Electric Utility Energizes the Competition Among Suppliers

The Challenge

A large Midwestern utility maintains power infrastructure with more than 3,000 megawatts of generating capacity and 5,000 miles of transmission lines. It competitively bids dozens of construction, maintenance, and service contracts every year and, as a public agency, needs to maintain a fair and transparent process that ensures equal access to opportunities.

The utility struggled with an inefficient procurement process that was expensive and labor intensive. Maintaining an accurate vendor database was next to impossible and they were vulnerable to protests from vendors that did not receive required notifications during the bidding process. Additionally, document printing and distribution costs were reaching thousands of dollars per week because state law required sending documents to all interested vendors.

The Solution

In 2009, the utility tasked their internal IT group to develop an in-house solution to streamline their procurement. After studying the complex requirements, the utility opted to purchase third-party software. They reviewed multiple procurement programs before selecting eBid Systems to provide a centralized platform for their procurement process.

Initially, the software by eBid Systems was implemented to manage procurement for large construction projects. The solution featured a vendor self-registration portal, automated bid notification, online availability of bid documents, and a streamlining of the management process. Responsibility for maintaining vendor information shifted from administrators to the vendors themselves who can self-register, update contact information, define service categories, and upload insurance documentation. Vendors that provide complete information are approved instantly to receive bid notices, view solicitation documents, and download project plans.

The interested bidders list is automatically maintained by the system so potential bidders can receive notifications of updates and addenda. Administrators can monitor vendor activity including document downloads notification delivery status, and pre-bid meeting registration.

The Results

The utility completely eliminated the substantial costs of copying and mailing their solicitation documents. Because procurement staff labor has been significantly reduced, they are able to leverage their staff limited resources for other more strategic projects and initiatives.

As a result of the low cost of bidding projects, the utility continues to expand its use of the eBid Systems platform to bid all types of products and services. While smaller projects and profession service contracts were previously bid to only a few select contractors, today the utility is lowering the prices for all projects through increased competition. For professional service contracts, where only 3 bids were previously received, they are now routinely receiving 20 to 50 proposals