ODOT uses Net to make bidding easier
Construction firms that bid on transportation contracts know that preparation of a bid is a time-consuming process fraught with peril since mathematical mistakes can cost them money.
Transportation department personnel, too, face time-consuming tasks, checking for mathematical errors, omissions and accuracy, and entering such data manually into a computer system for processing.
But now, the Ohio Department of Transportation is offering its home page as an option for contractors that want to submit construction bids electronically, thus improving accuracy and efficiency.
Contractors can download item information from the ODOT website directly into their systems and then prepare their bids on a computer disk instead of paper. The software used by the contractors allows for automatic calculations, eliminating mathematical errors. Contractors then can send computer disks to ODOT, which then loads them into its processing system, using software that can detect omissions in bids quickly.
The new system is part of a pilot program that has been in place since November 1996. The offices of contracts and estimating have worked with ODOT’s Trns*Port, a computer information system for managing transportation programs. Initially, Electronic Bidding System (EBS) software was provided to 13 major contractors, as were guidelines. Two months later, 13 more contractors were added.
All told, the EBS software has been tested on 25 percent of the total bids received by ODOT this year.
Because the software worked so well, pilot coordinators added Internet access in February. Beginning with its May 7 contract letting, ODOT officially offered the option to all interested contractors.
Traditionally, contractors bidding on state construction and maintenance projects would submit their bids to ODOT with any necessary documentation. The contracts office would then check them for accuracy, and the estimating office would screen them for math errors and omissions. They would then be manually entered into the department’s mainframe computer.
The Office of Contracts now puts EBS data files containing item information on the ODOT home page. Interested contractors can load that data for any contract letting onto a disk to work with their own in-house estimating systems. If addenda to the quantity sheets must be added, a new amendment file is generated and incorporated into the existing file while all other unit prices are kept intact.
Once contractors enter their unit prices onto an electronic bid sheet, the EBS software automatically multiplies the unit cost by the necessary quantity of each item.
Once completed, the electronic bid sheets can be delivered on computer disks to ODOT where they are loaded into the Trns*Port system. The Office of Estimating uses a PC program (which is part of the EBS package) to enter the unit prices for any non-EBS submitted bids into the system. Prior to the use of EBS, about 35 percent of all bids submitted contained mathematical errors.
Ohio law still requires signed paperwork on bid guarantees and affidavits. Contractors using EBS deliver this paperwork along with their electronic bids.
EBS is also being used by state DOTs in Nebraska and Indiana. Its use is mandatory in Wyoming.
ODOT is offering courses in using EBS to interested contractors, and its popularity appears to be growing. “Every day I take telephone calls about the EBS,” says Tina Collins, a systems analyst with the Office of Contracts. “A woman who works for a large construction firm told me she was going home earlier because of it.”