B-215837, NOV 23, 1984, 84-2 CPD 549

B-215837: Nov 23, 1984

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CONTRACTS - TWO-STEP PROCUREMENT - STEP ONE - OFFER OR PROPOSALS - EVALUATION - EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENT DIGEST: CONTRACTING OFFICER ACTED REASONABLY IN DETERMINING THAT OFFEROR MET EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENT CONTAINED IN SOLICITATION WHERE REQUIREMENT WAS FOR SIMILAR BUT NOT IDENTICAL EXPERIENCE AND OFFEROR'S PROPOSAL CONTAINED EVIDENCE OF EXPERIENCE IN EXCESS OF THAT REQUIRED. RAPISTAN ASSERTS THAT THE EXPERIENCE LISTED BY ANCHOR IS NOT OF THE KIND REQUIRED BY THE SOLICITATION. THE SOLICITATION WAS ISSUED BY DLA IN THE FORM OF A TWO-STEP. THE REQUIREMENT AT ISSUE IS CONTAINED IN THE FIRST STEP. INSTALLING MATERIAL HANDLING EQUIPMENT THAT IS SUBSTANTIALLY THE SAME TYPE AS CALLED FOR IN THE REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL ...

B-215837, NOV 23, 1984, 84-2 CPD 549

CONTRACTS - TWO-STEP PROCUREMENT - STEP ONE - OFFER OR PROPOSALS - EVALUATION - EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENT DIGEST: CONTRACTING OFFICER ACTED REASONABLY IN DETERMINING THAT OFFEROR MET EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENT CONTAINED IN SOLICITATION WHERE REQUIREMENT WAS FOR SIMILAR BUT NOT IDENTICAL EXPERIENCE AND OFFEROR'S PROPOSAL CONTAINED EVIDENCE OF EXPERIENCE IN EXCESS OF THAT REQUIRED, WHICH THE CONTRACTING OFFICER CONSIDERED TO BE SUFFICIENTLY SIMILAR TO WARRANT CONSIDERATION.

RAPISTAN, A DIVISION OF LEAR SIEGLER, INC.:

RAPISTAN, A DIVISION OF LEAR SIEGLER, INC. (RAPISTAN), PROTESTS THE AWARD OF A CONTRACT FOR THE FURNISHING AND INSTALLATION OF A PALLET AND PACKAGE CONVEYOR SYSTEM TO ANCHOR CONVEYORS, INC. (ANCHOR), UNDER SOLICITATION NO. DLA410-84-B-6776, ISSUED BY THE DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY (DLA). RAPISTAN ASSERTS THAT ANCHOR DID NOT SUBMIT EVIDENCE OF APPROPRIATE PRIOR EXPERIENCE FOR ITSELF OR ITS MAIN SUBCONTRACTOR, HUSKY HYDRAULICS, INC. (HUSKY), AS REQUIRED UNDER THE SOLICITATION. IN PARTICULAR, RAPISTAN ASSERTS THAT THE EXPERIENCE LISTED BY ANCHOR IS NOT OF THE KIND REQUIRED BY THE SOLICITATION.

WE FIND THE PROTEST WITHOUT MERIT.

THE SOLICITATION WAS ISSUED BY DLA IN THE FORM OF A TWO-STEP, FORMALLY ADVERTISED PROCUREMENT. THE REQUIREMENT AT ISSUE IS CONTAINED IN THE FIRST STEP, THE REQUEST FOR TECHNICAL PROPOSALS (RFTP). SPECIFICALLY, PARAGRAPH 13 OF THE RFTP, AS AMENDED, REQUIRES THAT:

"OFFERORS SHALL SUBMIT WITH EACH PROPOSAL A RESUME OF THE OFFEROR'S AND ANY PROPOSED MAJOR SUB-CONTRACTOR'SS') PRIOR EXPERIENCE IN DEVELOPING, MANUFACTURING, AND INSTALLING MATERIAL HANDLING EQUIPMENT THAT IS SUBSTANTIALLY THE SAME TYPE AS CALLED FOR IN THE REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL ... THE CONTRACTOR'S RESUME ... SHALL DEMONSTRATE THREE (3) YEARS EXPERIENCE IN DESIGN, FABRICATION, INSTALLATION AND TESTING OF THIS TYPE OR SIMILAR SYSTEMS/EQUIPMENT. THE GOVERNMENT MAY REJECT AN OFFER BASED ON INSUFFICIENCY OF EXPERIENCE IN THE ASSOCIATED INDUSTRYIES)."

DLA DETERMINED THAT BOTH RAPISTAN'S AND ANCHOR'S PROPOSALS WERE TECHNICALLY ACCEPTABLE, AND BOTH WERE INVITED TO SUBMIT BIDS UNDER THE SECOND STEP OF THE PROCUREMENT. ANCHOR SUBMITTED THE LOW BID OF $694,816. RAPISTAN'S BID OF $939,219 WAS SECOND LOW. DLA AWARDED THE CONTRACT TO ANCHOR, AND RAPISTAN PROTESTED TO OUR OFFICE THAT ANCHOR AND ITS MAIN SUBCONTRACTOR, HUSKY, DID NOT MEET THE PRIOR EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENT CONTAINED IN THE RFTP.

WE HAVE RECOGNIZED THAT THE TWO-STEP, FORMAL ADVERTISING PROCEDURE COMBINES THE BENEFITS OF COMPETITIVE ADVERTISING WITH THE FLEXIBILITY OF NEGOTIATION. THE FIRST-STEP PROCEDURE IS SIMILAR TO A NEGOTIATED PROCUREMENT IN THAT TECHNICAL PROPOSALS ARE EVALUATED, DISCUSSIONS MAY BE HELD, AND REVISED PROPOSALS MAY BE SUBMITTED. THE STEP-ONE PROCEDURES REQUIRE THAT TECHNICAL PROPOSALS COMPLY WITH THE BASIC OR ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENTS OF THE SPECIFICATIONS, BUT DO NOT REQUIRE COMPLIANCE WITH ALL DETAILS OF THE SPECIFICATIONS. BAIRD CORPORATION, B-193261, JUNE 19, 1979, 79-1 CPD PARA. 435.

HERE, ANCHOR'S PROPOSAL INCLUDED A STATEMENT OF EXPERIENCE, WHICH DELINEATED BROAD GENERAL EXPERIENCE IN MATERIALS HANDLING INSTALLATION, AND, IN PARTICULAR, SHOWED THAT ANCHOR HAD EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE FROM 1980 TO 1984 IN THE SUPPLY AND INSTALLATION OF MECHANIZED PALLET AND MATERIALS HANDLING AND STORAGE SYSTEMS OF VARIOUS TYPES AT A NUMBER OF GOVERNMENT FACILITIES AND THAT HUSKY HAD PROVIDED CUSTOM-DESIGNED MATERIALS HANDLING MODULES FOR ANCHOR AS ITS SUBCONTRACTOR ON NUMEROUS PROJECTS. RAPISTAN'S PROTEST IS DIRECTED AT THE FACT THAT RAPISTAN BELIEVES THE EXPERIENCE PRESENTED BY ANCHOR IS NOT SUFFICIENTLY SIMILAR IN NATURE TO THE WORK REQUIRED UNDER THE RFTP. IN PARTICULAR, RAPISTAN ARGUES THAT WHILE THE RFTP CALLS FOR A MATERIALS HANDLING SYSTEM, "IN EFFECT THOSE REQUIREMENTS ARE ESSENTIALLY OF THE ROBOTICS NATURE WITH A MATERIALS HANDLING SYSTEM, I.E., A CONVEYOR INTERFACE, AND WOULD REQUIRE A COMPANY WITH EXPERIENCE IN DEVELOPING SPECIFIC TECHNICAL EXPERTISE OF A VERY ADVANCED NATURE TO COMPLETE THE PROJECT AS PROPOSED." RAPISTAN ASSERTS THAT NEITHER ANCHOR NOR HUSKY HAS PRODUCED SYSTEMS IN THE SPECIALIZED FIELD WHICH IT BELIEVES IS CALLED FOR UNDER THE RFTP REQUIREMENTS. AS FURTHER EVIDENCE OF ANCHOR'S AND HUSKY'S LACK OF REQUISITE EXPERIENCE, RAPISTAN POINTS OUT THAT NEITHER FIRM IS A MEMBER OF THE ROBOTICS INSTITUTE OF AMERICA (RIA), AND NEITHER IS LISTED IN A SURVEY PUBLISHED BY RIA WHICH LISTS COMPANIES THAT PRODUCE THE KIND OF EQUIPMENT WHICH RAPISTAN ALLEGES IS REQUIRED UNDER THE RFTP.

AS A GENERAL MATTER, IN REVIEWING WHETHER AN AGENCY'S TECHNICAL EVALUATION UNDER AN RFTP IS REASONABLE, WE WILL ORDINARILY ACCEPT THE CONSIDERED JUDGMENT OF THE PROCURING ACTIVITY AS TO THE ADEQUACY OF A TECHNICAL PROPOSAL UNLESS IT IS SHOWN THAT THE DETERMINATION WAS ERRONEOUS, ARBITRARY, OR MADE IN BAD FAITH. GUARDIAN ELECTRIC MANUFACTURING COMPANY, 58 COMP.GEN. 119, 125, (1978), 78-2 CPD PARA. 376; RADIATION SYSTEMS, INC., B-211732, OCT. 11, 1983, 83-2 CPD PARA. 434. WE HAVE CONSISTENTLY HELD THAT IT IS NOT THE FUNCTION OF OUR OFFICE TO RESOLVE TECHNICAL DISPUTES. SEE METIS CORPORATION, 54 COMP.GEN. 612, 612 (1975), 75-1 CPD PARA. 44. THE EVALUATION OF TECHNICAL PROPOSALS UNDER AN RFTP IS A MATTER WITHIN THE DISCRETION OF THE CONTRACTING AGENCY SINCE IT IS IN THE BEST POSITION TO DEFINE ITS NEEDS AND THE BEST METHOD FOR ACCOMMODATING THEM. UNITED STATES ARMY MATERIEL DEVELOPMENT AND READINESS COMMAND-- REQUEST FOR ADVANCE DECISION; HITACHI DENSI AMERICA, LTD., B-212925, MAR. 23, 1984, 84-1 CPD PARA. 342. IN REVIEWING AN AGENCY'S TECHNICAL EVALUATION, WE WILL ONLY EXAMINE THE AGENCY'S EVALUATION TO ENSURE THAT IT HAD A REASONABLE BASIS. AUTO PAINT SPECIALIST, INC., DBA K&K TRUCK PAINTING, B-215513, JUNE 21, 1982, 82-1 CPD PARA. 609.

MORE PARTICULARLY, IN REVIEWING A CONTRACTING OFFICER'S JUDGMENT AS TO WHETHER AN OFFEROR'S EXPERIENCE IS SUFFICIENT TO MEET A SOLICITATION REQUIREMENT SUCH AS THE ONE AT ISSUE HERE, OUR OFFICE GRANTS THE CONTRACTING OFFICER BROAD DISCRETION IN DETERMINING WHAT CONSTITUTES AN ACCEPTABLE DEGREE OF SIMILARITY AND WHAT EVIDENCE SATISFIES THIS REQUIREMENT. JOHNSON CONTROLS, INC., B-206119, SEPT. 22, 1983, 83-2 CPD PARA. 358. WE HAVE ALSO HELD THAT, WHERE A SOLICITATION CONTAINS THIS KIND OF REQUIREMENT FOR SIMILAR BUT NOT IDENTICAL EXPERIENCE, THE EXTENT TO WHICH THE CLAIMED SIMILAR WORK OF SUFFICIENTLY RELATED TO THE RFTP-REQUIRED WORK MUST BE LEFT TO THE SOUND DISCRETION AND SUBJECTIVE JUDGMENT OF THE CONTRACTING OFFICER. MOSLER AIRMATIC SYSTEMS DIVISION, B-187586, JAN. 21, 1977, 77-1 CPD PARA. 42.

IN THE PRESENT CASE, THE CONTRACTING OFFICER DETERMINED THAT THE EXPERIENCE WHICH ANCHOR LISTED ESTABLISHED ANCHOR'S EXPERTISE AND EXPERIENCE IN THE MECHANIZED MATERIALS HANDLING FIELD AND HUSKY'S EXPERIENCE IN MANUFACTURING THE TYPE OF EQUIPMENT WHICH IT WILL SUPPLY UNDER THE CONTRACT. ACCORDINGLY, THE CONTRACTING OFFICER DETERMINED THAT ANCHOR'S EXPERIENCE, AS LISTED IN ITS OFFER, CLEARLY SATISFIED THE RFTP REQUIREMENT TO DEMONSTRATE 3 YEARS OF PRIOR EXPERIENCE IN SUPPLYING AND INSTALLING EQUIPMENT SIMILAR TO THE EQUIPMENT BEING SOLICITED.

IN VIEW OF THE RECORD OF EXPERIENCE SET FORTH BY ANCHOR IN ITS PROPOSAL, WE FIND THAT THE CONTRACTING OFFICER HAD A REASONABLE BASIS FOR HIS DETERMINATION IN THIS REGARD. ANCHOR'S OFFER DETAILED MORE THAN 3 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN FULFILLING NUMEROUS CONTRACTS FOR THE INSTALLATION OF COMPLEX MATERIALS HANDLING SYSTEMS, WHICH THE CONTRACTING OFFICER FOUND WERE COMPARABLE TO THE SYSTEM REQUIRED UNDER THE RFTP. RAPISTAN ASSERTS THAT ANCHOR DOES NOT POSSESS AND DID NOT INDICATE EXPERIENCE IN INSTALLING THE PARTICULAR TYPE OF ROBOTICS EQUIPMENT WHICH RAPISTAN ASSERTS IS REQUIRED. HOWEVER, THE RFTP REQUIREMENT WAS FOR EXPERIENCE WITH THE SAME OR SIMILAR EQUIPMENT, OR FOR SUBSTANTIALLY THE SAME EQUIPMENT AS WAS BEING SOLICITED. IT DID NOT CALL FOR EXPERIENCE IN MANUFACTURING OR INSTALLATION OF SPECIFIC SUBCOMPONENTS, NOR DID IT REQUIRE EXPERIENCE WITH IDENTICAL EQUIPMENT. THE CONTRACTING OFFICER CONCLUDED THAT ANCHOR'S AND HUSKY'S EXPERIENCE WITH MATERIALS HANDLING SYSTEMS WAS SUFFICIENTLY SIMILAR TO FULFILL THE RFTP REQUIREMENT. THERE IS NOTHING IN THE RECORD TO ESTABLISH THAT THE KIND OF EXPERIENCE LISTED BY ANCHOR WAS INSUFFICIENT. THE RFTP DID NOT CALL FOR ROBOTICS EXPERIENCE. RATHER, THE RFTP CONTEMPLATED THE INSTALLATION OF CONVEYOR SYSTEMS IN AN EXPANDED MECHANIZED FREIGHT TERMINAL, AND THE SPECIFICATIONS FOCUS ON THE INSTALLATION OF A PACKAGE AND PALLET CONVEYOR SYSTEM AND A TOWLINE CONVEYOR SYSTEM, IN RELATION TO WHICH THERE IS AN ANCILLARY REQUIREMENT FOR FOUR INDUSTRIAL ROBOTS TO TRANSFER CERTAIN PALLETIZED LOADS TO AND FROM THE TWO CONVEYORS.

WITH RESPECT TO RAPISTAN'S OBJECTION THE ANCHOR IS NOT A MEMBER OF THE RIA AND IS NOT LISTED ON RIA'S LIST, THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT IN THE RFTP FOR SUCH AN AFFILIATION OR LISTING.

ACCORDINGLY, WE HAVE NO REASON TO CONCLUDE THAT THE AGENCY ACTED IMPROPERLY IN MAKING THE TECHNICAL DETERMINATION THAT THE EXPERIENCE DELINEATED BY ANCHOR WAS FOR PROJECTS SUFFICIENTLY SIMILAR TO THE SYSTEM CONTEMPLATED UNDER THE RFTP.

WE DENY THE PROTEST.