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Sun 26 Nov 2000 04:00 AM

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ARENCO launches online contracting system

Architectural and engineering consultancy ARENCO, working with Alpha Data have taken steps to move its tendering processes online with the launch of a new website.

Architectural and engineering consultancy ARENCO is set to move its tendering operations online, with the establishment of a web site that will handle almost 400 million dirhams ($108 million) worth of contracts per year.

The site, set up in association with information services provider Alpha Data, will be used to host documentation and drawings for projects for distribution to approved contractors of Dubai-based ARENCO, which carries out public and private building projects, civil engineering and highway engineering in the UAE.

The system allows ARENCO’s contracts department to simply post up project details and then e-mail approved contractors with an invitation to tender for the project, along with a password for the specific project and instructions on how to access the site. The password prevents contractors from accessing any other projects than the one they have been asked to tender for. The contractor is then able to download the drawings or to print them directly using his web browser.

“If we were tendering out a contract to say five contractors, we used to have to print five sets of drawings and documents and distribute it accordingly,” explained Yasser Gaber, EDP operations executive for ARENCO. “Now we save all this time internally, and the contractors save time because they don’t have to come to our office. On top of that, if we have any revisions, which we normally do, the revisions are available online instantly for the contractor and he is informed instantly that there is a revision.”

The idea for the site came about when Autodesk, creators of AutoCAD, introduced a new file format for AutoCAD2000. The drawing web format (.dwf) compresses the standard AutoCAD drawing file (.dwg) into just a few kilobytes, to make it suitable for transfer over and hosting on the web. Alpha Data approached ARENCO with the idea of using the format to set up the tendering service. ARENCO liked the project, and began developing the solution as a joint venture with specific input from chief architect Deepak Patker and the contracts department. The first online tender will be made sometime this month.

“The .dwf format is exactly the same quality as a normal AutoCAD drawing,” Gaber said. “All we have to do is save our drawings in the format and that is it. It is not an editable format, so the contractors cannot alter it, so it is secure. They don’t even need AutoCAD to open it, because we provide the utility on the site to print directly from the browser to the original scale.”

Gaber says that off the shelf solutions for tendering were not available, because although consultancies follow general procedures, each one has its own tendering policies. The system is hosted on a simple Pentium III 600Mhz machine running Win NT 4, Microsoft SQL server and Integrated Internet Server. The set up also hosts a complete database of approved contractors organised by discipline, and sub-contractors and suppliers for each project.

“Basically we are starting out with a very simple system to try it out and get feedback from the users, said Gaber. “In the beginning we will accept normal tenders as we don’t expect everybody to be online, but as the contractors get used to it, we will take it further. We might consider going for a complete collaboration system between the contractor and the consultant in the second phase,” said Gaber.

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