Good Tenders Require In-depth Thinking (GRIT) - Tendering Tips from a Quantity Surveyor’s perspective
The duties of Quantity Surveyors (QSs) include cost estimation, procurement, tender preparation, valuation of payments and variations, cost control, contractual claims and final accounts for typical construction contracts. In this article, we focus on the tendering process, and share some valuable tips for Quantity Surveyors working on tenders.
At the pre-contract stage of QS work, a good tendering process is crucial for minimizing ambiguities, discrepancies, errors, uncertainties, contractual claims and disputes in the subsequent post-contract stage. It is also vital to mitigate risks for the contract parties (i.e. Employer and Contractor) which can facilitate early settlement of final accounts. Project teams’ manpower, resources and contract administration expenses can be reduced. Accordingly, contractors’ burden of cash flow can be relieved. This will help achieve a win-win situation for the project.
Two major stages are involved in the tendering preparation process, tender documentation and tender assessment. Short durations are usually allocated for the QS to work on the tenders. As the saying “ prevention is better than cure” goes, it is critical for QSs to prioritize tasks with appropriate arrangements of manpower, resources and relevant organizational tools to suit the reduced time frames.
How should QSs prepare a good tender? The key to success is ‘Grit.’- Grit requires stamina and passion for success. From our perspective, GRIT can be redefined to mean “good tenders require in-depth thinking”. We firmly believe that in-depth thinking is the key to prepare a good tender.
In order to meet the condensed timeline, QSs should plan and agree on a programme for tender information with project team members in advance.
Nowadays, QSs have to proactively communicate large volumes of information with a large number of people across diverse multi-disciplinary teams which include architects, landscape architects, civil and structural engineers, geotechnical engineers and building services engineers to discuss different types and levels of drawings, specifications and/or other related documents as required by the tender.
Tender documents normally contain Form of Tender, Conditions of Tender, Conditions of Contract, Pricing document, Drawings and Specifications. Since these several documents, especially the Drawings and Specifications, are provided by different project team members, it is common for contracts to contain conflict provisions. As such, preparing a consistent tender document is important.
The process involves selecting a standard 'conditions of contract’ document which forms the basis for the complete construction contract. The documents include The Government of Hong Kong General Conditions of Contracts for public sector projects and Standard Form of Building Contracts jointly published by The Hong Kong Institute of Architects, The Hong Kong Institute of Construction Managers and The Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS) for private sector projects.
With the use of the above documents and depending on the preference of the Employer, some standard contract clauses would then be modified to suit project specific requirements. For example, order of precedence of contract documents, sectional commencement/completion, design responsibility, insurances, warranties, dispute avoidance and resolution clauses.
Every project is unique. It is important for QSs to have a clear understanding of the project scope, nature, size and complexity of each project. QSs should deal with the project specific requirements by conducting site visits, cost planning, drafting contracts and specification clauses with respect to the site condition, survey reports and project programme.
QSs prepare and issue queries to the respective project team members for clarification and confirmation of the details including inconsistencies in the Drawings and Specifications before incorporating them into pricing documents.
Various check points of deliverables such as taking-off, billing and conditions of tender are identified and scrutinized by experienced QSs throughout the tendering process. They are also usually vetted or audited by a senior and/or experienced QS or an independent third-party QS to ensure the accuracy of tender documents by rectifying any identified deficiencies including clarification of contractual obligations. These QSs highlight the aspects that need to be considered for further review as appropriate, with specific training needs valued for that particular QS team.
Tender assessment is carried out to evaluate the tenderers’ submissions and supplemented documents by checking tender qualifications, identifying pricing irregularities and making a comparison of major pricing items against pre-tender estimates including reasonable market prices in response to financial and economic factors.
QSs prepare and issue tender queries to respective tenderers for clarification and confirmation of tendered information. Tender interviews are also conducted with tenderers where appropriate to ensure that they fully understand the tender requirements and abide by the tendered sum. The tender report on cost and financial aspects is then prepared for the Employer’s reference and further decision-making.
Furthermore, QSs play an important role in keeping record of the tender correspondence so that the basis of project information is established for cost control and traceability.
Communicating with the project team efficiently via project management tools can help increase productivity. In addition, QSs have to prepare for a variety of market situations. As such, QSs should be multi-skilled and resourceful in order to handle contractual, cost, greening, technical, technological, statutory and related matters for major resources savings. QSs should possess relevant personal traits such as the drive to overcome challenges and identifying new opportunities to achieve better returns for the projects.
Enterprise Resource Planning and Building Information Modelling are the organizational tools to boost team members’ coordination, foster their collaborative relationships and improve project efficiency. Modern techniques such as off-site cutting, bending and fabrication of steel reinforcement and prefabricated pre-finished volumetric construction aim to deliver economies of scale in the construction industry by setting a significantly higher level of standardization across Hong Kong.
Undertaking the abovementioned tendering tips and preventative measures, in addition to the proper enhancement of the company quality system, and procedural manuals or guidelines, can help avoid/ minimize the occurrence of unnecessary practical problems. Apart from ‘GRIT’, QSs have to possess core competences, key attributes and new skills for a sustainable work relationship with different stakeholders in the development, construction and maintenance fields.
Core QSs competences include measurement and billing, pre-contract cost data and handling, pricing, pre-contract cost planning, estimating contractor’s tendering, cost control and procurement. Desired key attributes are self-awareness, passion and commitment to get the job done in an efficient and professional manner. QSs should gain, update or refresh their knowledge and experience regularly by attending Pre-qualification Structured Learning (PQSL) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training sessions, seminars and discussion forums organized by HKIS and visiting the Facebook of “HKIS QSD” to keep up with and take advantage of the current and future trends in the industry.