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Bidding information and communication problems – Estimating 101, December 2021

November 28, 2021  By John F. Wiesel and Dan Beresford

November 28, 2021 – Let’s face it: we are quoting and bidding in a tough market that’s still affected by Covid. The competition is tighter, material and labour costs are increasing, and the time from bid request to submission is getting shorter. (Distributors and manufacturers are caught in this pinch, and give prices just before the bid is due.)

All of these things make it all the more important to avoid mistakes in our bid submissions; yet errors keep happening, frequently due to poor project information and communication problems.

When we get a bid request, we need to look at the entire package. Take note of the things that require more information; ask questions, and send them back. Look for things such as:

• Are power and lighting circuits properly labelled?
• Do the fixture specs match the drawings, and are heights listed?
• Any products you cannot get from your suppliers?
• Does the distribution equipment list match the information on the drawings?
• Are the responsibilities for wiring the mechanical equipment clear?
• Any incomplete notes in the drawing?
• Any addendums noted, but not included?


Here is an example of how poor project information and communication problems in a recent bid request forced the electrical contractor to rework the bid right up to closing time:

(It bears mentioning the bid request came with a short turnaround time, poor project information, and the need for additional information—some of which came last-minute… it’s no wonder a decent scope of work could not be sent to the general contractor.)

First, the contractor received the wrong drawing. When he received and reviewed the new drawing and addendums, he noticed new lighting circuits had been added and fixture heights had changed. In one area of the drawing, the power supply was 347V; on the other side of the junction box, the circuit was labelled 120V.

On the drawing, the T-bar measurements were metric, but the fixture spec showed imperial sizes. This meant the lighting company had to supply metric-sized fixtures… but at what voltage? It was never clarified.

Not only was the estimate a mess but—adding insult to injury—the wrong fixtures with the wrong voltage were supplied.

26% of rework is due to poor communication among team members, while 22% is the result of poor project information.* Even during the bidding process, teamwork between the architect, engineers, general, subs, distributors, and manufacturers is crucially important.

* Littman, Julie. “Survey: construction industry wastes over $200B on avoidable mistakes, rework,” Bisnow.com, August 1, 2018.

John F. Wiesel is the president of Suderman Estimating Systems Inc., and has been estimating and teaching estimating since the early 1980s. Dan Beresford served as an electrician in the Canadian Navy, then worked in various roles in the electrical sector before joining Suderman.

This feature—plus more great content—appears in the December 2021 edition of Electrical Business Magazine. Even more back issues are located in our Digital Archive.

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