Those who work in the oil and gas industry are often tasked with procuring blast-resistant buildings for turnarounds and protection. They often do so by comparing quotes and proposals from multiple vendors. This process is often referred to as RFP or RFQ.
So, you’ve got an upcoming turnaround and your company protocol is to get competitive bids for the blast-resistant building (or buildings) you need. Where do you begin? How do you get the most out of the RFP process? Do your protocols and standards allow enough room to truly get the information that you seek? (The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.) Consider the following scenarios.
Many RFPs Ask Too Few Questions
An RFP that doesn’t ask enough questions can result in getting pricing of buildings without a comparison of features. This is a commoditization of the product and it serves no one.
For example, what if the pricing alone leads you to Company B, yet Company A would have had auto door closures? This feature could keep your safety rating from being impacted in the event of a reportable incident involving the door. How much is that worth to you?
Some RFPs ask too many, or the wrong questions
On the other side of the coin, it might seem like asking lots of questions is the better alternative. Indeed, asking questions to get the information is good, but you have to make sure you’re asking the right questions about blast resistant buildings.
For example, an RFP might ask, “Do your buildings have HVACs of a certain size?” (Usually 2-ton or 3-ton.) Blast-resistant buildings should have MEPs behind them. MEP refers to the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing considerations to allow for the smooth, safe, and comfortable operation of the building. In some cases, a standard 3-ton HVAC may not be right for the design or type of building and could cause service calls to the buildings during TAs, and possible downtime of the buildings. But because the question was simply, “Do your buildings have 3-ton HVACs?” you may not get the answers you need. A more appropriate question might be if it has MEP engineering and is it built according to specifications.
RFPs with no latitude for the provider
Often times RFQs have some sort of standardized spreadsheet, often called a “bid breakdown”. All vendors participating in the RFP must complete it so that they can be compared. The following are two examples of how a standardized spreadsheet can complicate the RFP process.
Imagine a spreadsheet with a “Monthly Rates” header. In the industry, 28-day billing is standard protocol. If the spreadsheet multiplies the monthly rate field by 12, this could cause the yearly rate to be understated (because a 28-day billing cycle would include 13 billing periods annually). Do you consider a month to be 30 days, which only adds up to 360 days in the year? What ensures that bids from all vendors are equally compared?
A spreadsheet allows for building costs and transportation only. If there are modifications or multi-section buildings that require assembly is everyone putting those in the same space, thereby giving an accurate comparison of building costs?
Those are just a few of the scenarios that a bid breakdown that uses an unyielding spreadsheet can complicate. Some standardization is good, but giving vendors the latitude to adjust for their own practices, or consult with someone during the RFP process could save you, and the vendors making bids, time and energy. It will also give you an understanding of why bids from different vendors may vary so widely.
Do youR questionnaires have limited entry capacity?
In an effort to control the amount of data coming in, RFPs will often limit the entry capacity for the answer to a question. This seems like a practical solution, but it’s often done on questions that require complicated or nuanced answers.
“Describe your capability to provide cost control to keep track of all rented units and to maintain timely and accurate billing.”
It is unlikely that any vendor is going to respond that they can’t commit to this. Does your process give them ample opportunity to explain their system of tracking and their billing process?
“Are you able to provide trailers in a stacked configuration?
Even something that seems simple, like the ability to stack buildings, could provide a challenge during the RFP if you haven’t given the vendor room to talk about specifics. RedGuard stacking is engineered and has hardware specified and engineering analysis behind it. Almost anyone can stack, but stacking blast-resistant buildings requires that the integrity of the connections AND the buildings themselves will prove safe in the event of a blast.
RFPs can be a complicated process and require a certain amount of flexibility. Using your relationship with vendors, seeking their expertise, may give you some idea of the latitude that is needed when you start collecting information.
Why are vendor relationships important?
Vendor relationships can prove valuable for many reasons, and you’ll want to consider all of them.
- How much do you know about their products? It’s a common mistake to assume that you know everything about a company’s products, even if you’ve worked with them in the past. It’s like developing a mental block or putting blinders on. Even if you know the specs of a product, sometimes the methodology, or the “why they do things the way they do” is just as important. Remember the auto door closure? If you don’t know about it, you won’t know why it’s important.
- Have they changed their design? It’s also possible, even likely, that vendors may change the design of their buildings. A conversation with a trusted vendor may be the best way to find out the details between different building plans in their inventory.
- What about blast tests? Conversations about blast testing are equally important. A conversation around blast tests may reveal details about their testing methodology. For example, is the building design field-tested using actual staged and scientifically measured blasts, or is the blast rating determined only on paper? Having a relationship with a vendor can mean having them walk you through the actual blast test, rather than just checking the box “yes,” that says they have a blast test.
- Will the delivery be disruptive? If the delivery or installation interrupts the operation or setup of a turnaround that is likely not the best value. Experienced installers will bring their own Landoll delivery equipment and avoid the use of your equipment and the expense of cranes.
Relationships with vendors will help you determine your best value, in ways that often can’t be measured by the RFP. These relationships happen when you are making sure that you are truly finding something that protects your team, rather than checking the boxes off on the RFP.
Where Does This Leave You?
Many times, the process reveals that the comparison of vendors or buildings is not as cut and dried as it may first appear. There are safety ratings to consider, engineering and expertise, and pricing that seems skewed. You can’t put a dollar amount on safety and often, the selections process begins before you start your RFP.
At RedGuard we’ve participated in countless RFPs and we’re happy to offer a consultation on yours, even before the official process starts. We tell our customers that we will begin working on planning a turnaround as soon as you know it needs to happen. Developing a trusted relationship begins before the RFP process and it ensures that you have everything in order.
Contact us today for an RFP Consultation, with this post's author, Lorna Geist.