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Qualification Based Selection – Part 1

I am sitting at my mechanic’s shop getting some routine work done on my vehicle. I have used this particular mechanic for nearly 27 years. I do not shop around for another supplier of vehicle maintenance and repair services.

Why do I have such loyalty with this company? There are a number of reasons:

  • They always take care of my vehicle needs.
  • The work is easy to schedule and they always get it done when they say they will.
  • They know what they can do and what they cannot do (thanks, Volkswagen…).
  • If they cannot do something, they recommend a viable, alternate supplier.
  • They keep detailed maintenance and repair records.
  • They do not perform unnecessary services, or services that can be monitored and taken care of later “when needed.” Has anyone experienced paying for something that just didn’t seem necessary? Didn’t think so…
  • The solution is always competitively priced. There are always cheaper mechanics, and there are always those who are more expensive.
  • Occasionally they provide a nice price break to simply thank me for my business.
  • They know my name and ask about my family. I know them and their family. They care and are interested.

I do not shop for pricing or take bids for these services because I am confident I’m getting what I need from a trusted advisor at a competitive price. I suspect many of us use this approach when we acquire medical, legal, or other professional services.

In part one of this two-part post on quality based selection (QBS), my goal is to make the case for using the QBS selection process when acquiring professional engineering services, because I am an engineer, I care and I’m interested in my clients.

Historically, both methods (bidding vs. QBS) of procuring professional engineering services have been tried and evaluated. The case for QBS can best be stated as follows:

  • QBS has been federal law for more than 30 years.
  • To my knowledge no states require bidding for engineering services.
  • At recent count, 43 states require QBS by statute.
  • The Iowa Department of Transportation is the largest customer for engineering services in Iowa. IDOT strictly follows the QBS process.
  • The health, safety and welfare of the public is best protected when competent professional services are acquired by the QBS process.
  • Historical cost figures prove that when an owner chooses to bid for professional services, the project costs are typically higher than for QBS projects.

In practical terms, an engineer encumbered by a bidding environment on a project has fewer options with which to provide value to the owner. Design makes up a very small percentage of the total project life-cycle cost. An efficient design will significantly impact the construction, operation and maintenance costs of the project.

When an engineer is limited by a bidding environment there is far less opportunity to serve as a trusted advisor to the project owner and provide value. I could go on, but the National Society of Professional Engineers sums it up pretty nicely in its position statement on QBS.

What’s involved with using QBS? I’ll have more on the typical QBS process in my next post. But for now, my car is ready. I need to happily pay my bill.

About the author

Marlon is our account executive in the Power market. He has more than 35 years of experience with all aspects of planning, design and construction of 12.5 kV-345 kV distribution and transmission systems, including right-of-way, design, regulatory coordination, public information meetings, public testimony and project management. With an extensive background in power transmission and distribution, Marlon brings a wide variety of knowledge in discussing the energy industry and the issues it faces. From education of future engineers to critical infrastructure analysis, he offers a unique perspective on the industry and where it's headed.