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Are Mobile Field Services Firms Ready For Electronic Procurement?

For some construction industry leaders, adopting electronic procurement is a game-changer. E-procurement — picking up and submitting bid documents electronically — could eliminate numerous problems for contractors, including geographic barriers.

Electronic bidding still is a new practice in the service management industry. More firms are using technology to create their bids, but few mobile field service companies are accepting bids using a web-based form to check the bid submission. While creating bids electronically takes place at the marketplace level, that’s not the case when it comes to ordering supplies.

Transitioning to e-procurement takes work and industry-wide collaboration, according to a recent article on the Daily Commercial News and Construction Record website.

“We should just get over it and get into electronic procurement and do it well,” said Gordon Stratford, director of design for HOK and a panelist at the recent Construct Canada conference. If done well, Stratford said, e-procurement offers “a lot more checks and balances than the manual way does.”

For contractors, e-procurement would eliminate the need to deliver bids by hand and minimize instances of improperly completed documents, according to panelist Stephen Bauld, president of Purchasing Consultants International Inc. For example, an e-procurement program could prevent a contractor from moving on to the next page of a bid containing mistakes.

While Canada may be ready for e-procurement — Defence Construction Canada was an early adopter, collaborating with the British Columbia Construction Association — it still needs to transition between current competing electronic and paper-based systems; a hybrid system would only complicate matters, the article explains.

The panel also raised several concerns about e-procurement.

  1. Learning curve: Contractors may require training on a new e-procurement system to avoid making costly mistakes in submitting bids.
  2. Document security: Electronic bids concern some in the construction industry. A viable e-procurement system needs safeguards to ensure document integrity and authorized electronic signatures.
  3. Complex responses: While an electronic form might work well for simple bids, e-procurement systems may be poorly suited to complex responses, such as design proposals.

Source: Daily Commercial News and Construction Record, December 2012

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