Mid-Atlantic General Contractors Streamlining Bid Process with Technology

Mar 22, 2011, 17:27 ET from Mid Atlantic BX

New online program saves commercial GCs time and money

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On any given day, Zartman Construction, Inc. in Northumberland, PA can have between 20 and 40 commercial construction jobs in progress. Whether it's a four-story student housing complex or a five-bay automatic car wash, the company has built hundreds of facilities since being founded in 1973. In 2010, this full-service general contractor serving Central Pennsylvania began utilizing a unique, online bid and database management system.

Tools, equipment, safety techniques and other jobsite practices have all improved and simplified thanks to technology. However, the commercial construction bid process has remained nearly the same with the exception of email, fax and FTP sites all of which have significant limitations. That is until 2010 when Zartman became one of the original users of PP+ (Private Planroom Plus) from the Mid Atlantic BX in Harrisburg, PA.

Powered by BX3 technology, PP+ is an interactive, online bid and database management solution designed for the BX's General Contractor Members to streamline the estimating and bid process, and to manage and verify their subcontractor database. Each General Contractor (GC) that uses the program has a PP+ Coordinator assigned to them from the Mid Atlantic BX. The coordinators assist with the management of the projects listed in PP+ and verify the client's subcontractor database.

"We see this as the next generation in bid management. It's a unique system available to BX General Contractor members, giving them the ability to post, manage and track projects, bid documents and plans online," Mid Atlantic BX CEO Pete Gum said. "Many GCs dedicate a number of employees to this process. With PP+ those staff members can spend more time on other tasks, which can save everyone time and money."

Ron Lesher is an estimator at Zartman and is the primary user of the PP+ system. He's been pleased with PP+ and says it has clear advantages over the traditional bid process management.

"Overall it's been really good … extremely helpful," Mr. Lesher said.

Mr. Lesher uses PP+ an average of six times per day, and he works with an estimating staff of seven people who also use PP+ on a daily basis. The program is so reliable that Zartman uses it for their entire bid process.

"One of the biggest benefits is [Private Planroom Plus] provides the ability to access a single source database of subcontractors," Mr. Lesher said. "The program allows us to keep everything up to date and easily access all of our key contacts."

PP+ organizes each of the nearly 36,800 subcontractor and supplier listings in the Mid Atlantic BX database by their CSI (The Construction Specifications Institute) Master Format listing. The database goes one step further by specifically categorizing subcontractors listed under each CSI Division. For example, Division 09 is "finishes" (wall finishes, paint, flooring, ceilings, etc.). The PP+ database lists subcontractors in that division by specific area of expertise, including exterior painters, flooring contractors, insulation contractors and many others.

Organizing the subcontractors in this manner allows GCs to post a project and quickly and easily find the subcontractors they want to invite to bid on that job. In addition to a streamlined listing system, GCs can also add notes and rate each subcontractor. The notes and ratings are private to each individual general contractor.

"The program takes a few tasks, and combines them into one area. It makes it easy to send out our Invitations to Bid (ITBs)," Mr. Lesher said.

GCs can also narrow their subcontractor searches by location, minority affiliation and labor affiliation. So even with all the listings in the database, it's easy to sort through and find a Non-Union, Women Business Enterprise (WBE) flooring contractor in Dauphin County, PA.

To simplify the process even more, GCs can create standard bid lists that they can use for any project. This eliminates the need to search through the subcontractors every time they send out ITBs for a project.

Choosing subs and sending out ITBs is only one advantage of PP+. Equally as critical is the project management phase. With PP+ each user has the ability to view their company's projects, manage communications, monitor progress and add new projects.

Once a new project is entered into the system, it can be broken down into three phases – bidding, working and archived. By utilizing this feature GCs like Zartman can sort projects in the different phases.

The program provides project information, which contains details about which bidders have responded to the ITB and whether or not those subcontractors will be bidding on the project. Additionally, there is a message feature which enables GCs to send messages to the bidders and keeps an organized list of those messages.

"Having all of this information in one location is crucial," Mr. Lesher added.

The project management tool also allows GCs to post blueprints, specifications, addenda and project details.

Not only are the subcontractor database and project management features important to Zartman, Mr. Lesher says the Mid Atlantic BX PP+ support staff is vital to his work.

"They work very hard to keep things straight and help when you have a question or issue," he added.

Thanks to technology, Zartman Construction has always been an efficient general contractor on the jobsite. Now, thanks to PP+ and support from the Mid Atlantic BX, that efficiency has spread to the bid process, helping them save time and money.

On May 12 the Mid Atlantic BX will host a seminar introducing PP+ to interested General Contractors. The event will explain the basics of PP+ and demonstrate how it can benefit GCs throughout the entire bid process. For more information on this event visit www.MidAtlanticBX.com.

Founded in 1938, Mid Atlantic BX has played an integral role in the success and growth of the commercial construction industry throughout out the Mid-Atlantic region - developing innovative solutions to maximize member business development initiatives and to streamline the bidding process.  Mid Atlantic BX provides real-time, 24/7 access to over 14,000 new construction projects annually – totaling more than $45 billion, along with project blueprints, specs, addenda, bid lists and other pertinent bidding documents.

Mid Atlantic BX's interactive services include COOL, the region's most comprehensive online construction reporting and lead generation resource along with its industry recognized bid management solution Private Planroom.  From online, industry-specific services to the Construction Buyers Guide, Construx magazine, networking events and industry-specific training seminars, Mid Atlantic BX connects the construction industry from project concept through completion.  

For more information about the Mid Atlantic BX, visit our website at www.MidAtlanticBX.com.

SOURCE Mid Atlantic BX