When it comes to time to solicit prices for any type of engineering study, whether small or large, whether sole sourced or competitively bid, it is always a good idea to prepare a Request For Proposal (“RFP”) document. An RFP is better than an informal phone call to a consultant asking for a proposal and better than a cursory email outlining what you want. In many cases the RFP doesn’t need to be a complex document; however RFP’s are appreciated by everyone involved.
From a company perspective, preparing an RFP gives the opportunity to collect the thoughts on the scope of study needed, on the deliverables wanted, and on the timing required.   The RFP will outline this out for the consultants and simultaneously helps company management get on the same page themselves.  The RFP is the opportunity for the company to tell the consultants exactly what they are looking for in the study and what they want to see in the proposal itself.
From a consultant’s perspective, receiving an RFP is great since having a detailed scope of work laid out means you don’t need to guess when preparing a cost estimate.  It will be clear to the consultant what work is “in scope” and if ultimately extra services are required then “out-of-scope” work can easily be defined.   An RFP gives the consultant some reassurance that the company has put consideration into exactly what they want to do.
The RFP that is sent to bidding consultants should contain (at a minimum) the items listed below. A sole sourced study can have a scaled back RFP but some of the key items should still be maintained.   Much of this RFP information can be built into a single template that will simply be modified if different scopes of work will be sent to different consultants (e.g. tailings design, pit geotechnical, groundwater, feasibility study, etc.).
  • Project Introduction (an overview of the project).
  • Table of Responsibilities for the Study (if other consultants are being involved in different areas).
  • Scope of Work (for this Proposal), and highlight any specific exclusions.
  • Additional Requirements (update meetings, monthly reports, documentation requirements).
  • Schedule (what timing the owner wants for the return of proposal, when the job will be awarded, when the study will kickoff, and when completion is required).
  • Instructions to the Bidder (e.g. what information should be provided in each proposal and in what format).
  • Other (the legal rights of the Owner, confidentiality statement, how proposals will be evaluated, etc.).
If a company is competitively bidding the study, it can be easier to compare multiple proposals if certain parts are presented in the exact same format.  Usually different consulting firms have their own proposal format, which is fine, however certain sections of the proposal should be made easily comparable.   The RFP can request that each proposal should contain (at a minimum):
  • Confirmation of the scope of work based on the RFP, which may be more detailed than the RFP itself.
  • List of exclusions.
  • List of final deliverables.
  • Proposed Study Manager, resume and relevant study management experience.
  • Proposed team members, organizational structure by areas of responsibility, and resumes.
  • Cost estimate on a not-to-exceed basis for each area, subdivided by team member, hours and unit rates ,and possibly in a specific table format.
  • A fee table for the various job classifications that would be applied to out-of-scope additional man hours.
  • All indirect costs, administrative costs, indicating mark-ups (if any).
  • Miscellaneous disbursements (i.e., airfares, hotel, vehicles) and indicate if there are mark-ups.
  • Detailed study schedule to completion.
  • Payment schedule.
  • Specify if there are any potential conflicts of interest with other projects.
My bottom line is that a company should always take the time to prepare some type of RFP for any study they wish to undertake.  The company should also request a proposal from the consultant based on that RFP, even if it is being sole sourced to one company.  Depending on the size and nature of the study, one can use judgement on how detailed the RFP or consultant’s proposal must be, but I suggest that one always gets the proper documentation into place beforehand.

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