Don Olson had a large, messy problem on his hands. The closing of his county's landfill in Washington state and transfer of services to a new, combined site meant that the Cowlitz County solid waste superintendent had to get a new, much larger dozer.
Loads delivered to the new site would range from 28 to 30 tons, and Olson needed a machine that could push 50 loads of that size every day. The solution was obvious: The Public Works Department needed to purchase a new Cat D8T Track-Type Tractor. “That was the only unit that met our specs,” Olson said.
But meeting the extremely tight deadline for the move meant that the county’s usual acquisition process needed to be fast-tracked. That's where cooperative purchasing came to the rescue.
Leveraging A Membership Contract
Olson was able to procure the machine he needed by piggybacking onto an existing cooperative contract available through his local Cat dealer, Peterson Cat, and the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA).
One of two ongoing cooperative purchasing contracts available through the Cat dealer network, NJPA allows members to select from more than 120 models of Cat equipment, including the D8T specified by Cowlitz County. Caterpillar also holds a second cooperative contract that was awarded by the city of Tucson and is facilitated through the National Intergovernmental Purchasing Alliance (NIPA).
Because Olson's department was an NJPA member, he was able to get the machine he needed in record time. “Writing specs and putting the machine out to bid would have taken six weeks," he explained. "By purchasing [a machine] using an existing NJPA contract, the process was completed in six days.”
It still took some work, but it helped that the Public Works Department had preapproved the purchase and that Olson knew exactly what kind of machine he needed. For anyone in a similar situation, Olson advised, “Bids are very thorough. Make sure that the bid you select has all the options and features that your application requires.”
Trusting A Knowledgeable Partner
It also helped that Cowlitz County could call on their local Cat dealer, who already had experience in making cooperative purchasing work. In fact, Caterpillar participates on the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing’s (NIGP) Business Council. As such, Caterpillar is far better prepared to help Cat dealers address many of the challenges associated with supporting all aspects of the procurement process.
Jason Walker, a governmental sales support consultant with Caterpillar, noted, "Our expertise in product capability and application combined with NIGP's procurement resources allow us to provide both the procurement department, as well as the end user of the equipment, a solution that benefits everyone."
Cooperative purchasing solutions work best when the cooperating public and private enterprises have already built a foundation together. The county had laid the groundwork for fast action through membership in the NJPA, and Olson had an ongoing relationship with the county's Cat dealership. That relationship is important. Walker noted that mutual trust between all parties is essential and added, "As with any relationship, communication is key."
For Olson and the Cowlitz County Public Works Department, the ability to call in a knowledgeable partner and quickly put a cooperative purchasing contract into action was the key to getting out from under a load of garbage.
For more information on the NJPA and other resources for existing cooperative purchasing contracts for procuring heavy equipment, visit: http://govbidspec.cat.com/cooppurchasing.