Matter of: LJC Mechanical Contractors, Inc. File: B-250792 Date: February 1, 1993

B-250792: Feb 1, 1993

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PROCUREMENT Competitive Negotiation Offers Evaluation errors Evaluation criteria Application Protest that agency improperly evaluated protester's proposal is denied where the record shows that the evaluation was reasonable and in accordance with the solicitation's evaluation criteria. The solicitation advised that award was to be made to the offeror whose proposal was determined to represent the best value to the government. Technical and price factors were weighted equally. The technical evaluation was to be based on the following factors with their relative weights: (1) the proposed equipment manufacturer's continued successful design for a period of no less than 5 years and manufacturing experience with similar sized refrigeration units (200 points).

Matter of: LJC Mechanical Contractors, Inc. File: B-250792 Date: February 1, 1993

PROCUREMENT Competitive Negotiation Offers Evaluation errors Evaluation criteria Application Protest that agency improperly evaluated protester's proposal is denied where the record shows that the evaluation was reasonable and in accordance with the solicitation's evaluation criteria.

Attorneys

DECISION LJC Mechanical Contractors, Inc. protests the award of a contract to R.M. Thornton, Inc. under request for proposals (RFP) No. 52- SBNB-2C7107, issued by the Department of Commerce for the purchase and installation of a 3,000-ton refrigeration unit, commonly referred to as a chiller. LJC alleges that the agency improperly evaluated its proposal.

We deny the protest.

The RFP, issued on April 22, 1992, sought prices and technical proposals for the purchase and installation of a 3,000-ton refrigeration unit. The solicitation advised that award was to be made to the offeror whose proposal was determined to represent the best value to the government. Technical and price factors were weighted equally. The technical evaluation was to be based on the following factors with their relative weights: (1) the proposed equipment manufacturer's continued successful design for a period of no less than 5 years and manufacturing experience with similar sized refrigeration units (200 points); (2) the offeror's ability to supply and install the equipment within the schedule requirements (200 points); (3) the offeror's approach to complying with the technical requirements of the system (200 points); (4) the offeror's technical approach concerning the compatibility of its proposed control system with the existing control system (150 points); (5) the offeror's technical field office's previous experience in resolving technical, operation, and installation problems in a cost efficient and timely manner (150 points); and (6) the reliability of similar installations by the offeror (100 points).

Three firms submitted proposals by the June 8 closing date. Both LJC and Thornton submitted six proposals each, based on three York model chillers and three Carrier model chillers, while EMD Mechanical Specialists submitted three proposals based on three Carrier model chillers. By letter dated July 13, the contracting officer requested that the offerors provide "clarifications/discussions" of their respective proposals.

As a result of a life cycle cost analysis, the agency determined that the York Model No. OM3000C chiller would best meet the government's needs. After evaluation of the offers submitted by LJC and Thornton that proposed this model, the agency determined that Thornton's proposal was technically superior to LJC's lower-priced proposal. Even though EMD did not propose York equipment, the agency included the firm in the competitive range and gave it an opportunity to submit a proposal for York Model No. OM3000C. Best and final offers (BAFO) were due on August 14.

The agency received BAFOs from Thornton and LJC; however, it did not receive a BAFO from EMD. Consequently, EMD was excluded from the competitive range. On August 18, the agency evaluated LJC's and Thornton's BAFOs and decided that it needed to discuss technical issues regarding rigging, warranty, and equipment storage with both of the offerors. At the conclusion of discussions, both offerors were advised that their revised BAFOs were due on September 9.

Based on its evaluation of the revised BAFOs, the agency determined that while LJC offered a slightly lower price than Thornton, Thornton's technical merit and its proposed price represented the best value to the government. As a result, the agency made award to Thornton on September 24. LJC filed a protest with our Office on October 7, challenging the agency's evaluation of its proposal.

LJC contends that the evaluation of its proposal was flawed because the agency failed to consider its proposal as a whole. In essence, LJC argues that since it proposed a York model chiller, the agency should have "co- evaluated" York rather than "de-emphasizing York's duties and overemphasizing LJC's responsibilities under the contract."

The evaluation of technical proposals is primarily within the discretion of the procuring agency, not our Office. Consequently, we question an agency's technical evaluation only when the record shows that the evaluation does not have a reasonable basis or is inconsistent with the evaluation criteria. Information Sys. & Networks Corp., 69 Comp.Gen. 284 (1990), 90-1 CPD Para. 203. A protester's disagreement with the agency's judgment is not sufficient to establish that the agency acted unreasonably. United HealthServ Inc., B-232540 et al., Jan. 18, 1989, 89-1 CPD Para. 43. Here, after reviewing the record, we conclude that the evaluation was reasonable and in accordance with the RFP's stated evaluation criteria.

The supply and installation of a 3,000-ton refrigeration unit is a complex and difficult project requiring specialized skills and experience. The refrigeration unit is custom-made and custom-fabricated and it requires a custom-designed building addition to be constructed to house and serve it. The machine is 24 feet, 4 inches long, and 15 feet, 4 inches tall, and has an operating weight of 198,500 pounds. The machine consists of at least two tractor-trailer loads of equipment parts which must be individually lifted off of the trailer and rigged into place.

Generally, the agency found that while both offerors proposed the same York refrigeration unit and thus were equal in the technical areas pertaining to the manufacturer's abilities, Thornton's proposal was substantially superior to LJC's in the technical areas relating to the offeror's own ability. In the area dealing with the offeror's ability to install the equipment, the agency concluded that LJC's proposal demonstrated a lack of understanding of the magnitude of the work called for under the solicitation. In this regard, the protester merely stated that it planned to unload the machine and install it in the building. Absent from LJC's proposal was any detailed discussion concerning its approach or proposed work plan; LJC only provided a brief description of the major tasks and milestones for the project. The agency also was concerned by LJC's statement that the installation of a 500-ton unit is similar to the installation of a 3,000-ton unit, since installation of the larger unit is considerably more complex. In comparison, Thornton's proposal contained an outline of its technical approach and its proposed work plan which described all milestones and significant activities necessary for the successful completion of the project; it submitted a detailed work plan which covered proposed project progress from contract award to final installation and testing activities.

With regard to the evaluation factors dealing with the offeror's technical experience, the contracting agency concluded that LJC's proposal demonstrated that the firm lacked the necessary experience to successfully install the refrigeration unit. LJC's experience was limited to two contracts for the replacement of 500-ton units, which are considerably smaller and less complex than the work called for under the solicitation. After contacting a General Services Administration construction manager who was familiar with one of the contracts, the contracting agency discovered that LJC did not complete the project on time but instead requested a 180-working day extension. On the other hand, Thornton's proposal showed that the firm had considerable experience and expertise in successfully installing complex mechanical systems. For example, Thornton has installed similar equipment in connection with two recent contracts with the National Institutes of Health; in the first contract, Thornton installed a 3,000-ton refrigeration unit prior to the anticipated completion date and it performed a more complex installation of two 5,000-ton refrigeration units under the second contract.

Contrary to the protester's suggestion, the contracting agency's evaluation of LJC's proposal did not result in the protester being "punished for being small." Rather, the contracting agency simply concluded that Thornton's proposal was superior to LJC's proposal. In light of the fact that (1) Thornton's proposal demonstrated specific experience successfully installing similar-sized refrigeration units to the one called for here, while LJC's experience is limited to installing smaller and less complicated refrigeration units; and (2) Thornton presented a more detailed work plan than LJC, we have no basis to question the agency's evaluation or its determination that Thornton's slightly higher-priced, technically superior proposal represented the best value to the government.

The protester's argument that the agency should have factored the manufacturer's ability into its entire evaluation and in essence "co- evaluated" the manufacturer is without merit. As discussed above, the agency did award LJC the maximum points available under its evaluation scheme in the four technical evaluation categories that dealt with the manufacturer's abilities. It would have been improper for the agency to have considered the manufacturer's capability in the two remaining areas for two reasons. First, the offerors were on notice from the solicitation that the agency's technical evaluation would include its consideration of the offeror's ability to install a refrigeration unit as well as the reliability of similar installations by the offeror. To the extent LJC objected to this evaluation scheme, it should have raised its objection before the time set for receipt of proposals. See 4 C.F.R. Sec. 21.1(a)(1) (1992). Second, LJC stated in its revised BAFO that it "would do all the rigging and installation with [its] people." Since the firm did not provide any information in its proposal about York personnel, or evidence an intent to subcontract the work under the contract, the agency's consideration in these two areas of only LJC's experience and ability was reasonable and in accordance with the solicitation's evaluation criteria.

The protest is denied.