Contract Finder Pro’s Sandy Boxall explains why we need to industrialise the bid process for engineers and manufacturers
Where were you when you first registered the sheer scale and impact of the Covid-19 crisis?
For myself, it was a television news piece in January 2020. While I was vaguely aware of reports circling about a mystery virus in China, it was pictures of the intense lockdown in place in the seemingly faraway city of Wuhan – a location which, I’ll admit, had not exactly been on my radar – that genuinely registered.
The sight of empty streets and stilled, silent factories was quite something – little did I realise at the time that those same scenes would play out here at home a mere couple of months later.
Here, just as in countries around the world, many of our vital engineering and manufacturing industries were forced to close as employers scrambled to keep their employees safe. Others, where able, played a heroic role by deploying their engineering and research expertise to repurpose production lines to create new ventilators, then desperately needed by the NHS.
But in most cases, it was only after new operating procedures were implemented – and factories, warehouses and other engineering hubs deemed Covid-secure – that they were able to re-open. Even though the second and third lockdowns have had less of an impact, there’s no doubt that disruption has cost billions of pounds and has driven both short and long term change.
It’s also showcased the ability of manufacturers and engineers to pivot and rapidly implement new innovations. Of course, no sector of the economy or society has been untouched by the pandemic. However, it strikes me that firing up my laptop from home is one thing, creating new ventilators from scratch while also safely deploying new operating procedures, including social distancing protocols and enhanced hygiene processes, is quite another.
Nonetheless, despite these challenges, organisations have persevered and found ways to deliver projects safely.
The good news is that better times are fast materialising on the horizon. While the pandemic’s economic consequences continue to play out, public sector opportunities have thankfully remained plentiful, with over 1,500 of open tenders and worth more than £928 billion issued by the UK and Republic of Ireland governments within the last 12 months.
Of course, such opportunities vary in size from the smallest to the largest, but competition is fierce – if anything fiercer than before Covid and likely to remain so as the recession reduces commercial construction opportunities. While who you know is still important in any procurement, the process is becoming ever more digital, with more tenders moving online and industry open days and other one-to-one interactions becoming an ever more digital experience.
The sheer scale of this conversion to all things digital means that now, more than ever, businesses need to industrialise their business winning processes. This will enable them to reap digital dividends, such as using technology to streamline procedures and increase their own efficiency, and in the process save their precious time to do the things that cannot be streamlined – such as the human interaction that can often secure the golden nugget of information that secures the win.
An online treasure trove of information is now available, on both the market and on new opportunities that organisations would wish to bid for. Using data feeds, market trackers (like my very own Contract Finder Pro, for example) and integrating both outsourced (like bid writers and legal teams) and insourced components and services, the business winning process can become increasingly automated and slick.
Since there is never quite enough time to write a bid, those organisations that can automate the process most effectively and take advantage of the digital opportunity at hand will be more competitive than those that don’t. Their reward will be larger market shares and the promise of even more competitive advantage still to come. The future really is digital.
About the author
Sandy Boxall is founder and Managing Director of Contract Finder Pro