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October 2009 – Pain-free tendering

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Procurement professionals always need all the help they can get in first of all making sure the right processes are in place and observed for letting contracts of all sizes, and in selecting contractors and other suppliers. At least making sure the right steelwork contractor is selected is made easy by the BCSA’s assessment procedures for its members. All BCSA’s steelwork contractor members and RQSC Bridgeworks Registered Steelwork Contractors have volunteered to undergo regular assessment, being visited by experienced auditors who ensure their capabilities are up to scratch.

Clients can rely on these assessments as an easy way to pre-qualify steelwork contractors for buildings and bridges before contracts are tendered. This delivers confidence that the contractor has the relevant specialist skills to deliver the project successfully, as well as giving clients reassurance that they have fulfilled their regulatory duty to use only competent contractors.

When assessing capabilities the auditors inspect contractors under two primary criteria, Class and Category. Class gives guidance on the size of steelwork contract that the contractor has both the financial and management resources to undertake. Annual turnover, net asset value and public liability insurance are taken into account and references are taken up.

The categories indicate what type of steelwork a contractor is competent to undertake, which takes account of its work facilities, track record and technical and management experience. For buildings there are 14 categories of work for which contractors are assessed for suitability to undertake. Deciding who can be judged suitable is no mere matter of ticking boxes on a list as the auditors carry out a rigorous inspection of suitability on their assessment visits.

The Highways Agency values the bridges assessments so highly that only contractors listed on the BCSA’s scheme can be employed in the fabrication and erection of bridges.

Procurement professionals have other reasons to value the BCSA schemes. It makes it easy to check the quality credentials of the registered companies.

More pressingly even than normally, clients have also to ensure that they are achieving the best price for the services they procure – with over 120 BCSA member companies a competitive price is ensured. Using the BCSA list to match companies to tender opportunities removes the danger of using a company that might submit an unsustainably low price, so clients can be confident that the contractor can finish the job it starts.

Steelwork contractors can be sourced according to the required project class and category at

Nick Barrett
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