In the May installment in the "Apparatus Architect" series we discussed various types of fire apparatus specifications. Each type of specification offers benefits that may not be present in another form. One challenge for the apparatus committee is to properly identify which style of specification will provide the greatest benefit to the department, providing them with the apparatus that is designed and manufactured to meet their needs.
Up to this point in the process, things should be moving along smoothly, with committee members in general agreement as to the overall mission, design and features of the proposed new apparatus. If the committee is not in agreement at this point, stop and re-evaluate the whole process. If you do not have an apparatus architect yet, now is the time to bring one on board.
It has been our experience that some committees do not stop to re-evaluate their positions nor do they employ the services of an apparatus architect. Rather, the members move on without vision or focus. This is where the apparatus architect can keep the committee on track and assist in the development of technical specifications. Where specific manufacturers component makes and models have been referenced in the specification, this provides a standard by which the bidders' proposals can be measured.
A problem arises when a bidder chooses not to offer a specified component or design, but offers an alternative in the proposal. This may be considered a "clarification" or "exception" to the proposal and how the committee interprets this alternative may have a large impact on the analysis of the bidder's proposal.
Let's suppose, for example, that after the bid opening and while reviewing the bid proposals, the committee discovers that the apparent low bidder has taken five "clarifications" to the published specifications, the bidder in the middle has noted seven "exceptions" to the specifications, and the highest bidder has not made any comments and appears to be in full compliance with all aspects of the requirements. What does the committee do now? This is the position that many departments find themselves in - what had been a logical process now is in chaos.
One of the most important parts of the specifications is the "requirements of bidders" or "boilerplate" section of the document. In this area may be described the general terms and conditions of the bidding process for the municipality, contract terms, inspection and testing requirements, delivery and training period, warranty provisions, and other specific details regarding the rights and responsibilities of the manufacturer and the fire department. It may be advisable to develop a short list of terms with definitions applied to them from the department's perspective. This provides all prospective bidders with the necessary information each needs to provide a qualified response to the department's specifications.
In this area of the document it is appropriate for the department to clearly define what constitutes an exception or clarification to the published specification. One definition for an exception could be: "An exception is any deviation to what the bidder is proposing, with respect to dimension, size or capacity, make, model or manufacturer of the specified components. All exceptions shall be listed on a separate page titled 'Exceptions to the Specifications' and shall be numbered in accordance with the fire department's specifications noting the page, section and paragraph number of each item. Failure to list and define the bidders exceptions shall be grounds for rejection of the proposal."
Simply put, an exception is a deviation from the technical specification in which the bidder cannot or will not supply precisely what has been specified.