TECHNOLOGY/Online system makes bid process smoother
Aurora, Colo., has installed an online system that allows vendors to access information about projects out for bid. The system has improved the efficiency of the city’s procurement process by saving time and money in soliciting bids.
Prior to installing the online system, the city used a paper-based procurement process. “[Aurora was] mailing out [solicitation] documents to approximately 30 firms [per procurement],” says Barbara Calloway, senior procurement agent in the city’s Purchasing Services Division. “Depending on the size of the documents, it became very time-consuming and very expensive, both in printing costs and mailing costs.” To respond to bids, the vendors would send their proposals back to the city through the mail or deliver them in person.
Looking to reduce both the time and expense involved with soliciting vendors, Aurora retained Albany, N.Y.-based BidNet to build an online bidding system. The company built the system for free and does not charge the city any annual maintenance fees.
The city began using the system, which vendors access through the city’s Web site, in early 2002. The city posts information about bids, quotes and requests for proposals (RFPs) on an online bulletin board by uploading the information to BidNet’s server. (The city requests quotes for projects with a cost estimate of less than $25,000, and bids are for projects with a cost estimate of more than $25,000. RFPs are requested for projects where price is not the primary consideration.)
Vendors can pay $29.95 per year to BidNet to receive instant notification, either via e-mail or fax, when the city posts a project matching the product and service codes selected by the vendor, and when any amendments to the projects are posted. Vendors also can use the system for free; however, vendors who choose to do so do not receive the notifications and can download information about all postings except requests for quotes.
Vendors use the online system to download the documents needed to respond to a project posting. However, with the exception of projects that are out for quote, the companies still have to submit their proposals through the mail or in person. With quotes, vendors can send in their response electronically. Eventually, the city wants to receive all responses over the Internet. “But, we’re not there yet, with the concern over electronic signatures,” Calloway says.
According to Calloway, the city is happy with the online system. “Overall, I would say we are very pleased with it,” she says. “It’s really saved a lot of time and money.” Aurora estimates the system will save the Purchasing Services Division $18,000 annually in printing, postage and the other costs of soliciting vendors.
The system also has increased the response rate of vendors. Under the old system, the city would randomly select about 30 firms to solicit for a particular project. Typically, two or three firms would respond. Now, the city receives about 10 or 11 responses per project, giving Aurora more choices per procurement.