B-240261, Nov 5, 1990, 90-2 CPD ***

B-240261: Nov 5, 1990

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Protester's interpretation of provision calling for standard commercial "components" as restricted to existing "systems" is not reasonable. These weighing and dimensioning (cubing) systems are used to determine shipping charges and used for shipment planning purposes. The Air Force had sought to acquire 14 DAWS units to replace outdated units which were approximately 12 years old. A $1.7 million contract for these units was awarded to Universal Steel Fabricators. It was contacted by Universal. The protester's dimensioning system was installed as a first article at Hill Air Force Base and. According to the protester "was essentially the same as the original PD. The requirements referred to by the protester were set forth in the PD as follows: "3.3 Design and Fabrication 3.3.1 Design Criteria 3.3.1.1 Standard Commercial Components.

B-240261, Nov 5, 1990, 90-2 CPD ***

PROCUREMENT - Competitive Negotiation - Requests for proposals - Terms - Interpretation DIGEST: Under request for proposals (RFP) for automated package dimensioning and weighing subsystems, protester's interpretation of provision calling for standard commercial "components" as restricted to existing "systems" is not reasonable.

Quantronix, Inc.:

Quantronix, Inc. protests the award of a contract to Fairbanks Scales, a division of Fairbanks Inc., under request for proposals (RFP) No. F42650- 89-R-0262, issued by the Ogden Air Logistics Center, Department of the Air Force, for a quantity of automated dimensioning and weighing subsystems (DAWS) for measuring shipping containers of random weight and size while each container travels down a conveyor line. These weighing and dimensioning (cubing) systems are used to determine shipping charges and used for shipment planning purposes. Quantronix contends that the purchase description (PD) requires offerors to propose a standard, "proven in the field" cubing "system," a requirement which Fairbanks does not satisfy.

We deny the protest.

BACKGROUND

Prior to the issuance of the solicitation at issue here, beginning in 1985, the Air Force had sought to acquire 14 DAWS units to replace outdated units which were approximately 12 years old. In September 1987, a $1.7 million contract for these units was awarded to Universal Steel Fabricators, Inc. Universal apparently had difficulty obtaining the technology which would consistently measure the length, width, height and the weight of packages. According to the protester, it was contacted by Universal, demonstrated its dimensioning products to representatives of Universal and, in June 1988, entered into a contract with Universal to supply the 14 dimensioning systems for the Air Force. The protester's dimensioning system was installed as a first article at Hill Air Force Base and, according to the pro-tester, has been operating satisfactorily since then. The scales supplied by Universal Steel, however, never met the performance level needed by the Air Force. In early 1989, after it had paid more than $500,000 in progress payments to Universal Steel, the Air Force initiated default proceedings against the company which thereafter declared bankruptcy.

On December 11, 1989, the Air Force circulated a modified PD which, according to the protester "was essentially the same as the original PD, but worded much more carefully and explicitly in areas where the Air Force and Universal Steel had experienced problems before." Specifically, the requirements referred to by the protester were set forth in the PD as follows:

"3.3 Design and Fabrication

3.3.1 Design Criteria

3.3.1.1 Standard Commercial Components.

All equipment and materials furnished under this purchase description shall be new and be standard products of reputable manufacturers. Recently developed, one of a kind, products shall not be acceptable except where they have been independently tested and proven in the field."

This PD accompanied the solicitation at issue here, which was issued February 5, 1990, and requested proposals for the acquisition of 14 DAWS, with an option for one additional unit, to be installed in varying quantities at five Air Force bases. The scope of work indicated that each DAWS is a subsystem to a larger computerized Shipment Planning Addressing and Labeling System (SPALS). Each DAWS functions as a peripheral within its SPALS processing unit and is to consist of an automated weighing device, an automated dimensioning device, sufficient conveyors for timing and control of shipping containers through the devices, a microprocessor, and a digital display. A single automated weighing device which could accurately and conveniently measure containers between one ounce and 200 pounds was required. The microprocessor was to support all DAWS inputs, outputs, and functions and was to maintain communication with the SPALS host computer. Two additional, fully operational microprocessors were to be supplied under this PD as backup units.

Requirements for the DAWS were given in detail on 26 pages, including, for example, performance, mechanical and electronic characteristics, design and fabrication requirements, documentation (e.g., inspection, test, and certification of each DAWS, monthly status reports, spare parts lists, maintenance contractor lists, diagnostic procedures) and training and quality assurance provisions (e.g., inspection and testing).

A preproposal conference was held on February 21, 1990. Representatives from both Quantronix and Fairbanks attended this conference and both of these firms submitted initial proposals by the April 5 due date. Discussions were conducted and best and final offers were received May 25. Both proposals were determined to be technically acceptable and award was made to Fairbanks, as the low, responsive, responsible offeror at a price of $949,026. /1/ Quantronix received notice of contract award to Fairbanks on June 18 and this protest followed.

PROTEST

Quantronix contends that the Fairbanks proposal does not satisfy the technical requirements of the PD in regard to the dimensional instrumentation. Although the protester acknowledges that the components proposed for use by Fairbanks are standard products of reputable manufacturers, it states that these separate standard products do not comprise a finished, functioning "system" which it contends is required by paragraph 3.3.1.1. The protester interprets this paragraph to mean a completed and tested sizing system and that the entire dimensioning system, rather than individual components of the system, must be a standard product of a reputable manufacturer. Quantronix states that while it offered such a system, Fairbanks did not, and the awardee's proposal thus did not satisfy paragraph 3.3.1.1. Quantronix concludes that in fact it is the only offeror eligible for award since it is the only regular supplier of standard package dimensioning systems. Quantronix argues, therefore, that the contract with Fairbanks should be terminated and awarded to it.

ANALYSIS

In reviewing an agency's selection decision, we will examine an agency's evaluation to ensure that it was reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria. See Cygna Project Management, B-236839, Jan. 5, 1990, 90-1 CPD Para. 21. In determining the meaning of a particular solicitation provision, a solicitation must be read as a whole and in a manner that gives effect to all provisions of the solicitation. See System Dev. Corp., B-219400, Sept. 30, 1985, 85-2 CPD Para. 356; see generally Teledyne Brown Eng'g, Inc., B-237368, Feb. 16, 1990, 90-1 CPD Para. 285.

Here, we find that the agency's evaluation of Fairbanks' proposal was in accordance with the stated evaluation criteria. We do not agree with Quantronix's contention that paragraph 3.3.1.1 on its face limits offers to commercially available, off-the-shelf "systems." Quantronix relies on its understanding of the history of this procurement as support for its restrictive interpretation. Specifically, the protester says that paragraph 3.3.1.1 was inserted into the PD because Universal Steel, using standard components from reputable manufacturers, was unable to "fabricate a functional scale" and the agency, having spent over $500,000 with nothing to show for it, wanted "to make sure that this type of fiasco did not occur again." There is nothing in the solicitation, however, to support Quantronix's interpretation that the agency wanted "systems" that were already in use and operational.

Indeed, the scope of work states that this PD "establishes the requirements for the design, the fabrication, and the installation of all equipment and materials ... to furnish fourteen (14) each automated dimensioning and weighing systems" and the headings for paragraph 3.3.1.1, taken together, suggest that an offeror could use standard commercial components to design and fabricate a system. The use of the plural term "products" in the text of the paragraph logically and on its face refers to "equipment and materials" and, in our view, these are all broad terms which refer to the components comprising the DAWS, whether or not already produced and marketed as a "system." In Sony Corp. of America, B-224373.2, Mar. 10, 1987, 87-1 CPD Para. 267, we considered and rejected arguments much like those now made by Quantronix, with regard to a protest concerning a similar solicitation clause which required commercially available, off-the shelf "equipment," and which prohibited offerors from proposing "equipment which must be developed to meet the requirement. ..." By contrast, in SeaSpace, B-239295, July 13, 1990, 90-2 CPD Para. 33, we held that it was improper to make award to an offeror who failed to propose an all "off-the-shelf" proven production system where the solicitation had a specific mandatory requirement for "an 'off-the shelf' system. ..."

Moreover, at the preproposal conference, the Air Force clarified paragraph 3.3.1 by saying:

"We are looking for standard commercial components or something that has already been developed in the design and fabrication of the new DAWS. are desirous of a design exhibiting no RD Research and Development requirements."

This clarification anticipated "the design and fabrication of the new DAWS" and again indicates only that the Air Force was seeking commercial or proven components for the new DAWS. The clarification reflects the Air Force's desire to avoid the problems associated with acquiring components that have not yet been developed or proven in the field.

While an existing DAWS such as Quantronix's certainly would satisfy paragraph 3.3.1.1, we see no basis to interpret paragraph 3.3.1.1, as Quantronix suggests, as restricting offerors to proposing such a "system," rather than commercially available, off-the-shelf components integrated to function as a DAWS. We conclude that the solicitation did not require an off-the-shelf "system" and that there is no support in the record for Quantronix's contention.

Accordingly, the protest is denied.

/1/Quantronix's price was $1,196,080.

Bradley J. Stringer for the protester.

Charles W. Wolfe, Esq., for Fairbanks Inc., an interested party.

William J. Holland, Department of the Air Force, for the agency.

Jacqueline Maeder, Esq., and John F. Mitchell, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO, participated in the preparation of the decision.