Automating the Prequalification Process
By Rick Dill
Wouldn’t it be nice to let your subcontractors fill out your
Prequalification form online so you don’t have to reenter any data? A
year ago I wrote about automating the pre-construction process using bid
invitation software. Since then, there has been a significant trend of
general contractors streamlining their process of sending bid invites
and addendum notices electronically as well as uploading plans and bid
docs for their subs to download quickly and easily. The next phase of
automation that is gaining steam is the Subcontractor Prequalification
Why Prequalify Subs?
Mitigate risk, of course! Let’s face it, the success or failure of
your project can boil down to the performance of your subcontractors.
Failures are generally the result of poor workmanship, lack of a quality
management team, or insufficient resources to properly perform the job.
Some typical questions on a prequalification form might include:
- State Contractor License Number
- Years in business
- Geographic areas willing to work
- Certifications (MBE, WBE, etc)
- Financial history and/or financial records
- Bonding capacity
- Insurance Certificate
- EMR ratings
By spending a little time learning about your subcontractors before
awarding contracts, you can determine how much risk you are willing to
accept. The quandary, though, is how to find the time. Thankfully, there
is a way to significantly reduce that time by automating the process.
The “Old Way”
The old way of gathering prequalification information was extremely
labor intensive: emailing or faxing a questionnaire to subcontractors
who in turn filled out the form manually, then scan/email/faxed back
along with attachments such as an insurance certificate, certification
form, etc. The general contractor then would need to enter all their
updated company/contact information into their system, print the form
and any attachments, and store them in a physical file.
The “New Way”of Automation
Now, new subcontractors can simply enter their company/contact info
and answer the Prequalification Questionnaire directly on a GC’s
website. Existing subs in a GC’s database can be sent a link to form
with all their existing data already entered…all they need to do is
update their info and answer any custom Prequal questions. Subs love
this since it is much easier than having to rewrite all their info into
a blank form every year. The GC then gets an email alert and can
immediately view the sub’s info on their screen and decide to approve or
disapprove the sub. The approved sub’s form and any attachments are
stored in their record for retrieval quickly and easily…no need for
paper copies in files/folders.
Benefits of Automation
The main benefit of automating is the time savings for both the
general contractor and subcontractor. GC’s no longer need to manually
enter new subcontractor’s company/contact info or manually update
existing info. In addition, they no longer need to print an incoming
form and file it the old fashioned way. Subcontractors that have already
supplied their company info never need to manually enter it again, and
can edit or update their contact info. They also save time not having to
print the form, re-type their info and then scan and email it back.
Instead they do it all online!
Primus Builders in Atlanta has automated their Subcontractor
Prequalification Process by using the PipelinePrequal™ module of
PipelineSuite® for almost three years. Dave Davis, Chief Estimator
remembers, “We would have to send them the form via “snail mail” or
email and have them fill it out and return, we would then have to
manually enter into Pipeline. The pains/inefficiencies would be the
manual entry, not to mention filing/storing of the paperwork. Paperless
is the future.”
Bilfinger (listed 67th in the ENR List of 400 contractors in 2014) has
also been benefitting from utilizing PipelinePrequal™ for over two
years. “Before PipelinePrequal™, we would send hard copies to
contractors to complete,” comments April Pepple, Contracts Manager and
Cost Engineer for Bilfinger. “Pipeline has allowed us to create a
paperless system which is not only more effective; it is a cost savings
to our company. Other drawbacks to the old process were the bogged down
emails or kickbacks due to file size. It has offered us a more efficient
and professional manner to gather contractors information. The system
offers management tailored to your company’s needs.”
Automating your Prequalification Process can be quick and painless.
The first step is finding the right software system. Some important
features to look
The ability to customize and add your own questions.
The option to embed the questionnaire into your website.
The ability to create a simple “update your info” form to send out to
subs so they can keep their company/contact info up to date.
Technical support to help you create your custom form, or offer to
create it for you.
The capability to create as many different forms as you want and edit
them any time.
A system that allows your subs to upload documents such as insurance
A 30-day trial version to compare with your current process.
The next step is to simply recreate your existing form using the
software’s form creator “wizard”, which when finished, can be send out
to subs in one click. The form can also be embedded into your company
website easily (most website/IT persons have told me it only took them
Contractors that are forward-thinking and move toward automating their
prequalification process will save countless hours, and most
importantly, will be able to better mitigate risk and improve the
chances of success on their projects. The amazing thing they will
realize is how fast, easy and painless it is converting their process to
a paperless system.
About the Author: Rick is the President of PipelineSuite© which he
founded in 2002. Rick is also a member of the American Society of
Professional Estimators, Orange County Chapter 3. For more information,
www.PipelineSuite.com or you can contact Rick directly at