B-181102, B-180720, AUG 15, 1974

B-180720,B-181102: Aug 15, 1974

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ALTHOUGH CONTRACTING AGENCY IS NOT REQUIRED TO ACCEPT EQUIPMENT THAT DOES NOT MEET PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS. SPECIFICATIONS DESIGNATING IRONER AS CHEST-TYPE VERSUS ROLL-TYPE IS INAPPROPRIATE WHEN AGENCY IS CAPABLE OF STATING ITS MINIMUM NEEDS IN TERMS OF PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS WHICH MAY BE SATISFIED BY ROLL-TYPE IRONER. CHICAGO DRYER COMPANY: MCCABE CORPORATION: THE PROTESTS IN THIS CASE ARE AGAINST THE ALLEGED RESTRICTIVENESS OF VETERANS ADMINISTRATION (VA) SPECIFICATION X-1421. COMMERCIAL (APRONLESS) AND VENTILATING CANOPY. ***" SOLICITATIONS FOR IRONERS AT THREE VA INSTALLATIONS ARE AT ISSUE: WILKES BARRE. ALSO IN QUESTION IS THE VA SIZE CHOICE FOR THE SPREADER/FEEDER THAT MUST BE COMPATIBLE WITH THE IRONER.

B-181102, B-180720, AUG 15, 1974

ALTHOUGH CONTRACTING AGENCY IS NOT REQUIRED TO ACCEPT EQUIPMENT THAT DOES NOT MEET PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS, SPECIFICATIONS DESIGNATING IRONER AS CHEST-TYPE VERSUS ROLL-TYPE IS INAPPROPRIATE WHEN AGENCY IS CAPABLE OF STATING ITS MINIMUM NEEDS IN TERMS OF PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS WHICH MAY BE SATISFIED BY ROLL-TYPE IRONER.

CHARLES J. DISPENZA & ASSOCIATES; CHICAGO DRYER COMPANY: MCCABE CORPORATION:

THE PROTESTS IN THIS CASE ARE AGAINST THE ALLEGED RESTRICTIVENESS OF VETERANS ADMINISTRATION (VA) SPECIFICATION X-1421, AS AMENDED, FOR AN "IRONER, FLATWORK, LARGE ROLL, COMMERCIAL (APRONLESS) AND VENTILATING CANOPY. ***" SOLICITATIONS FOR IRONERS AT THREE VA INSTALLATIONS ARE AT ISSUE: WILKES BARRE, PENNSYLVANIA; LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS; AND BRECKSVILLE, OHIO. ALSO IN QUESTION IS THE VA SIZE CHOICE FOR THE SPREADER/FEEDER THAT MUST BE COMPATIBLE WITH THE IRONER.

THE GENESIS OF THE PROTESTS IS OUR DECISION B-178508, OCTOBER 23, 1973, CONCERNING AN EARLIER PROTEST AGAINST THE SAME SPECIFICATION BY CHARLES J. DISPENZA & ASSOCIATES (DISPENZA). IN THAT DECISION, WE AFFIRMED OUR COMMITMENT TO THE PROPOSITION THAT SPECIFICATIONS SHOULD PERMIT THE BROADEST FIELD OF COMPETITION TO FULFILL THE LEGITIMATE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT. WITHIN THIS CONCEPT, IT IS OUR OPINION THAT A SPECIFICATION THAT DICTATES THE MANNER IN WHICH THE GOVERNMENT'S REQUIREMENT BE FULFILLED, BEYOND STATING THE GOVERNMENT'S MINIMUM NEED, IS RESTRICTIVE OF COMPETITION. AS ADVANCED BY VA, ITS ADMINISTRATIVE PREFERENCE FOR A CHEST -TYPE IRONER TO PRODUCE CONSTANT QUALITY LINENS THROUGH WRINKLE-FREE OPERATION DID NOT CONSTITUTE, IN OUR OPINION, A VALID JUSTIFICATION TO IMPOSE A DESIGN REQUIREMENT BEYOND THE STATED PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENT. RECOMMENDED THAT THE REQUIREMENT IN THE VA SPECIFICATION FOR A CHEST-TYPE IRONER BE REVIEWED TO PROVIDE A COMPETITIVE OPPORTUNITY TO THOSE FIRMS THAT MIGHT MEET THE PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENT OF 900 SHEETS PER HOUR, USING A METHOD OTHER THAN CHEST TYPE, WHILE STILL MAINTIINING QUALITY STANDARDS.

SUBSEQUENT TO B-178508, SUPRA, THE VA ISSUED THE PROTESTED SOLICITATIONS INCORPORATING VA SPECIFICATION X-1421, APPARENTLY WITHOUT CONSIDERATION OF OUR RECOMMENDATION. THE SPREADER/FEEDER AND IRONER WERE REQUIRED AS A COMPATIBLE COMBINATION. THE SELECTION OF THE SIZE 2 SPREADER/FEEDER ELIMINATED THE USE OF THE MCCABE SPREADER/FEEDER, SIZE 1, WHICH IS COMPATIBLE WITH THE TITAN IRONER MANUFACTURED BY THE CHICAGO DRYER COMPANY (CHICAGO). INASMUCH AS DISPENZA HAS BID ON THE BASIS OF FURNISHING THE CHICAGO IRONER WITH THE MCCABE SPREADER/FEEDER, BOTH OF THOSE FIRMS HAVE JOINED IN THE PROTESTS. WHILE IT WAS ALLEGED THAT AMERICAN LAUNDRY MACHINERY WAS THE SOLE MANUFACTURER OF CHEST-TYPE IRONERS, WE WERE INFORMED AT THE CONFERENCE HELD AT OUR OFFICE, PURSUANT TO SECTION 20.9 OF GAO'S INTERIM BID PROTEST PROCEDURES AND STANDARDS, THAT SUPER LAUNDRY MACHINERY CO., INC., HAD ACQUIRED THE MANUFACTURING RIGHTS TO SUCH EQUIPMENT FROM AMETEK, AFTER IT CEASED ITS OPERATIONS IN THE FIELD. NOTE THIS TO DISPEL THE NOTION OF SINGLE SOURCE OF SUPPLY.

IN ADDITION TO THE ALLEGED SPACE LIMITATIONS IN THE VA HOSPITAL LAUNDRIES, THE VA DIRECTOR, BUILDING MANAGEMENT SERVICE STATED, CONCERNING THE MCCABE SPREADER/FEEDER, THAT THEY HAD:

"*** NOT PROVEN SATISFACTORY REGARDING BOTH QUALITY AND QUANTITY OF FINISHED WORK WHEN USED IN CONJUNCTION WITH EITHER COMBINATION FOLDER/CROSS FOLDERS OR FOLDERS WITH SEPARATE CROSS FOLDERS. *** PROBLEMS WITH THIS EQUIPMENT IS BEST ILLUSTRATED BY THE FACT THAT OF THE 21 MACHINES PURCHASED BY THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION IN THE PAST, ONLY TWO STATIONS, TO OUR KNOWLEDGE, ARE STILL USING THE EQUIPMENT.

"*** ALSO, WE HAVE NOT HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO OBSERVE OPERATION OF THE NEW TYPE MACHINE TO DETERMINE IF THERE ARE SUFFICIENT IMPROVEMENTS IN THE QUALITY AND QUANTITY OF THE WORK IT WILL PRODUCE TO JUSTIFY ITS PROCUREMENT."

AT THE CONFERENCE HELD AT OUR OFFICE, MCCABE SUBMITTED A LIST OF ITS SPREADER/FEEDERS PURCHASED BY VA AND STILL IN USE. IN LIGHT OF THIS INFORMATION, VA OFFICIALS AGREED TO REEVALUATE THEIR POSITION THROUGH INSPECTION OF THE MACHINES. IT WAS FURTHER AGREED THAT IF THE MACHINES WERE OPERATIONALLY CAPABLE OF MEETING THE AGENCY NEEDS THE VA WOULD ACCEPT THEM AS SATISFYING THEIR SPECIFICATIONS FOR SPREADER/FEEDERS. PENDING THIS ACTION, MCCABE INDICATED THAT ITS PROTEST HAD BEEN SATISFIED AND THAT NO FURTHER ACTION NEED BY TAKEN BY OUR OFFICE.

CONCERNING THE CHEST-TYPE VERSUS ROLL-TYPE IRONER, THE VA ASSERTS THAT THE ROLL-TYPE IRONER OFFERED BY DISPENZA (THE CHICAGO TITAN), PRODUCES INFERIOR QUALITY FLATWORK. THE DIFFERENCE IS NOTED PARTICULARLY BY VA WHEN WORKING WITH 100-PERCENT COTTON MATERIAL OR HEAVIER WEIGHTED MATERIAL.

"ON THE HEATED ROLL-TYPE IRONER, MATERIAL IS HELD AGAINST HEATED ROLLS AS IT PASSES THROUGH THE MACHINE BY A SERIES OF BELTS. PRESSURE APPLIED BY THESE BELTS IS NOT ADEQUATE TO COMPLETELY IRON THE MATERIAL AND RESULTS ARE PRIMARILY A DRYING PROCESS. THE EXCEPTION TO THIS IS LARGE PIECE FLATWORK SUCH AS SHEETS WHERE A STRETCHING OUT EFFECT IS OBTAINED BY SLIGHTLY INCREASED SPEED OF EACH SUBSEQUENT ROLL. THIS RESULTS IN SOME IMPROVEMENT IN THE QUALITY, ESPECIALLY WITH REGARD TO SHEETS MADE OF POLYESTER/COTTON BLEND MATERIALS. THE STRETCHING OUT EFFECT IS NOT ADEQUATE TO SATISFACTORILY REMOVE WRINKLES FROM 100% COTTON SHEETS OR ITEMS MADE OF HEAVIER WEIGHT MATERIAL SUCH AS TABLE CLOTHS. THIS STRETCHING EFFECT IS NOT ACHIEVED FOR SMALLER ITEMS WHICH WILL NOT EXCEED OVER MORE THAN ONE ROLL THEREFORE WRINKLES ARE NOT SATISFACTORILY REMOVED FROM THESE SMALLER ITEMS. THE QUALITY OF HEAVIER WEIGHT AND SMALL ITEMS CAN BE IMPROVED SOME BY REDUCING THE SPEED OF THE HEATED ROLL-TYPE IRONER BELOW WHAT IS NORMAL SPEED FOR A CHEST-TYPE MACHINE. THE VALUE OF THIS LIMITED IMPROVEMENT IN QUALITY, HOWEVER, DOES NOT JUSTIFY THE REDUCTION IN PRODUCTIVITY WHICH RESULTS FROM THE REDUCED SPEED OF THE IRONER.

"ALL MATERIAL PASSING THROUGH THE CHEST-TYPE IRONER IS UNDER HIGH PRESSURE BETWEEN THE ROLLS AND A HEATED CHEST. THIS ASSURES THAT ALL ITEMS ARE SATISFACTORILY IRONED PLUS THE PRESSURE AGAINST THE HEATED CHEST ASSURES OPTIMUM DRYING CAPABILITIES.

"ALL REUSABLE SURGICAL LINENS IN VA HOSPITALS ARE MADE OF 100% COTTON WITH MANY OF THESE ITEMS DOUBLE THICKNESS. ADDITIONALLY, A LARGE MAJORITY OF GENERAL USE LINENS ARE ALSO 100% COTTON. FOR THE ABOVE STATED REASONS, A HEATED ROLL-TYPE IRONER WOULD ADVERSELY AFFECT BOTH THE QUALITY AND QUANTITY OF FLATWORK PROCESSED, ESPECIALLY WITH REGARD TO SMALL PIECES AND ITEMS HEAVIER THAN SINGLE THICKNESS POLYESTER/COTTON BLEND SHEETING."

THE VA NOTES THAT THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT THAT THE GOVERNMENT PURCHASE EQUIPMENT WHICH DOES NOT, IN THE CONSIDERED JUDGMENT OF THE CONTRACTING AGENCY, REASONABLY MEET THE AGENCY'S LEGITIMATE NEEDS, CITING B-172903, JULY 6, 1971. IN VA'S OPINION, THE FOREGOING CONSTITUTES A VALID NEED OF THE AGENCY, THEREBY RENDERING THE SPECIFICATION SUFFICIENT.

REFERRING AGAIN TO OUR DECISION B-178508, SUPRA, IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT WE CONCLUDED THE REQUIREMENT FOR A CHEST-TYPE IRONER MAY HAVE UNDULY RESTRICTED COMPETITION ABSENT ANY FURTHER JUSTIFICATION DEMONSTRATING THAT ANY OTHER TYPE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO PROVIDE WRINKLE FREE FLATWORK. VA'S JUSTIFICATION AS PRESENTED HERE, AGAIN CENTERS ON THE ABILITY OF THE CHEST -TYPE IRONER TO BETTER REMOVE WRINKLES FROM ALL COTTON AND HEAVIER WEIGHT MATERIAL. IN ESSENCE, THIS IS THE SAME ARGUMENT ADVANCED IN B-178508, SUPRA, WHICH WE DID NOT BELIEVE WAS AMPLE JUSTIFICATION. WE CONTINUE TO BE OF THE SAME OPINION. HOWEVER, VA NOW ASSERTS FURTHER THAT THE HEATED ROLL-TYPE IRONER IS INCAPABLE OF SATISFACTORY PERFORMANCE ON THE TYPE OF MATERIAL WHICH IT WILL BE REQUIRED TO IRON MOST OFTEN.

BE IT 900 OR 600 SHEETS PER HOUR REQUIRED TO BE IRONED BY THE MACHINE - THE QUANTITY BEING FOR DETERMINATION BY THE VA - THE QUALITY OF THE IRONING OF THE LINEN CAN BE ASCERTAINED BY INSPECTION OF THE PERFORMANCE OF THE OFFERED IRONERS AT FUNCTIONING INSTALLATIONS. IN PART, THE QUALITY AND QUANTITY OF FLATWORK PRODUCED IS A FUNCTION OF THE CAPABILITY OF THE INDIVIDUALS OPERATING THE MACHINES. HOWEVER, WE BELIEVE THAT THE CONDITIONS OF THE INSPECTION ARE MATTERS TO BE RESOLVED BY THE VA AND PROTESTERS.

WE BELIEVE THAT THE MATTERS PRESENTLY BEING ARGUED BEFORE OUR OFFICE CAN PROPERLY BE RESOLVED BY VA AGAIN REVIEWING ITS REQUIREMENTS IN LIGHT OF WHAT WAS STATED IN B-178508, SUPRA. WE DID NOT STATE THAT VA WAS REQUIRED TO ACCEPT EQUIPMENT THAT COULD NOT MEET ITS PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS AND MINIMUM QUALITY STANDARDS. RATHER, IT IS OUR VIEW THAT IT IS INAPPROPRIATE TO STATE WHETHER THE IRONER IS TO BE CHEST OR ROLL-TYPE, THE SPECIFICATIONS OF PERFORMANCE AND QUALITY REQUIREMENTS BEING THE MINIMUM NEED OF THE VA. AGAIN WE NOTE THAT SECTION 6.4 OF VA SPECIFICATION X-1421 PROVIDES VA WITH THE OPPORTUNITY TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE PROFFERED EQUIPMENT WILL MEET ITS NEEDS THROUGH ONSITE INSPECTIONS.

IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT APPROPRIATE CORRECTIVE ACTION BE TAKEN TO CONFORM TO THE FOREGOING.