Purchasing Workflow Part 2 – Equipment and Subcontracts

We're excited to share a smart and simple new Workflow for purchasing Equipment and Subcontracts.

The Workflow for purchasing Equipment and Subcontracts from start to finish and four steps in between.

The goal of the Workflow was to maximize Buyout Savings, which is achieved simply by purchasing something for less than you (or your estimators) thought it would cost.

We think the Workflow achieves the goal, and something else, a little more esoteric.

Workflow Summary

The Workflow has one main stream, so to speak, that connects four parts:

  1. Scope Input — Scope of work is input to a Workplace Innovation Platform. 
  2. Scope Distribution — Documents are shared with Equipment Vendors and Subcontractors.
  3. Vendor Quotes — Bids and quotes are submitted in confidence, back into the Workplace Innovation Platform.
  4. Commitments — Commitments are made to Equipment Vendors and Subcontractors.

Design Criteria – W5H

The Workflow was conceived some time ago on a large construction project. Here we recount some of the questions that came up in design, like “When does Procurement start?” (Hint: before Project Management does.)

Chronology was only one of three important entities we identified during design. The other two were People and Documents.

Three entities identified in design: Chronology, People, and Documents.

We also identified some troubling interactions — when the entities were paired up. Fortunately, we solved the trouble by borrowing a term from the art world. All we had to do was visualize all three entities simultaneously.

Let’s begin by looking at them individually.

Design Entities

Three important entities were identified in design:

  1. Chronology – the various stages of procurement.
  2. People – the various departments and companies involved in all stages of procurement. 
  3. Documents – the many files shared between all people and through all stages of procurement.

Each of these were considered carefully, starting with Documents.


Many documents go back and forth between Contractors, Equipment Vendors, and Subcontractors before and during construction. The documents include tender drawings, specifications, addenda, bids, awards, changes, more changes, quotes and requotes.


Procurement generally happens in three stages:

  1. Tenders
  2. Awards
  3. Changes

The stages of Procurement are traditionally treated separately. Maybe because they happen at different times, or because they are performed by different departments, each with their own workflows.


The relevant parties involved are:

  1. Estimators
  2. Equipment Vendors and Subcontractors (Bidders and Winners)
  3. Project Managers, Foremen, and Site Coordinators
  4. Purchasing Agents and Accounts Payable
  5. Legal (for Subcontract Agreements only)

All are in-house except for Equipment Vendors and Subcontractors.

The entities, illustrated in Venn-diagram format - reveal troubles when any two entities are paired, and provenance when all three are joined.

Confluence vs. Provenance

‘Confluence’ is the junction of two rivers.

‘Provenance’ is the chronology of the ownership, custody or location of a historical object. The term was originally mostly used in relation to works of art. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provenance.)

These words were used metaphorically during design to help us:

  1. Characterize troublesome interactions between any two entities and
  2. Visualize a solution for all three.

Provenance helped us imagine all three entities simultaneously, to create a recurrent workflow, one that people can use and reuse, for Base Contracts / Purchase Orders and for Change Orders. Plus one that tracks the “ownership” and the chronology of documents along the way.

Conversely, confluence (the pairing of any two of the three entities) spelled trouble:

  1. People ∩ Chronology: People are promoted, reassigned, and replaced. Estimators pass the baton to Project Management. Whatever the circumstance, transitions hurt procurement. And not always right away; mistakes and oversights in procurement may go unnoticed until the very end, when commissioning starts.
  2. Documents ∩ Chronology: Design and construction documents are revised, amended, or replaced. Officially, the revisions are called addenda, post-tender addenda, site instructions, change notices, and change directives. They are issued frequently and can easily number in the hundreds on a large project. Plus, each revision is often followed by vendor quotes, and requotes. Revisions can happen at any and all stages of construction, from tendering, through the peak of production, to close-out. Staying current can be a daunting.
  3. People ∩ Documents: People email everything nowadays, and they copy everyone. The email glut contributes to overproduction, meaning the same files are being stored on multiple devices, in-house or in the cloud. Cheap storage is great, but it’s no reason to rationalize duplication. Not when people’s time is being wasted administering the files.

Enter provenance, which helped us visualize an excellent solution, and create a Workflow that answers back:

  1. Transitions Simplified:The Workflow makes it easy for new people to get up to speed.
  2. Revisions Tracked: The Workflow tracks what was issued, when and by whom, automatically.
  3. Overproduction Eliminated: The Workflow reduces email glut and eliminates waste.

Next Steps

The Workflow includes a Workplace Innovation Platform, which is magnified here:

Same Purchasing Workflow, this time with Workplace Innovation Platform magnified.
Same Purchasing Workflow… magnified

The Workplace Innovation Platform is a placeholder for a Custom App, which is a conceptual solution intended to curate documents, invite bids, and make commitments. Three key features include Provenance, Real-Time Metrics, and Integration:

  1. Provenance – The Custom App curates documents like works of art.
  2. Real-Time Metrics – The Custom App records bids and commitments, in one place, in real time.
  3. Integration – The Custom App integrates with your estimating software and with your accounting software.

Now we need you. We’re excited about the Purchasing Workflow for Equipment and Subcontracts and what it means for stakeholders in the industry. If you are one of those stakeholders and you understand the Workflow and are just as excited about it, then contact us today.

Free Download

Want a free copy of our new pdf “Purchasing Workflows?” Just enter your name and email address for free access!

Canoeing on a river. Up ahead are two more canoes. One is hardly distinguishable.
'Rush Hour' to and from Grand Lake, Algonquin Park

This post is part of a series aimed at designing excellent workflows for the Construction Industry.

Leave a Reply

Leo Di Croce

Can read a psychrometric chart and a job cost report. 1 part Engineer, 1 part project manager, 2 parts geek, and 3 parts back-country tourist. Too many parts?