Thread: Lack of bidders

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    Question Lack of bidders



    My dept recently sent out bid invitations for a custom heavy rescue. The specs were quite detailed, maybe too detailed. We sent them to 15 manufacturers and only received 1 bid back and it was from the only manufacturer that was willing to sit down and help us design a truck. The sprecs were written as a generic spec to keep it open to all manufacturers. Another local dept recently ordered a heavy rescue and they only received 2 bids....1 from the same place we did and 1 from a builder that had just sold them 2 pumpers. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get more bids returned and some tips on negociting the price? Has anyone else had problems getting companies to bid?

    Thanks!

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    Who were the manufacturers you sent them to??

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    E-One, SVI, Sutphen, Rescue 1, EVI, Hackney, Seagrave, KME, Rosenbauer, Summit, Ferrara, Marion, Horton, ....can't remember who else.

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    .....and Pierce.

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    Default Very wide assumption on my part

    and.......the very wide assumption, based on your cost negotiation request....was the only bid and the spec written around Pierce? Usually go hand in hand with one another......once tatoo'd, most have this hypnotism about them....until the bids are opened with more than Pierce bidding.

    Here in the Northeast, several departments around us are seeing 4-5-6-7 bids, regardless of who wrote the spec, even a tight one with detialed construction standards..... If you truly want to genericize the spec, you will get bidders.

    Best of luck, stay safe and good fishing!

    Fish


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    As you stated your specs were probably to restrictive. Most of the dealers can look at a set of specs and tell you who's they are based on. If they are to restrictive, some dealers will not waste their time chasing a truck if they are going to have five pages of exceptions to the spec and no chance of being competitive or considered.

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    Please don't take offense, but who told you the specs were generic? Often times taking one builders spec and trying to make them generic is difficult. Just removing named brands doesn't cut it. Many builders tell you to leave in a certain grade steel or metal, but only they use it on a day to day basis. They'll tell you that it is available to any builder, which is true, but misleading. Similarly many builders align themselves with certain product lines, most can tell another's specs quickly.

    But, this may not be the whole case, many may not be interested in what they might consider a PITA truck. Also, what's the financial situation of your FD? Are your ready to buy or are you awaiting a grant? Did you require a bid bond and for how much? A list of 15 potential competitors and a high cost bond would scare some away I'd imagine.

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    Did you talk to the dealers ahead of time or did you just send them a bid packet? If the only time they ever heard from you was through the mail, they probably figured that you had already made up your mind, no matter how generic your specs were.
    "If they pull a knife, you pull a gun. If they come after you with a gun, you go after them with a Howitzer. If they put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue."

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    We have gone out to bid on two trucks in the past 12 months. #1 was a F-550 based brush /Cafs truck with a diesel powered skid mount. Specs were very open and able to be bid by just about any builder. RFP brought 2 proposals /bids.
    One bidder gave us a southern truck without winter package, traction control ,heated mirrors, as specified in the bid package.
    they also bid a 120 gal pump when the spec called for 250 gpm.
    The second bidder gave us everything we specced and actually was the low bidder, so the decision was easier to make. they offered a skid pump package with twice the HP and pump & Cafs cfm as the other bidder also.
    We sent RFP's to seven builders and three declined to bid due to our towns requirement for a performance and bid bond.

    Our most recent purchase is a 2009 E-450 type III ALS ambulance. I wrote the bid spec with information from many different departments build specs and crafted what I though was an open document. The only tight restriction was that the bidder must be a licensed dealer in our state and maintain a full service center within 3 hours travel time from our station, with mobile service available for warrantee repair service.

    RFP's went out to 6 vendors and again we received 2 bids.
    The two were comparable builders with one having a much better overall warrantee package which was a strong selling point for us. One took 8 exceptions to our spec ,the other two. When compared apples to apples the better of the two was again the lower of the two bids received. The last item we looked at was the price of the bid. We were not bound to go with low bidder but it sure made it an easier sell to the town when the better truck also came in five hundred $$ lower than the lesser desirable truck.

    I agree with the others that if you take your information from a specific builders rep and "write your spec from it by merely deleting a given item that only one builder can provide it will not make it desirable for many vendors to waste their time on . Specs should be performance based and should be tight enough to get things like chassis , engine ,transmission you desire and performance requirements for pumps/Cafs capacity.
    If you "sole source " your bid you are limiting bidders and fooling yourself. Nobody makes engines, transmissions, frames ,axels , alternators, pumps, and lighting. All fire apparatus manufacturers just buy parts from somebody else and assemble them.

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    I love it. If its a propriatary spec then it must be Pierce's. Let's see, you want a Seagrave- spec an stainless steel cab. Want a Rescue !? No problem. Put in about a dozen inspection trips and that the manufacturer must also be a body shop, paint shop, yada yada yada. Want to make sure most of the big guys don't quote becuase you want to use a smaller builder for whatever reason? Spec a Spartan chassis.

    ALL the manufacturers have specs that favor their form of construction. Its up to the fire department whether or not they use them.

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    First off everyone is thinking it was a Pierce spec. We need to find out from the member of the FD who posted this thread to find out who the specs were written around? So if he could let us know, we will be able to decide if it is proprietary spec?

    Also who were the manufacturers who submitted a response to your bid?

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    Sven,last time I checked Rosenbauer was one of the "big"guys and they build on Spartan. I agree with the other posters that a HIGHLY DETAILED spec can, and often will,eliminate potential bidders. A "error",if you will,we made when bidding out our platform. T.C.

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    We just went through the bid process for a new tower ladder and pumper.

    We looked through other communities bid specs to get idea ( why reinvent the wheel?)

    Out of the manufacturers/dealers that picked up the bid specs, two returned bids.. E-One and KME.

    We are going through the exceptions pages right now.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    Rescue 101- You are entirely correct and I stand corrected. I completely overlooked Rosie.

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    Did Pierce write it???

    All the manufacturers can tell when they do this and will not bid on it... been there done that man! lol
    "I don't wanna hear about it... I wanna see results!!!":-P

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainGonzo View Post
    We looked through other communities bid specs to get idea ( why reinvent the wheel?)
    I wish more of us were open to doing that.
    The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of 'liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened. --Norman Mattoon Thomas, 6 time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America

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    Default more info on our bid

    I would rather not say which manufacturer it was but it was not Pierce. The only builder that was willing to sit down and help us after contacting 15 builders was the only one that put in a bid. Several that we called for information and to ask them to come meet with us did not ever return our calls and emails. The bid is going to be rejected anyway because of the lack of competition and it exceeded the over-all -height requirement. Goes out for rebid hopefully next month with less detail and requirements.

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    Just make sure that what you delete from the spec does not take away things that your needs assessment shows you should have. You can write a spec that allows multiple bidders to show interest. We did this by having meetings with several vendors as a pre bid conference so that they knew what out requirements were. The bidders said that this helped them by getting a solid idea on what we expect the truck to do and how we operate.

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    I was on the apparatus committee and learned a few things from this process...

    One can make errors on the bid specs...

    The dealers/manufacturers can make mistakes on the bid documents.

    One has to go over everything with the proverbial fine tooth comb at least twice or more!
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    If you want a serious assessment of the specs, please post them somewhere we can all read them. There is no possible way to coherently discuss them without having read them.

    I can, however, give you an idea of how a possible bidder might look at them.

    Every builder has certain phrases and particulars. If your specs claim to be open and you spell out the dimensions and tensile strength of the steel, it doesn't add up.

    Anyone who has sold fire trucks for more than a year has been told, "Don't worry about the exceptions, we are open to all bidders." Or, something close only to see the sale go to the company that supplied the restrictive wording for a much higher price. After a while, the smart salesperson wises up and realizes when he is getting smoke blown up his backside.

    In the industry the saying is, "If you write the spec you make the sale." Not always true but good enough to make chasing specs unprofitable if the dealer actually has to do the work. Face it. If you had the choice of spending an equal amount of time selling trucks you would prefer the method that netted nearly 80-90 percent instead of the one that netted 10-20 percent.

    No dealer with a major investment is going to waste a lot of time chasing the specs of another dealer with a major investment using the same method. Their take is simple, they cannot get every sale and the competition is using the same method to get their sales. The customer, in their mind, has already made the decision as to whose truck they want.

    When you do see the big guys butt heads, it is normally because they are getting mixed signals from the department. Regardless of the outcome in this situation, the results are almost always hard feelings that last for years and from all sides. And then, they just quit bidding the ones that they don't write or at least get some of their restrictive wording in.

    "Must have a service center with a minimum of two certified EVTs on call 24 hours a day within 150 miles." Take a scaled map of the U.S. and a compass set at 150 miles and set one of the needles on your town to see just how restrictive that is. When a dealer does that, he finds out who you have chosen to sell the truck.

    Some language just shouts, "DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME!"

    Oh, well. Sorry about the rant. I could go on and on as I am sure all of you could too. It is frustrating on both sides.

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    Quote Originally Posted by firepundit View Post

    Anyone who has sold fire trucks for more than a year has been told, "Don't worry about the exceptions, we are open to all bidders." Or, something close only to see the sale go to the company that supplied the restrictive wording for a much higher price. After a while, the smart salesperson wises up and realizes when he is getting smoke blown up his backside.

    In the industry the saying is, "If you write the spec you make the sale." Not always true but good enough to make chasing specs unprofitable if the dealer actually has to do the work. Face it. If you had the choice of spending an equal amount of time selling trucks you would prefer the method that netted nearly 80-90 percent instead of the one that netted 10-20 percent.

    .
    When we bought our truck last year, we used specs from one of the major vendors, but we made some changes to make them fairly generic.

    We were told by three bidders that we had already decided on a vendor. I
    advised them to trust us - that we did use those bid specs, but if they dug just a small amount they would see that we had modified those specs.

    When it came to bid opening, we had three bids. Two of them were from
    the companies that told me I had already decided on company C. When it was all deciphered, it came down to companies A and B, and A got the bid.

    Although I agree that it does often happen that if a company writes the bid, then the outcome is for that company, I will also say that a good salesperson makes as sure as he can before writing off his chances.

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    Quote Originally Posted by firepundit View Post
    If you want a serious assessment of the specs, please post them somewhere we can all read them. There is no possible way to coherently discuss them without having read them.

    I can, however, give you an idea of how a possible bidder might look at them.

    "Must have a service center with a minimum of two certified EVTs on call 24 hours a day within 150 miles." Take a scaled map of the U.S. and a compass set at 150 miles and set one of the needles on your town to see just how restrictive that is. When a dealer does that, he finds out who you have chosen to sell the truck.

    Some language just shouts, "DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME.
    I realized that putting in that the vendor must be licensed to conduct business in our state and have a service center within 3 hours travel time , would eliminate some sellers. TOO Bad !
    It still left four manufacturers that could meet the spec.
    The one it eliminated is the truck we currently have now thats been perfect for 13 years. unfortunately the attitude of their corporate mothership is you want us you'll just have to travel 3 states away to get our service. When we purchased last time the dealer was a couple hours away and very responsive to our needs. Then came the corporate buyout and they moved away from small dealers to big regional sales & service centers. they can kiss my grits if they think I'm traveling 7 hours one way to get their warrantee service.
    Another point is if they don't want to work a spec and just want you to take a copy of their standard form truck then why do we need sales representatives?? A trained seal could sell program trucks.

    What We want is service and a smile before and after purchasing your product, nothing more , nothing less.

    Just my own rant

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    On our last apparatus purchase, we selected 5 manufacturers who had dealerships and service centers that were in our area and invited them to a spec reading, all at the same time. If they couldn't be there, they had to send a representative, or they would not be invited to bid.

    At this (catered) meeting, we read through the specifics that we wanted our new unit to have. We had no contact with any sales person or manufacturer to help determine our needs, that's our job. So there was no proprietary garbage in our wants. Any manufacturer could use the Harrison generator that we wanted, for example. We did not however specify "XX" IFS. All manufacturers had an IFS system, and we wanted them to include it in their spec. From there it would be up to us to determine if one was better than the other, and exclude that bidder if we felt that strongly about it. If they had to take any exceptions, it was to be a seperate section of thier bid spec, at the very front of the package, clearly noted "EXCEPTIONS".

    All bidders were given a blank RFA (Request for information) to e-mail to us if they had questions. This RFA was then sent to all bidders with the answer by the committee chairman, so that everyone knew what the other guy was asking.

    After receiving all the bids, we reviewed each one for a good bit of time. We narrowed the field to 3 bidders, and then invited that sales person individually to try to sell us their truck. Every "Must have" was assigned a point value, and at the end, the truck that scored the highest, won the contract.

    I don't understand why anyone is buying fire apparatus if they don't take the time to specify what they want, and just let a dealer fill in the blanks. You have to do your homework before getting bidders involved. I'd have to agree that writing something too specific, or obviously proprietary, will turn most bidders off.

    Incidentally, all 5 companies submitted a bid, and tried very hard to earn our business.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Northeast68 View Post
    On our last apparatus purchase, we selected 5 manufacturers who had dealerships and service centers that were in our area and invited them to a spec reading, all at the same time. If they couldn't be there, they had to send a representative, or they would not be invited to bid.

    At this (catered) meeting, we read through the specifics that we wanted our new unit to have. We had no contact with any sales person or manufacturer to help determine our needs, that's our job. So there was no proprietary garbage in our wants. Any manufacturer could use the Harrison generator that we wanted, for example. We did not however specify "XX" IFS. All manufacturers had an IFS system, and we wanted them to include it in their spec. From there it would be up to us to determine if one was better than the other, and exclude that bidder if we felt that strongly about it. If they had to take any exceptions, it was to be a seperate section of thier bid spec, at the very front of the package, clearly noted "EXCEPTIONS".

    All bidders were given a blank RFA (Request for information) to e-mail to us if they had questions. This RFA was then sent to all bidders with the answer by the committee chairman, so that everyone knew what the other guy was asking.

    After receiving all the bids, we reviewed each one for a good bit of time. We narrowed the field to 3 bidders, and then invited that sales person individually to try to sell us their truck. Every "Must have" was assigned a point value, and at the end, the truck that scored the highest, won the contract.

    I don't understand why anyone is buying fire apparatus if they don't take the time to specify what they want, and just let a dealer fill in the blanks. You have to do your homework before getting bidders involved. I'd have to agree that writing something too specific, or obviously proprietary, will turn most bidders off.

    Incidentally, all 5 companies submitted a bid, and tried very hard to earn our business.
    The mechanics of your process offer us all something to learn from. If I'm still here and involved next time around (very doubtful), I'll try to incorporate some of your ideas. A catered affair will certainly bring them in running!

    At the risk of being repetitive because FWDbuff and I have both said this in several different threads here, we wrote a spec that pretty much anyone could bid on. The folks here who have read it know that it was pretty detailed in many respects, even tightly prescriptive in some. Other areas were left fairly open.

    Twelve or thirteen builders requested and received it, and most of them visited us at least once. In the end, six did put in serious bids. Four of the six could have and would have produced it. The other two could have but didn't choose to. The two lowest bid on whatever they wanted to build with some hardware that we spec'd thrown in.

    The winner actually did build what we asked for. So it is possible to spec the truck you want, as you want it, and still get several good bids. But you have to pay excruciating attention to detail and language.

    Another point that I'll repeat. To me the greatest challenge was having a vision of what we wanted, putting that vision into words and having the person reading those words come away with the same vision.

    Anyone who wants a copy, please e-mail me at chiefengineer11@verizon.net. Anyone who has one they'd like to show off, please send it to me. I enjoy learning from them.

    Stay safe out there, everyone goes home!

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    Default Getting Responsive Bidders

    Quote Originally Posted by firedoglister View Post


    My dept recently sent out bid invitations for a custom heavy rescue. The specs were quite detailed, maybe too detailed. We sent them to 15 manufacturers and only received 1 bid back and it was from the only manufacturer that was willing to sit down and help us design a truck. The sprecs were written as a generic spec to keep it open to all manufacturers. Another local dept recently ordered a heavy rescue and they only received 2 bids....1 from the same place we did and 1 from a builder that had just sold them 2 pumpers. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get more bids returned and some tips on negociting the price? Has anyone else had problems getting companies to bid?

    Thanks!
    I'm curious to know based on your statement ""the only manufacturer that was willing to sit down and help us design a truck" HOW then after working with you did you not find out until the bid that the truck was too high??

    It's hard if not impossible to please every dealer or manufacturer and as a dealer we'd all like to get our spec's "written" by a FD but I much prefer a "Performance" spec that outlines the materials, brand/model and put the onus on the bidders to respond properly with detailed "accurate" drawings of what they propose NOT sample drawings... In other words put the "effort" forth to bid what the FD wants IF you can build it and meet the requirements.

    I've just had an example where a FD wrote a detailed performance spec that was open and the components were available to ALL bidders IF they wanted to use those products/components etc. The FD spec clearly stated as to what they wanted and for the reasons they clearly stated and got 3 bids back.

    The LOW bidder said YES to everything on the FD's document but when they reviewed it in detail there were at least 70 exceptions to their requirements in particular saying YES to the specified Engine Make/HP and in the bidders spec offering something different and considerably less expensive...Then came my proposal and the 3rd who offered a truck close but more of a Stock/Demo design and who was considerably more $.

    The issue I feel is that some FD's especially now only look at the price and see if the low bidder said yes to the FD's spec instead of doing a detailed evaluation of the low bidders proposal and then finding out too late that the LOW bidder says "Oh no my spec prevails not yours" and I've personally seen that in many cases where certain bidders state that their spec's prevail..

    Remember Buyer Be Ware..

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