Tendering Exercises – the race to the bottom continues

Not for the first time recently I was reminded of the famous saying by legendary Astronaut John Glenn who, early into the space programme in the 1960s said, “As I hurtled through space I felt exactly how you would feel if you knew you were sitting on top of 2 million parts — all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract”.

It says it all really, but the real disappointment as we sit here over 50 years later, is that in many instances it appears that little has changed.

Just last week we scored over 98% for the elements of a social housing contract which we believe underpin the delivery criteria for those who provide homes:

  • Care and consideration for residents
  • Quality of installation
  • A deliverable and achievable project management plan
  • Social Value
  • Environmental consideration and carbon reduction

we came last overall

So, what’s my point, is this just a moan because we have lost out on a very large contract which we believe we were capable of delivering to the highest quality and standards of resident care?

Of course, I am frustrated by the continuing race to the bottom in terms of tendering, where price still seems the most important if not the only criterial which interests some, and it is merely lip service that is paid to what you might call the ‘softer issues’.

But the fact is there is a real disconnect

the ‘softer issues’ are really important, these are the things which bind communities together and deliver a level of care and consideration which residents are entitled to expect.  They are not just things to be dismissed, boxes to be ticked. 

We all know that we live in economically challenging times, but spending money badly today merely stores up financial problems for later in the life-cycle of the products.  As a repairs and maintenance business we have seen this very clearly over the 30 years of our trading life and through the nearly 1.2 million jobs we have now carried out.

There must be a balance – better and more responsible procurement

And I use the words deliberately, must become the way to go.  As a society, and as a service sector we cannot continue to buy purely on price.  In the example above our quality scores counted for just 30% of the overall bid – it was always going to be won by a large-scale supplier operating at little margin and simply seeking the volume.

It is unlikely that that supplier is truly invested into that community and there is every chance that those products will need to be repaired or maintained well before their true life-cycle is run. 

I wonder if you added the cost of repairs and maintenance onto the original tender price what would be the difference between that and a job which was procured responsibly in the first place?

THE race to the bottom must stop

We are merely storing up problems and further financial burden for the future.  We are now in 2017, why is John Glenn’s statement from the 1960s still pertinent today?

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Written by : Tristan Cooke

About the author

Having been with the business since 1997, Tristan became Managing Director of Mila Maintenance and Installation in September 2015.

Mila Maintenance
& Installation Services