How much of your time is spent on bidding for electrical tenders?
For most electrical businesses, it’s an essential part of getting good projects to work on and it takes a lot of time to do well. By nature, tenders are competitive – you have to strike the right balance between competing with other bids and making a profit for your business.
This leads to the question, how do you improve quality control on your electrical tenders?
Be realistic about your capabilities
As you look for opportunities to tender, you will find that there are so many different options across both the public and private sectors. One of the first steps to improving the quality of your tenders is to be selective about what you’re going to bid on.
This means taking a step back and being realistic about your capabilities first. Some projects may sound like a great idea, but represent too much of a stretch for your current resources and level of experience. Bidding on projects like this is a waste of your time and the time of the person who reads through the tender documentation.
Assess your firm’s capabilities by looking at factors such as:
- The types of work you are experienced with and the skill levels you have within the business for that work
- The size of projects you can comfortably cope with
- The individuals you have available to do the work and any connections you have with experienced subcontractors
- The qualifications and certifications you have. Some jobs will be very specific about requiring certain qualifications
- The time you have available. Look at what you are already committed to and whether you have the resources to spare, including allowing for any unexpected extensions
Even if the project is very relevant to your company’s skills and experience, it’s important to assess capability from the perspective of the preparation time required. To complete tender documentation to a high standard requires a lot of time and effort. Rushing may result in errors that can prove to be costly, or don’t make you look good to the company requesting tenders.
Is your business able to sustain the effort required to complete a quality bid, even if the time spent doesn’t result in a win? Do you have enough time ahead of the tender deadline to do it justice? These are all relevant points to consider when looking to improve quality.
Read through the request for tender
This next point really does sound like stating the obvious, yet failing to properly read through the tender documentation is a common, potentially costly mistake. Improving the quality control of your tenders starts by reading the documentation thoroughly, then re-reading as you check over your finished documents – another reason to leave plenty of time!
You need to read through the specification documentation as well as any architectural, electrical and mechanical drawings. Ensure that you have built up a clear picture of the project, including an onsite visit if possible.
One of the big things to be looking out for is that everything seems to fit what you would expect. If you’ve done this type of project before, you tend to get a sense for what the specifications should look like and whether there might be anything missing.
Use a professional electrical estimator
A professional electrical estimator is well-versed in what to be looking out for. They know that counting take-offs is just a fraction of the job – there are several other elements that go into an accurate estimate.
There is an overall trend for companies to hire in-house electrical estimators now, allowing them to focus on what they specialise in and electricians to focus on their profession. If having an estimator on staff is outside of your company’s budget, there are services which allow you to contract an external estimator.
While some companies might hesitate over the cost of hiring a professional electrical estimator, doing so can really pay off for the quality of your estimates. Responding to tenders is a skill to be developed and sometimes, good electrical businesses let themselves down with poor responses. You could also argue that you need your electricians to be focusing on their core work – estimating takes a lot of time to master.
Send any queries promptly
There are often reasons to send queries when you’re preparing a tender. You might discover that you don’t have a full set of drawings, that something in the specifications is unclear, or that there are features which require some clarification. An experienced estimator will also notice if something doesn’t add up – for example, they will know if some specifications are missing necessary elements to make them work.
The key when it comes to improving quality is to send these queries as early as possible, well before the deadline for the tender is due. Last-minute scrambles to amend documents often lead to errors.
Second, it’s important to consider how you word your queries. The aim is to be as clear as possible in order to achieve a clear answer. If the recipient has to try to interpret your query or get back to you asking what you mean, this only adds to the timeline and isn’t a good look for your business.
Third, getting in early with your queries tends to improve your chances of getting the best quality answers. People don’t like to be rushed or pressed at the last minute. In fact, they may simply not answer. You need to consider that if you also need quotes from subcontractors, these may be contingent on you having information early. Once you receive those quotations, you need time to check them over yourself for quality – they form part of the overall picture you are providing to the client.
Use take-off software to check quantities
A missed quantity has the potential to run into the thousands of pounds on a large project. It’s the sort of mistake that many will only make once because it is costly and memorable!
If you’re using manual counting methods, highlighting elements and writing on a spreadsheet, it’s easy to get distracted and miss something. The smart way forward is to use an automated take-off software to count and check your quantities.
Countfire allows you to double-check with a few different features. You can use the hide counted symbols feature to see what is left to be counted, you can use the quantity multiplier if there are notes on the drawings calling for multiples (double-check these notes during your checking), and you can use Countfire’s reports and output drawings to check you haven’t missed anything.
Double-check estimate breakdowns
Finally, as we’ve mentioned, a lot more goes into an estimate than just the breakdown of quantities. Labour is a major expense that leads to cost overruns if underestimated. It’s important to sense-check your bid, ensuring that the labour costs look accurate. For example, are there tricky parts to the job that require extra time and effort to access? Are there jobs that must be done after-hours and require overtime pay?
You also need to consider things like transport costs, equipment, insurance, cash allowances and any temporary power connections that may be required.
Improving quality control on your electrical estimates means taking your time and considering every key element that contributes to the price. It means assessing the specifications for any gaps and asking for any clarifications early, then ensuring the tender documentation is laid out as asked.
Using good estimating software can go a long way toward improving the quality of your estimates. Countfire can help you to save time, improve accuracy and have more availability to produce a good estimate.