Tuesday , 1 December 2020

Procurement and Tendering Process in ITS projects – Before procuring, look where technology is going

Firstly, when you begin to do an ITS project of any size, you need to really understand what exactly you are trying to do. The objectives should be clear and opinions of all stakeholders should be taken. You need to assess how bad your current situation is: how are the delays and road congestion costing you in terms of time, money, fuel and pollution. Try to put this information together. There are plenty of vendors who are willing to sell equipment. Find out what have the other cities done, what have your neighbours done. Assess the last job you did – how well did it work? Learn lessons from it and bring them to the concept of what you want to develop now

At some stage when you go out for tendering, to bid for equipment, there is a need for specifications. The document should say what outcomes you are looking for, what you want from your network and what you believe are achievable targets. What should not be said in the specifications document is how these have to be done, what technologies to use etc. That will limit the vendors and limit you too. By limiting suppliers, you limit your choices, increase cost and lose flexibility. So, try not to over-specify in your procurement process.

It is important to show that the equipment is going to deliver. After the equipment is installed, it is too late to see if the equipment is performing as required. You have to design into the solution the means of measuring it, whether using ANPR, delay time data through toll, or other technologies that are available to give you data such as how long the queues are, what the travel times are etc. All this data informs you, the system procurer, and others who have an interest in how the system is working, that they are getting something useful, value for money. So that must come into the design, at the beginning.

If you want flexibility and value for money, you need to be able to procure these components from different sources, put them together and be assured that this would work. For example, different sensors that are getting data from the streets, road network, from railways etc. If you keep the system open, you are making the process easier not only for yourself but also for your bidders because if it is a manufacturer, it will develop equipment for everybody. Some of the benefits would flow down to the procurers.

As far as timelines are concerned adequate time is needed for the procurement process. This gives time to bidders to develop the process properly and to deliver a better solution. Bidders should be provided data of the existing system to them. Give them visibility. Let them ask questions. If they ask questions, you also learn a lot of things.

Lastly, be realistic when you award a contract to a bidder. Once the bidder has commissioned the system, do not just let them walk away. Your staff must be trained to handle the new equipment supplied by the bidders. If you have contractors for maintenance work, train them on it. This is a must for a good ITS system. With these considerations, you can measure your performance better.

There are many lessons we can learn from the UK?s experience with ITS. First of all, are you sure you need the solution? Many UK rural authorities have Automatic Traffic Control (ATC) systems running small clusters of traffic lights. They incur large costs just to support ATC for little benefit. Be sure you have good records of what equipment was installed and how it was configured. It is common to supply a new solution in the UK and also have to remove or upgrade an old one as the information to interface to it is missing. Many UK local authorities are expensively locked into one Remote Monitoring supplier due to proprietary standards for data exchange. Further, ensure that you own your own data. Some UK suppliers store data in their own systems or fail to train customers in the less frequently used facilities of their systems. Finally, we all make mistakes ? what is really important is to learn from them. Share your experiences with your neighbours, colleagues and listen to them.

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