Thought Leadership: Beware a Late Procurement

30 May, 2023
Thought Leadership: Beware a Late Procurement

Thought Leadership: Beware a Late Procurement

Roddy Angus is the CEO of Merson Signs. He has headed up Merson since 2000 and has driven the strategic development of the business since then, growing it from a local operator with sales of £4m to a diverse £30m group with European operations. 

Many of us “tier two’s” have been here before – phoning an ongoing project to enquire about tendering to be told: “We’re not placing that package yet”. I always read this as a polite way of saying, “your package is small and unimportant to us”, and my concern levels rise. 

It is true that our packages can be small in relation to overall project value but, if that is the clients deciding factor on package priority, the red flags are hoisted. Our packages break down into multiple bespoke products (signs) and every one of those products is designed to draw the eye of the ultimate users (passengers primarily) of a facility. So, let’s not go dismissing it so lightly! 

Procurement of Wayfinding Packages needs early consideration in the fit-out process as, beyond the actual design in terms of construction and graphic, there are fixing details, co-ordination, integration, connections, and much more to get right to give an outcome that pleases those passenger eyes.

Multiply the number of signs by the number of interface requirements and then add in the bespoke nature of the construction or message, and you will have thousands of unique variables to get right. So why, oh why, would a project not value the process of getting a wayfinding package properly interfaced? Let me give you an example from one recent project:

We were procured last as we are the lowest value, but we have the most approval work to do. In this case the client also insisted that we were to adopt the same drawing approval process as the other packages. You can assess from the above table the cost, time, and effort required and can compare it to the other packages.

However, it’s not always this way. How refreshing it is to hear the words “we’ve not fully defined your package yet, so will you sign a PCSA and come work with us to scope your solution and deal with the interfaces?”. 

Over the last 20 years we’ve won several significant infrastructure wayfinding contracts and we have encountered a mix of engagements, either with or without PCSA (Pre-construction Service Agreement). Without exception the procurement approach has defined the outcome in each case. Contracting with PCSA has led to control, control of Program, Budget, and Quality, but more than that, it has built relationships, reduced personnel stress and puts both sides of the engagement in a positive frame for the next job.

Contracting without PCSA has led us to escalating costs, failed interfaces, stress and in some cases conflict and ultimately parting with the client feeling nothing short of ‘subbie-bashed’ and vowing never to get myself in that position again.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so I’m sharing it here. Beware a project attempting the late procurement of the Wayfinding Package. Merson will not be bidding – we’ll leave that one for those still to earn their own hindsight!