The entire bidding process poses challenges for both the general contractors and the subcontractors. For the GCs (general contractors), locating qualified subcontractors can be difficult, resulting in rushed decisions on the bid day. On the other side, subcontractors can struggle to pinpoint general contractors that are bidding on specific projects.

Technology can help the entire process run more smoothly—GCs can use technology to locate qualified subs while subs can find business opportunities. Biddingo.com, www.biddingo.com/construction, Toronto, Ont., has announced a new online service for bid solicitation—one it compares to that of eBay.

Biddingo has been offering bid publishing and bid matching services to public sector organizations for years, and is now extending its online bidding capabilities to the construction industry.

With BCM (Biddingo’s Construction Marketplace), general contractors can locate subcontractors from a BCM Subcontractor Directory and broadcast ‘Subcontractor Calls.’ Subcontractors can then locate general contractors bidding on projects and submit their quotes to general contractors online.

The company says this process helps general contractors avoid a bid-closing day rush and slashing their bid preparation time. It also helps subs by opening up previously inaccessible business opportunities. The OGCA (Ontario General Contractors Assn.), www.ogca.ca, Mississauga, Ont., recently announced it has endorsed BCM and will promote the service to its members.

Just like eBay has transformed how the consumer world shops for bargains online, new technology is changing how general contractors will be able to broadcast job invites to subcontractors and receive quotes online. The concept of online bid solicitations is not a new one, but more technology companies are coming to market with new solutions specifically designed for the construction industry.

Just like most construction companies, Zartman Construction, www.zartman.com, Northumberland, Pa., had experienced some of the pain points surrounding the more traditional bid management process and began using a new online bidding and database-management system last year.

According to Ron Lesher, estimator, Zartman Construction, one of the biggest benefits of the system is the ability to access a single database of subcontractors. With an estimating staff of seven people, Lesher is able to use the technology across the company for the entire bid process.

The construction company is using PP+ (Private Planroom Plus) from Mid Atlantic BX, www.midatlanticbx.com, Harrisburg, Pa. This system allows general contractors to post, manage, and track projects and bid on documents and plans online. This allows GCs to manage and verify subcontractor databases.

This database has a couple of unique features. For example, it can categorize subcontractors listed under each CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) Master Format listing, cataloging subcontractors in each division by specific area of expertise such as exterior painters, flooring, insulation, and others. This allows general contractors to post a project and quickly find subcontractors that they want to invite to bid on a job.

Another feature is the ability to narrow subcontractor searches by location, minority affiliation, and labor affiliation. Additionally, GCs can create standard bid lists to eliminate the need to search through every subcontractor when sending out an invitation to bid.

Taking it a step further, contractors can use this system to additionally manage the project-management phase including managing communications, monitoring progress, and adding new projects. With the system, projects can be broken down in three ways: bidding, working, and archived.

A message feature also enables GCs to send notes to the bidders and keep the messages organized. The project-management tool also allows GCs to post blueprints, specifications, addenda, and project details.

For construction companies like Zartman Construction, bid-management systems make it easier to send out invitations to bid and narrow subcontractor searches. It is interesting to see the new bidding systems that are coming to the market. While the concept of online bidding has long been one available to the industry, more general contractors and subcontractors are beginning to use these systems to improve efficiencies in the bidding process.