Ask any teenager and you will hear that the Internet is an active meeting place. But this depiction is also increasingly true in many vertical industries, including construction.
Subs will be able to prepare and distribute requests for quotes to their usual distributors and to any other distributors in the online directory.
Witness the activity being generated at BuildPoint.com billed as an interactive business-to-business bidding and purchasing solution for contractors, subcontractors, wholesale distributors and manufacturers involved in the commercial construction industry. But, at heart, it’s a place for A to meet B and then make a deal.
In operation since last November, BuildPoint is offering a secure online service for bid management, offering wider opportunities for contractors to find subcontractors to bid on their work and for subcontractors to find projects on which to bid beyond their traditional range of contacts and geography. For both general contractors and subs, it is free and easy.
General contractors post their projects and solicit bids from subs on BuildPoint.com. BuildPoint, in turn, uses contractor-supplied listings to notify subcontractors by e-mail or phone that a particular general contractor is inviting bids over the Internet. Much of the information subcontractors normally would have to pick up in a GC’s office is available on BuildPoint.com, accessible on any browser with an Internet connection. (BuildPoint can also notify signed-on subcontractors by e-mail about jobs to bid in all geographic areas in which they have stated an interest.)
In most cases, plans will still have to be picked up in the conventional manner at the listed locations. But increasingly, plans are available online as well, ready for download. Ideally, if a sub has cad capability and the plans are available online, the sub can download the plans right from the site to make take-offs.
BuildPoint also offers Lead Manager and Directory services.
Lead Manager, designed for general contractors and subcontractors, enables users to respond electronically to invitations to bid and other bid-related communications using the BuildPoint.com Web portal, and easily search and retrieve publicly posted project information to generate new business.
Directory provides a nationwide public listing of architects, engineers, general contractors, subcontractors, distributors, building products manufacturers and others involved in commercial construction. Users can search, categorize, and sort business partners by trades served and geographic areas.
When the second phase of this system goes live, sometime early in the second quarter, subcontractors will have the ability to prepare and distribute requests for quotes for materials both to their usual distributors and to any other distributors in the online directory. Distributors will have the opportunity to respond and go on to process purchase orders.
If a distributor from whom a subcontractor wants prices is not a member of BuildPoint, the subcontractor can fax the rfq to the distributor from the BuildPoint system (for a small processing fee). Once the distributor goes online to respond to the rfq, that supplier is entered into the system as a member.
Using BuildPoint is free to subcontractors with the exception of the fax service. Each time a subcontractor sends a fax, BuildPoint charges 10 cents or less (depending on fax volume) to cover the cost of the fax.
If all of a subcontractor’s business partners choose to receive their BuildPoint correspondence via e-mail, no costs are incurred by either sending or receiving parties.
The distributor, however, pays a small transaction fee for each deal cut over the Web through BuildPoint after the product is shipped. Theoretically the cost to the distributor of sales and customer service is lower by using the Internet and this factor should, notes BuildPoint, help drive the system among distributors.
When fully implemented in the next few months, the site will include surplus auctions, trade financing and extensive interactive directory services.
BuildPoint’s online directory of members will interface with bid management and lead management capabilities to allow searches for new business opportunities by key words, sic code, trade code and geographic areas served, at a far lower cost than possible through traditional methods.
After the first 70 days, BuildPoint had signed up about 1,200 general contractors and subcontractors (primarily on the West Coast) who specialize in commercial work. Although the site is already processing bidding information nationwide, the company expects to begin nationwide marketing of the service by the beginning of April.
According to BuildPoint, the new online system should offer an edge to subcontractors looking to get connected and involved with new sources of work and improve their work processes. The company plans on contacting up to 1 million subcontractors involved in commercial work.
Those subs who don’ t want to wait can go to the BuildPoint site and sign on themselves. And at any time after that, even if incoming notifications are slow, they can go online looking for work.
Just like those teens who surf the Net, you never know when a new interest worth exploring will show up.