Hurry Up… So We Can Save Some Money

Written By: Blain Cook

Material Handling Project Bid Process

To save money and headaches down the road, it’s important to provide material handling integrators enough time to adequately bid a project.

It’s always puzzled me as to why so many companies spend months and years planning and designing a project and only give the material handling integrators two weeks to bid.

Common responses from end users and consultants I’ve heard through years include:

  • “It’s just conveyor and rack.”
  • “You guys bid this stuff every day. You don’t need any more time.”

It’s also been suggested that tight timelines provide the end user with the best price possible. In my opinion and past experience, this statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s use an analogy everyone can relate to — the middle school science fair. Johnny Jumpstart begins working on his science fair project the day it is assigned. He devotes one full week to researching and selecting the appropriate data tests for his project. He next spends two full weeks conducting the tests and recording his results.

Midway through, he encounters a problem when his expected test results aren’t achieved. No problem, Johnny readjusts, modifies his tests, and devotes one additional week to testing. Next, Johnny spends one full week compiling his results, analyzing the data, and writing the report. Everyone is extremely impressed with the job he’s done.

In comparison, Tommy Tardy waits until the weekend before the science fair to begin working on his project. He spends 30 minutes researching and selecting the appropriate data tests. He then spends eight hours conducting the tests and recording his results.

As Tommy begins analyzing his results, he notices the same testing issues as Johnny. Tommy reruns the tests, but he now has only 30 minutes to analyze the results and write his report. Consequently, Tommy’s analysis is flawed, and his report is sloppy and inaccurate.

In the analogy described above, the loser is Tommy. He doesn’t learn anything from the project, and his project doesn’t win the competition. In the material handling world, the loser would have most likely been the end user.

When material handling integrators aren’t given adequate time to properly bid projects, assumptions must be made. These assumptions lead to bets that must be hedged, and often result in costs that are too high or change orders down the road.

If an end user is truly looking for the best price with the least amount of risk, it is in their best interest to provide the material handling integrator with as much time as they reasonably need to bid the project.

How much time is required? Unfortunately there is no magic, one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It’s driven by the size and complexity of the project. It’s best to simply ask the material handling integrator a simple question prior to setting the deadline for response:

“How long do you need to adequately bid this project?”

You’ll thank yourself in the long run for doing so.

Blain Cook is a senior project engineer at Bastian Solutions and has more than 23 years of experience in the material handling industry. Blain works out of the company’s Indianapolis office.

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