The site survey is part of both the sales and bidding process. Many bids will stipulate a mandatory site survey. Sometimes they refer to it as a mandatory walk-through.
Often the site survey can be done by contacting the end-user and scheduling an appointment. If you are lucky, a representative for the end-user who is familiar with the site and the project will be available. If you are not so lucky, you will be asked to sign in and then sort of told what general direction to go and where not to go. These unescorted walk-throughs prevent interaction with the customer and limit what you can accomplish during your visit.
Sometimes one joint walk-through will be scheduled, and you will have to show up with everyone else planning to bid the project. Occasionally there will be an option for you to plead for an alternate walk-through
The benefits to the customer of having a scheduled walk-through are that they can register all serious bidders, make general remarks and distribute documentation about the project to every one at one time; and hopefully maintain a level playing field for all the contenders.
The mandatory walk-through may also deter a casual bidder who is not conveniently located to the site. You can easily kill a day participating in a walk-through, especially if a few hours of travel each way is required.
There have been situations where more vendors showed up than anticipated, and we’d be split up into smaller groups for the orientation and site tour. Under these conditions, it is easy to get lost in the crowd and it’s a struggle to trying to hear questions and comments in the front of the group.
At some walk-throughs, you might be directed to email your questions so they can respond by email to all who signed in to the walk-throughs Often there will be a closing date for questions to be submitted which corresponds to the bid submittal deadline.
A few times the bid submittal deadline has been pushed back because question submitted made the end-user realize they forgot to include something, and addendums would be necessary.
On more than one occasion, questions I raised caused the cancellation of the bid while the owner went back to the drawing board and rethought the project.
Addendums are clarifications or changes to the project. When you submit your bid, you are usually required to confirm that your bid reflects all the addendums that were issued.
A poorly written bid specification is an open invitation for trouble. A bidder will bid a job strictly to the spec, knowing the system will not work correctly or is incomplete as described, and when the discrepancies become apparent, they will have the inside track, and will be protected by the contract so they can fulfill the change-orders without having to bid them competitively.
I have occasionally pointed out discrepancies in the specification, only to be told to bid it as written and they’d play catch up later. Taking the initiative by adding items or deviating from the bid spec will actually give the advantage to someone who follows the rules.
In my opinion, seasoned facility people recognize there are shortcomings in the process where the low bidder wins but a low bid is something everyone understands. It does not require technical expertise to differentiate lump sums to determine which is lowest.
There are situations where they modify the process to include other factors in the bid selection process, like vendor experience, or ability to provide warranty services after the installation.
How you as a bidder feel about the particular bidding process in play will be determined by your own company’s competitive stance. Sometimes subjectivity can work in your favor, and sometimes it works against you.
On the other hand, consistently being low bidder might put you out of business. When I first went into business, I subcontracted for a locksmith. (At that point in time, in that part of the world, subcontracting was permitted). This guy had a very successful business, but there were other lockshops in the area. I became aware that his competitors were providing key duplication for less that he was, and I told him this and that I thought it was costing him business.