A successful operation is built around people, process and technology. In print and mail operations, the equipment used to process inbound and outbound documents is becoming faster, more accurate and more expensive. Upgrading your systems will mean a significant investment in dollars and other resources.
In past posts, we’ve encouraged the use of a Requests for Proposals (RFP) for major purchases. Companies can use the RFP to fully explain their existing situation and challenges, as well as the goals to be met with the new technology. We recommend that our clients provide as much detail as possible about their current operation – volumes, file formats, processing times, paper types, information technology infrastructure, etc. If possible, give vendors physical samples of the “typical” documents in their final form.
As with RFPs for outsourcing, most companies have standard questions from the purchasing, procurement or legal departments. In addition to those questions and pricing information, here are 20 questions you should ask when purchasing equipment:
- Provide a clear description of the proposed solution and how it will meet each of the mandatory requirements listed in the RFP.
- Provide a clear description of how the proposed solution will meet each of the optional requirements listed in the RFP. Explain whether each optional item is included in the base price, or will require an additional expense.
- Provide a detailed description of the hardware, computers, servers, etc. Include all space, power, air, HVAC and networking requirements for the equipment.
- What is the expected throughput (pieces/images per hour) of the equipment for the applications described in the RFP (as compared to published machine cycle speed)?
- Provide a clear description of how the proposed solution will work within the current production environment and clearly identify what modifications (if any) need to be made to support the proposed solution.
- How is your product compliant with the technology infrastructure requirements listed in the RFP?
- Provide any alternative solutions not covered in the RFP that you believe should be considered.
- Provide a detailed project plan that covers the building, factory acceptance testing, installation and acceptance testing of the system; including the identification of staffing, completion dates, deliverables, constraints, etc.
- What guarantees will you make in regards to meeting the deliverables of the proposed project plan? For example, will you agree to pay a penalty if the system is not installed and functioning by the proposed date in the project plan?
- What is your internal quality control program for manufacturing equipment and developing software?
- Provide a clear description of the maintenance, service and support agreement including warranties, telephone numbers, hours for standard support, availability for urgent requests and response times.
- Provide a description of the parts program, including spares stored onsite with the equipment as well as nearby parts depots.
- Provide a description of the escalation process for issues that cannot be resolved through normal service and support.
- Provide a clear description of how your company measures the effectiveness of the maintenance program, including any guarantees of minimum equipment production levels and availability.
- Provide screen shots of key reports and measurement dashboards.
- What innovations has your company introduced in the last 3 years that are reflected in the solution you are proposing?
- What innovations is your company planning to introduce in the next 1 – 2 years?
- Describe in detail your company's environmental efforts (present and future) to help reduce and offset the impact of your company's business activities on the environment.
- How will the technology you propose help our company’s efforts to reduce energy consumption and reduce the impact of our business activities on the environment?
- Can you provide three (3) references, including information for at least one recently completed engagement where a similar solution was provided to the client? For one or two of the references, provide references in the same geographic area, so a site visit can be scheduled.