Finding Government Contracts

A 689Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

There are many opportunities for substantial contracts with the US Government. However, finding your way through all the Govt. websites and learning some of the unique Govt. nomenclature and acronyms can be a time-consuming task. In this article I will discuss some basics and key indicators that should save you a considerable amount of time.

First, some basic terms you should know:
• Dun and Bradstreet (B&D) Registration  
You probably already have this, but if not your company needs to apply  
Their website is: http://www.dnb.com  

• Contractors Central Registration (CCR)  
You must be registered in CCR to do business with the Govt.  
Their website is: https://www.bpn.gov/ccr/  

• Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA)  
Required to receive an award from the Govt.  
Their website is: http://orca.bpn.gov  

• Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website  
This is your main website for finding opportunities for Govt. contracts  
Their website is: https://www.fbo.gov  

• Business Partner Network  
A very helpful source of information  
Contains links to CCR, SBA, ORCA and FBO  
Their website is: https://www.bpn.gov  

• The Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code  
Required for Govt. contracts  
The CAGE request process is incorporated into the CCR registration  

• Federal Service Desk  
Contains great info on how to register in CCR  
Their website is: https://www.fsd. gov/app/answers/list  

• Small Business Administration  
Registration is very helpful in getting awards as many contracts are set-aside for small businesses  
Their website is: http://www.sba.gov

• North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes  
ORCA and CCR require you to select these codes that describe your business  
You will find the codes are nonspecific but adequate to describe the kind of work or services you can provide  
Check out categories under codes 221, 236, 237, and 238 for a start  

• Product Service Codes (PSC) and Federal Supply Classification (FSC) codes  
Only a few of these apply to construction work, for example:  
Y--Construction of structures and facilities  
Z--Maintenance, repair, and alteration of real property

The foregoing is a lot to take in at first glance, but don't get discouraged. You only need to accomplish each task one step at-a-time. The most timeintensive tasks are getting registered in CCR and ORCA.

If you have never searched for Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Quotations (RFQ) from the Government; the best place to get a feel for how things work, is the FBO website. This will be the main emphasis of this article.

The first step is to go to the Federal Business Opportunities website: https://www.fbo.gov
Click on "Find Opportunities"
In the "Keyword/Solicitation#" box type in: Construction Projects  
Select "Last 30 Days" in the "Posted Date" drop-down menu  
Click "Search"  
This will give you an idea of what type of projects are available
Clicking on a single project shows you details of the solicitation  
If there are numerous entries (denoting changes or revisions) you will be able to backtrack to the original solicitation when you will find a link to the "Solicitation" or "Synopsis" on the webpage  
Important note: FBOs programming does not like use of the back button. If you need to go back to the opportunities list, use the "Return to Opportunities" button near the top of the page. This will save you a lot of time and frustration!  
There are many things that can frustrate and discourage you during your searches for work. Many of the posting are limited to contractors already working on the projects. These are often noted on the opportunities list as "Special Notices" in the "type/setaside" column. You may also see "Awards" in this column. You can skip that opportunity unless you want to see who won the contract and at what bid price.

The better way to search for opportunities is to set up one or more a "Search Agents". There are many benefits to using search agents, including email notifications and quick searches individualized to your specific criteria. To be able to set up search agents and receive customized alerts you will need to have a DUNS number and be registered in CCR.

Once you are registered on FBO, you can log in as a "Vendors/Citizen". Next, click on the "Opportunities" tab. At the top of the web page you will see a tab marked "Search Agents"; click on this tab. Now you can create a new search agent by clicking on the "Add New Search Agent" box located on this page. Fill in the required data. You can limit searches geographically or by appropriate set-aside code, but most importantly, you can specify the type of work you are interested in by selecting the NAICS Code and the Classification Codes that describe your specialty. You should also set up a schedule for the search agent to run on. I have mine set up to run daily. This saves a great amount of time later on when you receive your email alerts or want to run the search agent manually. By using search agents; you will not be overwhelmed with projects that don't meet your criteria.

The next tip is for sorting through the email alerts you will receive. Below is an example of an alert that I received for Construction projects:

Saturday, January 28, 2012, 07:59 am
Dear Paul: Your FBO Opportunity Search Agent called: `construction projects' has identified the following opportunities that have either been newly posted or modified and match your search criteria.
Title: RECOVERY--Z--PROJECT NUMBER 16040, Sam Rayburn Dam and Reservoir, TX
Sol. #: W9126G10R0091
Agency: Department of the Army Office: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Location: USACE District, Fort Worth
Posted On: Jan 27, 2012 2:40 pm
Base Type: Award Notice Link: https://www.fbo.gov/spg/USA/COE/DACA63/Awards/W9126G10C0055P00003.html

Note that the second-to-last line is entitled "Base Type". In this example the base type is "Award Notice". If I am looking for new opportunities, I can skip this one and look for those labeled "Presolicitation" or "Combined Synopsis/ Solicitation" I usually look at this Base Type line first. This allows me to scan for new opportunities more quickly.

It has been a long time since I first learned all of this, as I stared back in 1993, and learned it one step at-a-time. So I may have forgotten a step or two. However, there are lots of guides and good tutorials on the FBO site and individual help can be obtained by calling the Federal Service Desk. They have been very helpful to me in the past. These links and instructions appear on the "My FBO" web page.

Updates at Press Time: The Government is consolidating several of their websites. You can now find the former websites for CCR and ORCA at https://www.sam.gov. SAM stands for "System for Award Management" yet , another government acronym, but you can forget CCR and OCRA-not a bad deal. When I logged onto CCR on August 8th; I was automatically re-directed to the SAM website--pretty slick.

I also should explain Government fiscal year-end buying: Like many corporations I have worked for; the amount of money you spend in a given fiscal year has a direct impact on the amount you can budget for and spend the following year. For this reason there is some frantic buying going on during August and September. Government contracting personnel are under great pressure to spend all the money, in the budgets they are responsible for, before the end of the Government's fiscal year (September 30th). The closer it gets to the end of September, the less amount of time you will have to respond to RFQs and RFPs. Where you may have seen RFQs with response deadlines of several weeks (or even months) in April or May; come September-it may only be a matter of days. Contracting officers and specialists will be working long days and even weekends during this end-of-year time period. It is sort of a "feeding frenzy" for spending money by awarding contracts. They don't need to payout all the money by the end of September, but it must be obligated by then. During this period I check FBO, and a few other Govt. websites, on an hourly basis. Last year, one of my clients did the majority of their Government business in the last five weeks of the fiscal year. If you really want to compete for those year-end contracts you need to get plugged-in and closely monitor opportunities during August and September. You may also see increased activity in the amount of small projects and contracts at this time of year. Many times the contracting folks are prioritizing which goods and services to buy by the contract dollar amount, rather than some other criteria.

Finding Federal Government work can be a big boost to your company's business. There are many new projects announced daily. I hope I have offered up some good tips to save you time getting started and wading through the daily announcements. There is no need to feel intimidated; lots of good help is available from the Federal Service Desk and online tutorials. Once you learn a few new terms you will find easy to stay abreast of the government contracts up for grabs.

Good luck finding U.S. Government contracts. If you have any questions drop me a line at Machine Control Online and I will do my best to help you out.

Paul Hahn has more than 30 years of experience, and has held senior management positions at Carl Zeiss, Nikon, Geotronics, Spectra Precision, and Trimble, and is now a consultant.

A 689Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

Jumping In With Both Feet - RDO Integrated Control's Tom Potter

Founded in 1968 as an agricultural machinery dealer, RDO Equipment Co. has always sought to be a leader in the markets they serve. Since those early days, RDO Equipment Co. has expanded their product offering to include heavy equipment for the mining, construction and landfill industries. RDO Equipment Co. is a John Deere Agriculture and Construction Equipment dealer while also offering solutions from Vermeer Axis, Hitachi, Sakai, Topcon Positioning Systems and Carlson Software. Those last two companies’ products are actually offered by an RDO Equipment Co. division called RDO Integrated Controls (RDOIC). For more information about RDO Equipment Co., visit their website at http://www.rdoequipment.com/

RDOIC was founded in 2009 and is the positioning and machine control arm of RDO Equipment Co. The decision to start RDOIC was influenced by RDO Equipment Co.’s philosophy to fully support their customers’ needs by offering the best technology solutions available. When they saw the market trends and the ever-increasing adoption rates of machine control on their customers’ construction, mining and landfill jobsites; they knew they needed to get involved in a big way. RDO Equipment Co. believed it was better to take an aggressive approach with the goal of gaining expertise early-on rather than waiting and entering a more mature market later. Since hiring the first three employees in 2009 they have grown to over 53 employees in just three short years. According to Tom Potter, an RDOIC Account Manager specializing in the mining and landfill industries (and one of those first three), “RDO Equipment Co. saw where the market was going and wanted to become a leader in positioning and machine control.  They decided upon an aggressive and accelerated path, tapping the human and capital resources available to a large and successful company. They gathered that expertise via multiple new hires and through acquisitions.”

After graduating from Montana State University in 1999 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Tom Potter went to work in Silicon Valley for a high- tech. manufacturing-controlling devices company. After a job transfer to Denver, Tom felt it was time for a career change. He moved to Billings, Montana in 2005 to work as a salesman for WP Rentals, a Topcon Construction dealer who was already involved with machine control sales. Here he received a crash course in all things construction and machine control in particular (sort of like diving into the deep end of the pool). However, he was a fast learner and realized early success, viewing the transition as “another high-tech solution challenge.” He progressed to the position of territorial sales manager, before leaving to join RDOIC.

Upon joining RDOIC, Tom focused on construction, landfill, and mining customers from the RDO Equipment Co. Billings, MT office. As the Billings location was a John Deere construction and Topcon dealer store, Tom was already familiar with the equipment. However, it soon became apparent that the mining and landfill businesses would demand his attention full-time. So while others took over construction sales, his focus became more finely-tuned. This turned out to be a good decision as today he is responsible for mining and landfill sites in 22 Western states. In mining applications the software product of choice is Carlson software. Typically, Topcon’s hardware is bundled with Carlson software products, at other times turnkey Carlson systems is what customers request. RDOIC has become one of Carlson’s biggest dealers. Tom states: “Carlson is an industry leader and has a huge market share in the mining industry. Carlson’s belief in Open Positioning Architecture (OPA) is very well received, especially in the mining communities. This makes it easy for me to partner with a mine and offer a wide range of open solutions.” Given RDOIC’s various locations through the Rocky Mountain States, it is not surprising that mining has been very successful business area for them. In particular, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and the Dakotas have a high concentration of mines. In other Western States, such as Nevada and Arizona, there is a good amount of mining activity as well. Another, albeit smaller, segment of RDOIC’s business is machine control for landfill applications which Tom is responsible for.

For more on the landfill application you can see one of my past articles on that subject at  http://machinecontrolonline.com/paul-f-hahn/2602-the-bottom-line-3d-machine-control-in-the-landfill-industry. Tom says one of his challenges is the “constant learning as the technology evolves.” (Not much chance of that slowing down anytime soon.)

RDOIC receives good support from the RDO Equipment Co. infrastructure and philosophy. “We have well over 300 service technicians in the company, servicing all makes and models including John Deere, CAT, and Komatsu, so customers have come to expect excellent service and that expectation now extends to machine control,” says RDOIC General Manager, Adam Gilbertson. Adam also says “RDO Equipment Co. realized that they needed the right people with the right expertise to support the technology and become much more of a partner with customers -- not just a vendor. That includes service and support.” And that RDOIC has done. They have become one of the ten Topcon Regional Service Centers for all construction, surveying, and machine control products. You can hear more about RDOIC from Adam by visiting our Machine Control Online website and clicking on the video tab, or using the following link: http://machinecontrolonline.com/our-exclusive-videos/4640-machinecontrolonline-interview-adam-gilbertson-of-rdo-integrated-controls

I did think Adam’s view on why RDO Equipment Co. decided to get into the machine control market was insightful and worth mentioning here. Adam said, ”We entered the positioning business because we saw how important the technology was in the construction, mining, and landfill industries. We realized that having that solution for a customer, along with the machine, was absolutely critical as the technology has become more and more adopted in the industry.”

He went on to say, “RDOIC is an exciting place to be, positioned to meet emerging demands and bringing new technologies to the market.”

It’s clear that RDOIC is on the fast track to becoming a powerful force in the Western United States for positioning and machine control solutions. Their offices already stretch from Minnesota to Hawaii. It is also clear that they will invest in quality people like Tom Potter and Adam Gilbertson, as well as support resources to look after their customers long after the sale has been closed. What is amazing is how far they have come in such a short amount of time. Only they know how much farther their expansion plans will take them; both geographically and staffing-wise. They, most certainly, have jumped in with both feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Total Stations—The Other Machine Control Sensor and More

A 571Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

For the past decade, most of the emphasis and buzz around machine Control has been about GPS. This is to be expected due to the overall versatility and lack of operational constraints that GPS brings to the table. However, there have been other positioning technologies in use on the construction site for even longer. We old-timers will remember transits, tapes, optical levels and lasers used for grade control and layout. The early machine control systems utilized lasers and sonic tracers. As layout got more demanding and data flow to computer systems became more common place, the optical total station began having a greater presence on construction sites all over the globe. Then in the mid-nineteen nineties, total stations began to appear on job sites as machine control positioning sensors. In this article, I will focus on the total station's role in construction layout and machine control and some of their capabilities may surprise you.

In the past decade, manufacturers have made tremendous strides in developing optical total stations specifically designed for the construction site. In the early 1990's the construction industry was slow to adopt total station technology. Manufacturers attempted to increase the adoption rate by offering lower priced, de-featured versions of the models they traditionally sold to surveyors. As their understanding of the industry's requirements increased; new models were introduced that better fit the contractor's needs for layout, asbuilt's, volume calculations and machine control applications. These instruments are highly specialized, yet very versatile, serving many purposes on the job site.

The most advanced models in this category are capable of machine control and share common characteristics. They are motorized, robotic total stations capable of one person or unmanned operation. They contain reflectorless Electronic Distance Meter (EDM) technology and may also contain imaging capabilities as well. They can be used for machine control as well as standard surveying tasks and also have the capability to perform surface scans.

When used for machine control applications these specialized instruments differ from standard surveying instruments is several significant ways. The standard surveying total station is designed to measure to static (non-moving) objects. Therefore, a slight time delay in the obtaining the angle and distance components of a measurement have no impact on the measured position. If the prism is held by a steady hand and properly plumbed the resultant position will be correct. This type of measurement mode is often referred to as "static" . However, measurements to moving objects present a completely different set of requirements. These measurements are referred to as being in the "dynamic operations mode" Depending on the . vector and velocity of the moving target, positioning errors will occur if the angles and distances are not captured simultaneously. To overcome this inherent error, manufacturers needed to develop total stations wherein the angle and distance information was synchronized or with very low latency. As the target (machine) was moving (dynamic), these instruments needed to have a very fast measurement update rate, so position information could be relayed to the machine in real-time. They must also possess very fast radios to relay the position data to the machines they are controlling or that latency will result in positioning errors as well. When all of these challenges were overcome the resultant instrument was capable of traditional surveying work and use as a machine control sensor. Total stations are capable of higher positioning accuracy than unaided GNSS (GPS) technology, especially in the vertical (elevation) component. This makes them a very good for fine and finish grade applications. Therefore, the first systems developed were made for motor graders and pavers. There are several excellent products in this group, including Trimble's SPS Universal Total Station, Leica's PowerTracker and Topcon's LPS-900. All are fast-tracking robotic total stations with synchronized angle and distance measurements and high update rates.

To give you an idea of how advanced these units are; I will provide some specifications. The angular accuracy of these units is as high as +/- one arc second. Distance measurements are accurate to +/- 1mm in static mode and +/- 5mm in tracking mode. Position update rates are very high at 20 times per second. Combining these capabilities, one manufacturer states they can track machines at up to 35 MPH.

The total stations instruments themselves are not the only advancements that make the systems construction site-applicable. The software on-board these instruments (or contained within their hand-held field controllers) has been specialized as well. The user interface and application software has been tailored to the needs of the job site. These are not the same application programs that are sold into the surveying market. Topcon, Leica and Trimble have all created contactor-friendly, construction application-specific, programs to support the workflows of construction projects. They have names like "Site Foreman", "Layout Manager", "Site Controller" and "Layout Master". Obviously, these were not named or developed with the land surveyor in mind. To improve the user interface; they all utilize color graphics and construction-centric terminology.

So now we have available very productive, accurate and powerful robotic total stations for construction layout, topo verification, as-built's, earthwork quantity determination, with reflectorless and scanning capabilities. And, oh-by-the-way- they are also machine control sensors.

The first total station used for machine control, that I am aware of, was the Spectra Precision (Geodimeter) Advanced Tracking Sensor (ATS). This was developed and introduced to the market in the mid 1990's. The first use was for tracking motor graders, as part of Spectra Precision's Blade Pro 3D system. Soon, third party integrators began including the sensor as part of their solution. I believe the first was Somero Enterprises, who used the ATS for their automated screed system. Since then, many motor grader and paving solution providers have integrated these advanced sensors. Leica, alone is providing sensors for several paving machine makers, including Gomaco, Miller Formless, Power Curbers and Wirtgen. Somero offers a new version the ATS (the Trimble SPS Universal Total Station) as part of its 3-D Profiler system. Another early use was for the guidance of tunnel boring machines.

Just as GNSS systems do today, these total stations provide real-time positioning information. That position data is compared to design positions and appropriate actions takes place via the machine control system. However, total stations do not require line-of-sight to the satellites. They can replace GNSS technology when machines are working under obstructions or even underground. Manufacturers have made it easy to switch between GPS and total station sensors for added flexibility. Total stations are, of course, constrained by the required line-of-sight between the total station and the target on the machine and their limited range can also become an issue. Some manufacturers have overcome this constraint by making it possible for multiple total stations to be "strung together" to allow for uninterrupted machine control operation over greater distances. Also keep in mind that vertical accuracies are higher with a total station than with un-aided GNSS systems. It is possible to augment or enhance GNSS positions with laser-based instruments but line-of-sight to the sky must be available and surface scanning capability would not be available.

Surface scanning is a common capability with this class of instrument. Once the instrument's position and orientation are established, operators define a scanning area and interval for measurements. Then the instrument automatically (and un-aided) makes the required shots needed to determine the shape and volume of the desired area. Applications include stockpile and borrow pit measurements to determine volumes and quantities. I am sure you can think of many other applications that could benefit while you step away for a cup of coffee, or tend to another job site chore.

These new instruments (and their controlling software) fill many needs on the job site and compliment GNSS technology in a wide range of applications. Some of the newer models even include spatial imaging capabilities. Add to this the many machine control applications and you will conclude that a total station is no longer "just a total station".

To sum up the applications and advantages: The more expensive the material you are laying down is, the more you can save by using technologies with a very accurate vertical component (think paving and fine grading). You can augment GPS with lasers to arrive there, but then line of sight to the satellites is non-negotiable. For an all-round, flexible workhorse, complementing GPS technology, the new generation of machine control-capable total stations is hard to beat.

Your investigation into these units may surprise you as to just how versatile and productive they are. And that can impact your bottom line.

Resources:
Leica: www.leica-geosystems.us/en/ Machine-Control_4677.htm
Topcon: www.topconpositioning.com/ products/machine-control/3d/lps-900
Trimble: www.trimble.com/construction/heavy-and-highway/site-positioning-systems/Universal_Total_Stations. aspx?dtID=overview&

Paul Hahn has more than 30 years of experience, and has held senior management positions at Carl Zeiss, Nikon, Geotronics, Spectra Precision, and Trimble, and is now a consultant.

A 571Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

The Bottom Line - Been there. Done that.

Been There. Done That.
If years of accrued knowledge and experience make for a good machine control salesman; The PPI Group’s Jeff Peterson is full of it. (Sorry Jeff; you’ll be hearing that one for a while). After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard for six years as an electronic technician, Jeff joined the family business in 1985 doing instrument repairs while attending college. The company had been established in 1927 and was purchased by Jeff’s mother in 1961. With pride, Jeff points out “My mother was a pioneer in our industry. Over 41 years, she built an A/E/C/S company in the Pacific Northwest, from the very bottom, with minimum revenues, to a company covering a territory of three states and over 30 employees in 2002 doing $6M in annual sales”. After Jeff got his associate’s degree in business, he joined the company full-time. Then, in 2002, Jeff and other family members bought the business and renamed it The PPI Group. Jeff now serves as Senior Vice President and machine control specialist. Jeff’s 27 years of experience in the construction instrumentation industry has provided Jeff with a front-row seat to observe the maturation of the industry and the evolution of machine control technology. As an industry veteran, he is well qualified to comment on the current state of the machine control revolution and the benefits the technology brings to customers, after all, he has seen it first-hand from the beginning.

The Early Years
After serving time as a service technician, Jeff moved into inside sales of construction instruments, primarily optical and laser instruments. Eventually this new sales role led to a full-time position in outside sales of these products. At that time, the company represented Topcon, Sokkia and Laser Alignment products. Jeff sold exclusively to contractors, while others in the company sold the survey products into that space. In 1994, after Topcon purchased AGTEK’s machine control technology, Jeff got his hands on the early 2D machine control products and had great success introducing them to their existing contractor customers. This was a win-win situation for the customer, as many of them were already AGTEK users but preferred The PPI Group’s local presence and commitment to customer service and support. These systems utilized lasers, slope sensors and sonic tracers. As machine control technology and Jeff’s application knowledge grew, his transition into selling 3D machine control systems was also a success and now takes up 90% of his time. With a strong technical background and years of learning on jobsites big and small, Jeff has become a valuable asset to his company and customers.

The PPI Group
Covering Oregon, Washington and Northern Idaho for Topcon and Sokkia, The PPI Group (PPI) has 43 knowledgeable and dedicated employees committed to customer care after the sale. PPI is also an Autodesk dealer, which plays a significant role when teaching contractors the ins and outs of model building and handling electronic files. As many of the design engineers and surveyors are also PPI’s customers, they often play the role of unofficial liaison and advise the various project stakeholders when data looks wrong or there are apparent conflicts. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting everyone on the same page, and getting file formats squared away. Over the years, The PPI Group’s commitment to customer care has reaped many benefits for them including strong customer loyalty. According to Jeff, “Customer care after the sale is our #1 priority.” It shows, as many of PPI’s customers have been with them for over 20 years. The resultant success in sales has earned them one of Topcon’s “Top Ten Dealer “awards every year since they became a Topcon dealer. PPI has additional salesmen separately selling into the surveying or construction markets and covering different geographical regions. The construction segment salesmen are supported by a staff of machine control installers, trainers and technical support personnel. You can learn more about The PPI group on their website at http://www.theppigroup.com.

Changing Roles
Jeff called on all types of contractors until about six years ago when he says 3D machine control “really started taking off”, including home builders, concrete guys and a lot of general contractors who were interested in 2D machine control technology, as well as traditional instrumentation. Once the demand for 3D system started to grow he knew he had to focus more on grading, excavation and transportation contractors who relied more on heavy iron. “There just weren’t enough hours in the day to handle all the demand” Peterson said. Local contractors have also changed due to the advent of machine control. “More and more contractors are hiring licensed surveyors, GPS specialists as well as in-house data prep specialists” Jeff says. Even their local surveying customers are getting involved as with many have expanded their professional services to include data prep work services. This is one benefit of a broad customer base; if one of their contractor customers doesn’t want to do their own data prep, PPI can refer them to one of their surveyor customers who offers that service. With only 50% of their contractor customers choosing to do data prep in-house, PPI’s recommendation of local surveyors becomes a value-added service. For those contractors doing their own data prep work, PPI can support them with their staff of in-house software application engineers

The Maturation of Machine Control
Jeff states” Machine control technology has been advancing at a faster rate than it used to.” Not only have operators become more computer literate, but the user interfaces have improved vastly and application software has gotten more user-friendly (and less intimidating). Jeff says that machine control is no longer a concept that has to be presented to a potential customer (concept-sale), but rather contractors now believe the systems work and bring huge benefits. “Today, the contractor already grasps the concept” Peterson said. He went on to say “Systems now are faster, more feature-rich, more reliable and more robust. The customer requires less training and therefore gets up to speed faster and more quickly realizes their return on investment.”

Adoption Rates and Trends
According to Jeff, the recent years of weak economic construction activity has changed the sales trends a bit. The companies that have already embraced the technology are buying more and more systems, having already seen the benefits and knowing that the technology gives them a competitive edge. Those companies who have not yet adopted machine control are starting to investigate it as they know they are at a competitive disadvantage. Those same companies now see it as a necessity. Yet the weak economy has others still hesitant to buy, so PPI is renting systems more and more frequently. Some of those contractors only rent for a short time as “once they open their eyes” they quickly see the benefits and value of machine control and they then go ahead and buy. Others are still hesitant, unsure of where the next job is coming from, so they rent systems job-by-job. Some sign up for Rental Purchase Agreements which allows them to have some of the rent applied to a future purchase. ”A high percentage of PPI customers start their machine control transition by buying a GPS base and rover. This gets them use to the technology and handling electronic files.” Peterson believes that the biggest factor holding back faster machine control adoption is the recession.

A Look to the Future

Jeff believes future machine control system will be available for smaller machine. He also thinks new series will be introduced that will be offered at lower initial price-point, yet be upgradable to more advanced features. He also thinks that when machine control systems are more commonplace his customers will stop refusing to talk to other contractors about them for fear of losing a secret, competitive, advantage. That will make Jeff’s job a lot easier.

Conclusion
Jeff’s knowledge, skills and experience become quickly evident when he shows up for a product demonstration. He can come to your jobsite for a demo, topo the site, create a design, layout some points , do some volume calculations, create a surface model, transfer the model to your machine and put you in the driver’s seat. You don’t learn that overnight! If something additional is required, the PPI staff has his (and the customer’s) back. Just as the technology has matured and advanced over the years, so have the abilities and capabilities of your local machine control dealers. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you can’t go far wrong by having someone like Jeff come visit you.

Sidebar
I really enjoyed my interview with Jeff Peterson. I was surprised to find that we had many things in common: we both went to the US Coast Guard Boot Camp in Alameda, CA, we both held First Class FCC Licenses, we both love technology. And I, for one, am full of it.

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How to Find Government Contracts

Paul F. HahnThere are many opportunities for substantial contracts with the US Government.  However, finding your way through all the Govt. websites and learning some of the unique Govt. nomenclature can be a time-consuming task.  In this article I will discuss some basics and key indicators that should save you a considerable amount of time. 

 

First, some basic terms you should know:

A. Dun and Bradstreet (B&D) Registration

  • You probably already have this but if not your company needs to apply

 

B. Contractors Central Registration (CCR)

  • You must be registered in CCR to do business with the Govt.

  • Their website is: https://www.bpn.gov/ccr/

 

C. Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA)

  • Required to receive an award from the Govt.

 

D. Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website

  • This is your main website for finding opportunities for Govt. contracts

 

E. Business Partner Network

  • A very helpful source of information

  • Contains links to CCR,SBA, ORCA and FBO

 

F. The Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code

  • Required for Govt. contracts

  • The CAGE request process is incorporated into the CCR registration

 

G.  Federal Service Desk

  • Contains great info on how to register in CCR

 

H. Small Business Administration

  • Registration is very helpful in getting awards as many contracts are set-aside for small businesses

 

I. North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes

  • ORCA and CCR require you to select these codes that describe your business

  • You will find the codes are non-specific but adequate to describe the kind of work or services you can provide (check

  • Check out categories under codes 221, 236, 237,and 238 for a start

 

J. Product Service Codes (PSC) and Federal Supply Classification (FSC) codes

  • Only a few of these apply to construction work, for example:

  • Y -- Construction of structures and facilities

  •  Z -- Maintenance, repair, and alteration of real property

 

The foregoing is a lot to take in at first glance.  Don’t be discouraged, you only need to accomplish each step one at-a-time.  The most time-intensive tasks are getting registered in CCR and ORCA.

If you have never searched for Request for Proposals (RFP) or Request for Quotations (RFQ) from the Government; the best place to get a feel for how things work, is FBO.  This will be the main emphasis of this article.

The first step is to go to the Federal Opportunities Website:  https://www.fbo.gov/

  • Click on “Find Opportunities”

 

  • In the “Keyword/Solicitation#” box type in: Construction Projects

 

  • Select “Last 30 Days” in the “Posted Date” drop-down menu

 

  • Click “Search”

 

  • This will give you an idea of what type of projects are available

 

  • Clicking on a single project shows you details of the solicitation

 

  • If there are numerous entries (denoting changes or revisions) you will be able to backtrack to the original solicitation when you will find a link to the “Solicitation” or “Synopsis” on the webpage

 

  • Important note:  FBO’s programming does not like use of the back button.  If you need to go back to the opportunities list, use the “Return to Opportunities” button near the top of the page.  This will save you a lot of time and frustration!

 

  • There are many things that can frustrate and discourage you during your searches for work.  Many of the posting are limited to contractors already working on the projects.  These are often noted on the opportunities list as “Special Notices” in the “type/set-aside” column.  You may also see “Awards” in this column.  You can skip that opportunity unless you want to see who won the contract and at what bid price.

 

The better way to search for opportunities is to set up one or more a “Search Agents”.  There are many benefits to using search agents, including email notifications and quick searches individualized to your specific criteria.  To be able to set up search agents and receive customized alerts you will need to have a DUNS number and be registered in CCR.

Once you are registered, you can log in as a “Vendors/Citizen”.  Next, click on the “Opportunities” tab. At the top of the web page you will see a tab marked “Search Agents”; click on this tab. Now you can create a new search agent by clicking on the “Add New Search Agent” box located on this page.  Fill in the required data.  You can limit searches geographically or by appropriate set-aside code, but most importantly, you can specify the type of work you are interested in by selecting the NAICS Code and the Classification Codes that describe your specialty.  You should also set up a schedule for the search agent to run.  I have mine set up to run daily. This saves a great amount of time later on when you receive your email alerts or want to run the search agent manually.  By using search agents; you will not be overwhelmed with projects that don’t meet your criteria.

The next tip is for sorting through the email alerts you will receive.  Below is an example of an alert that I received for Construction projects:

Saturday, January 28, 2012, 07:59 am

Dear Paul:

Your FBO Opportunity Search Agent called: 'construction projects' has identified the following opportunities that have either been newly posted or modified and match your search criteria.

Title:             RECOVERY--Z--PROJECT NUMBER 16040, Sam Rayburn Dam and Reservoir, TX
Sol. #:            W9126G10R0091
Agency:            Department of the Army
Office:            U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Location:          USACE District, Fort Worth
Posted On:         Jan 27, 2012 2:40 pm
Base Type:         Award Notice
Link:        
https://www.fbo.gov/spg/USA/COE/DACA63/Awards/W9126G10C0055P00003.html

Note that the second-to-last line is entitled “Base Type”.  In this example the base type is “Award Notice”.  If I am looking for new opportunities, I can skip this one and look for ones labeled “Pre-solicitation” or “Combined Synopsis/Solicitation”.  These will be new opportunities.

It has been a long time since I first learned all of this, as I stared back in 1993, and learned it one step at-a-time. So I may have forgotten a step or two.  However, there are lots of guides and good tutorials on the FBO site and individual help can be obtained by calling the Federal Service Desk. They have been very helpful to me in the past. These links and instructions appear on the “My FBO” web page.

Finding Federal Government work can be a big boost to your company’s business.  There are many new projects announced daily.  I hope I have offered up some good tips to save you time getting started and wading through the daily alerts.  There is no need to feel intimidated; lots of good help is available from the Federal Service Desk and online tutorials.  Once you learn a few new terms you will find easy to stay abreast of the government contracts up for grabs.

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