12 control engineering benefits of QBS, qualifications-based selection, for services

The fee for technical skills and experience provided by a high quality engineering firm amounts to approximately 1% of the total cost of the project. Yet these services are critical to determining the other 99% of the project's life-cycle costs, as well as the quality of the completed project. Qualifications-based selection (QBS) can help.



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The fee for technical skills and experience provided by a high quality engineering firm amounts to approximately 1% of the total cost of the project. Yet these services are critical to determining the other 99% of the project’s life-cycle costs, as well as the quality of the completed project.

To help balance cost and quality, U.S. government established qualifications-based selection (QBS) in 1972 for when federal agencies use architectural and engineering services. Those other than the federal agencies benefit from using QBS.

12 ways QBS can to improve your project


Control Engineering surveyed packaging OEMs about selection of system integration services.

In selecting engineering services, the process of QBS:

-Creates a competitive procurement process in which engineering firms submit qualifications to the procuring agency (the owner), the owner assesses the expertise of the competing firms;

-Chooses the most qualified firm to negotiate the project scope and associated fee;

-Ensures proper attention is given to control engineering services critical to lifecycle project success, such as support, computer security, backup processes, and regulatory compliance with control panels.

-Recognizes that cost is an issue, but not at the expense of the skill of the practitioner and the quality of related work, which determines the true value of their services.

-Avoids selecting an engineering firm based on the lowest bid; the cheapest design is bound to produce a poor quality project;

-Weighs proposals first on competence, creativity and performance, followed by negotiation of a fair and reasonable price with the most-qualified firm, allowing flexibility to select the professional design firm best suited for the task.

-Creates an atmosphere of trust where the owner and a firm’s engineers can develop a detailed scope together, avoid miscommunication, and establish a mutually agreed upon price.

-Establishes a relationship that allows the owner and design professional firm to work together to develop the project scope and determine alternative materials and designs that will minimize long-term operational and maintenance costs.

-Determines costs early in the project, so owners receive a clear indication of overall financial requirements.

-Says that if the owner and most-qualified firm cannot reach an agreement on project scope, schedule, and budget, the owner then negotiates with the next-most-qualified firm.

-Has been adopted by 44 states and hundreds of localities.

-Is endorsed by the American Bar Association, the American Public Works Association, the Associated General Contractors, and all major design professional associations.

For more, see related article in June 2009 Control Engineering, North American print edition .

- Vance VanDoren , Ph.D., P.E., is consulting editor with Control Engineering , www.controleng.com . Ron Brenke is QBS manager at American Council of Engineering Companies– Michigan, www.QBS-MI.org . Edited by Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering editor in chief, System Integration Monthly eNewsletter


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