departments. Bids often secure suppliers for 1 – 3 years, meaning once you’ve made a change, you may be locked in. So where to start?
First, it’s important to understand why items get put out to bid. It’s simple; the process is designed to provide you with pricing and information on products that you have tested and evaluated. Bids encourage suppliers and vendors to put their best pricing forward for products and services that meet all the purchaser’s requirements. The bid will typically go to the lowest bidder that meets all the bid specs.
We have all heard stories about facility managers struggling to maintain buildings with low quality or inadequate products simply because they were the cheapest on the bid. This is why it’s absolutely critical to be familiar with the bid process and know how to write bid specs to get the products you need.
1. Know Your Policies
- Each state has its own guidelines and regulations around putting products and services out to bid. These affect any government-run building; schools, municipalities and more. Additionally, each school board may have its own policies around bids. These typically include a dollar amount that a purchase has to exceed in order to be put out for bid. You may not even need to put a purchase out to bid!
- Start with your school’s policies and work up from there. Once you’re equipped with this information, you’ll have a better idea of how to navigate the bid process in your specific school.
2. Know Your Needs
- Bids typically get awarded to the lowest bidder that meets all the specifications. Any bidder who meets the bid specs is eligible, even if the product they bid is missing key features. The idea is to be as specific as possible while allowing room for comparable products to come into light. This means evaluating the critical features of the product or service you’re writing the spec for.
- For example, you may put your paper towel supply out to bid. However, you probably already have paper towel dispensers that the new towels need to fit into. You also probably have specific needs for width, length, pack size, thickness, sustainability, and other key features. All of this has to be captured in the spec so your suppliers know what products you’re looking for. A lot of time can be consumed by you and the supplier in wading through product descriptions and pricing for items that do not meet your needs.
- Always request product samples when you’re deciding on what to spec. By getting samples ahead of time, you can better evaluate what the critical product features are. Then, once you’ve done your due diligence, you can write your bid spec to get exactly what you need.
3. Know Your Value
There’s a difference between cost and price. Often, facility managers have to work with their business managers or CFOs to evaluate the cost of new cleaning solutions. You need to be able to explain the value of the products you need. You can’t simply look at flat case price for this.
Let’s look at an example in cleaning chemical:
One product costs $150 a case, while the other costs $50. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Not so fast.
The $150 case is packed with the standard 4 x 1 gallon bottles while the $50 case is packed with 4 x 2 liter bottles. You’ll notice right away that one case is US gallons and the other is metric. Let’s look into this a bit further.
The case YIELD is what is important to pay attention to. The value is in the number of in-use gallons of product delivered and the cost per in-use gallon.
In this example, to YIELD the same number of in-use gallons created from the $150 case, one would need to purchase 3.7 cases of the $50 case.
Here's the math:
Of course, using our chemical example, none of this matters if you’re not controlling the chemical dispensing. Ever seen anyone “Glug-glug” cleaning chemical into a mop bucket? Always spec dispensing systems with cleaning chemical to ensure you get the true in-use cost in practice.
Lastly, don’t hesitate to use your resources– janitorial distributors, product manufacturers and school associations can all be great places to find help and information. Your local school business official association, for example, may do webinars on the bid process. Or, your janitorial supplier can provide more product information to help you narrow down your bid specifications. Whatever you need, there are resources out there.
If you’re looking for new cleaning solutions, we can help. Reach out to an EnvirOx consultant; we have decades of experience helping facility managers just like you find a safer, healthier way to clean.