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February 9, 2012

Minutes

Government Office Furniture Advisory Committee Meeting (GOFAC)
Minutes - February 9, 2012, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Gatineau, Québec

Present:

  • Robert Axam, Haworth Ltd.
  • Jean Barbeau, Artopex Inc.
  • André Clément, Asokan Business Interiors & Public Sector Aboriginal Business Association (PSABA)
  • Gary Fawcett, Fawcett File & Storage Systems
  • Richard Lafontaine, Tayco (observer)
  • Bruce Parratt, The Global Group
  • David Swire, Teknion Furniture Systems
  • Francine Brisebois, Chair, Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), Acquisitions Branch, Commercial & Consumer Products Directorate (CCPD)
  • April Charron, PWGSC, CCPD
  • Dolores Coelho, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
  • Maureen Farrington, PWGSC, Real Property Branch, National Accommodation Management
  • Marc Gratton, Information Technology Services Branch (ITSB) (Tech. Support)
  • Chiazo Nnadi, PWGSC, CCPD
  • Alexandra Reid, PWGSC, Real Property Branch, Architecture and Interior Design
  • Kris Ruiter, PWGSC, CCPD
  • Tom Wilson, ITSB (Tech. Support)

Attending Via WEBEX:

  • Karen Cormier, Steelcase (observer)
  • Eli Gilbert, Canadian Atlas Furniture Corp.
  • Brad Miller, Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) (observer)

Absent:

  • Barry Payne, Adirondack Furniture Technologies (observer)
  • Mike Scandiffio, PWGSC, Communications
  • Daniel O. Jean, Canadian Heritage
  • Robert Jordan, PWGSC, Office of Small and Medium Enterprises (OSME)
  • Manon Brisebois, Industry Canada

*Please note that signatures of attendees were not obtained.*

Agenda Items

1. Opening Remarks

Francine Brisebois welcomed all participants. The Chair recognized the fact that this was the first time WebEx technology was being used for a GOFAC meeting. The Chair introduced Tom Wilson and Marc Gratton, who would be providing technical support throughout the meeting.

The Chair acknowledged that considerable time had past since the last meeting. However, there has been little to address as significant time has been spent developing the draft National Procurement Strategy for Office Furniture (NPS). The NPS is still in line with the presentation and information provided at the last meeting.

The agenda was reviewed and accepted as proposed.

2. Terms of Reference (TOR)

April Charron distributed the revised Terms of Reference (TOR) in track changes and final version. They will be posted on the PWGSC website for everyone to view.

The Chair advised that the TOR were signed by the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) with no substantive change from the revised version agreed to by the Committee. The changes are outlined in the track changes version.

3. Membership

The Chair acknowledged that some companies have approached PWGSC with interest in becoming Committee members. The current members' opinions were sought and the responses prior to the meeting ranged from "leave as is" to "forming a rotational basis".

It is important for PWGSC and the Government of Canada that the Committee be inclusive and all interested parties have a chance to participate. This would align with the government principles of fair, open and transparent. The membership must be manageable with industry well represented via different categories.

Question to the Committee: Should the Committee be bigger with a wider group of members? There was general agreement by the membership that the current membership size and mix of categories was sufficient. Most of the members represent an association, and it is through their respective association channels that non-members can voice their questions and concerns. The associations may decide to change or create a rotational representation.

There was general agreement by the membership that allowing observers via WebEx technology was a good idea. The members felt that this practice should continue in the future. Allowing observers through WebEx will help with communication between meetings. The meetings would then be completely transparent and allow non-member observers to report back to their respective associations or BIFMA.

BIFMA is also the central voice for industy, and it was BIFMA who recommended the original members of this committee. All businesses can use BIFMA as a channel to affect change.

A point was raised regarding the number of associations represented by GOFAC. The question was raised as to whether other associations, particularly provincial/territorial associations, should be represented on the Committee.

Dolores Coelho of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada stated she would look into the possibility of a second aboriginal association outside of PSABA.

The Chair stated that the membership would remain as status quo, with all inquiries being directed to the appropriate association.

Action Items:

  • Jean Barbeau was to inquire within his region regarding the activities of the Association de fabriquants des meubles de Québec.
  • A request was submitted by Richard Lafontaine of Tayco. He asked to become a full member of the Committee as he has been an observer for a long period of time. He would like to be a member representing the Small or Medium Canadian Based Manufacturer business category.
  • At this time there is only one vacancy in the Committee and that is in the category of Reseller.
  • Bruce Paratt of Global stated he would look into finding a reseller to fill the vacant spot.
  • The Chair asked if the members would be comfortable with having their names posted, along with the association they represent and their contact information on the Buy and Sell and/or other PWGSC websites. This way businesses would know who to contact in the event of questions or concerns. There were no concerns by the Committee members.

4. Draft National Procurement Strategy for Office Furniture

The Chair stated that the draft NPS has been approved and signed by the Assistant Deputy Minister of PWGSC. The contents of the strategy contain a few small tweaks in comparison to the information presented at the last GOFAC meeting.

The strategy will be posted in March on Electronic Tendering System (MERX). Along with the NPS there will be an industry questionnaire. In parallel, PWGSC clients may view the NPS on GCPedia and respond to a similar questionnaire. The Furniture Division encourages everyone to participate.

The NPS and questionnaires will be posted for four weeks. After those four weeks, PWGSC will conduct a review of the information submitted. If necessary PWGSC will make appropriate adjustments to the NPS.

The final NPS is scheduled to be completed by the fall and will require PWGSC executive approval.

The NPS is designed to simplify processes. The Furniture Division deals mostly with commercially available products. The procurement tools for common goods and services need to be designed for client self service. This will allow the clients to self manage their procurements and PWGSC can focus on more complex requirements.

The Committee stated that over the last few years there has been a lot of change to procurement processes and personnel. However, PWGSC clients complain to the industry that the processes have not become easier or more flexible.

The NPS will be the cornerstone of office furniture procurement for the next five years. It is not just about changing to Supply Arrangements (SA), but investigating Solutions Based Procurement amongst other initiatives.

The Committee asked how quickly the elements of the NPS would be put into place. The product age and pricing on some long term Standing Offers is an issue. The general feeling was that the sooner the processes are simplified the better it is for everyone.

The Chair moved the conversation to the proposed action of reducing the size of the Baskets of Goods in each sub-category. This proposed action is to make the commodity more manageable. It is important that the programs are administratively and financially responsible.

The Committee immediately raised great concern regarding the restrictive nature of the current specifications and the idea that the specifications could become even more restrictive.

April Charron commented that the Consolidated Procurement Instruments (CPI) are to make available the most common products needed by PWGSC clients and not all possible products on the market. It is very important that the CPIs are manageable within PWGSC. A word of caution from the Committe: this was tried and it failed miserably as the specifications are too stringent. Another comment was that the Baskets of Goods are old and not reflective of purchasing trends. For example, one Basket of Goods has 66" panels, but everyone is now buying 55" panels.

The Chair stated the Furniture Division is headed towards performance based specifications as opposed to technical specifications. The plan is to be less stringent on bid analysis and use more certification. The responsibility will be on the resulting contractors to ensure their products meet their bid certifications and are the products delivered. If the contractor delivers a product that does not meet certification or was not the product ordered or on the procurement instrument then the contract may be terminated for default and the contractor will have to pay the full cost of the removal, potentially the cost of re-procurement and hold all appropriate liabilities.

5. Consolidated Procurement Instruments (CPI)

April Charron provided an update on the existing CPIs for each sub-category. The Furniture Division will be extending all current CPIs until the NPS is finalized. However, the concurrent renewal of CPIs will be aligned with the NPS.

(Please refer to the GOFAC PowerPoint February 9, 2012 (html) presentation that was provided at the meeting and also available on line)

Office Seating

The broad aspects of the new Supply Arrangement (SA) for Office seating are:

  • SA only – no combination of Standing Offer/Supply Arrangement.
  • Three tiers to determine governing procurement rules.
  • Basket of Goods with ceiling prices that will be used to determine tier.
  • Clients may compete or sole source requirements under $25,000.
  • Real time pricing.
  • Price refresh periods.
  • Ongoing entry point; if suppliers fail to get in the first time they can try again later.
  • SA can be replaced entirely or modified in part to adjust products to better reflect client common demand.
  • Two streams: General and Aboriginal.
  • National capacity to supply for General stream, regional or national capacity to supply for Aboriginal stream.
  • Request for Supply Arrangement (RFSA) will be out for a minimum of 40 days.

Concerns from the Committee regarding SAs:

  • Increased competition for each solicitation, PWGSC clients and PWGSC could become inundated.
  • Will suppliers need 100% of Basket of Goods to qualify? If so, a huge bottleneck at testing labs.
  • Can technical specifications go out ahead of Request for Information (RFI) so that testing could be started?
  • Testing timeframe should be extended to allow everyone to submit.

The conversation regarding the testing of products led to a new discussion regarding the Government's technical specifications for office furniture.

The Chair asked if the products being sold to the Canadian Government are being sold to other companies/private sector. The response was "no".

The Government uses Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) standards that are above and beyond American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/BIFMA. CGSB does not publicize and the private sector does not use their specifications. The banks don't use them; they use a completely different approach.

The GPD9 (Government Purchase Description) for mobile shelving is completely unique to the Government of Canada. No one else uses these specifications.

The Committee agreed to continue the discussion about specifications, in general, at a later date. The Chair will convene a meeting in April. The Chair would like to assess the risk of aligning with industry and private sector practice. All agreed that mobile shelving will not be discussed due to its uniqueness.

Mobile Shelving

April Charron to verify the expiration date of the current CPI for mobile shelving.

Key Points:

  • Looking at SA but may use Standing Offer (SO) for high-density mobile shelving.
  • There is a lot of customization for which an SO process may better address the procurement process.

Comments from the Committee:

  • Most purchases are part of a project.
  • Request for Proposal process is too long and resulting in product being bought through the general contractor to avoid PWGSC.
  • Approximately 50% of the contracts are being done outside of PWGSC. Suppliers would rather deal with PWGSC than third or fourth parties.
Panels

PWGSC plans to extend the current CPI to make sure there is sufficient time to get the new CPI in place.

The Committee asked about Workplace 2.0. April Charron responded that the Furniture Division does not have the product definitions and specifications as yet; they are being developed by Real Property Branch of PWGSC. However, the SA can be modified in part to add new product and specifications for Workplace 2.0.

The Chair reiterated that the Government is heading towards performance based requirements and solutions based procurement, trying to give clients more flexibility by avoiding specific layouts.

The Committees comments were:

  • A lot of product is customized.
  • Currently there exists an artificial limitation based on dimensions.
  • Use the floor plan, number of stations and have suppliers bid on that document.
  • There should not be typical product; there should be concepts to meet the worker profile.
Cabinets

The expiration is March of 2012, however it will be extended to bridge the change to a SA.

Remanufactured Panels

The use and need of this program is under assessment. There has been very little use to date.

LAN Rack

This program expires in 2012. It will be extended to bridge the gap until the NPS is in place.

Desking

There is no program at the moment. This is a sub-category that has seen very little activity.

The Committee commented that most of this product has been merged with other sub-categories.

The Chair stated that the NPS questionnaire has a question regarding the alignment of sub-categories.

6. Closing Comments

The industry members commented that the focus should be on one RFSA at a time to make sure it is well understood and done right. This will also alleviate some pressure on the testing labs.

The Chair appreciated the comments and stated that the only way to do that would be to further extend some current programs. The industry members agreed.

7. Future Meetings

A meeting is targeted for March/April 2012 via teleconference/WebEx to discuss the difference between private and public sector technical/performance specifications.

The use of WebEx technology was successful and will likely be used in all future meetings.

It is also likely that travel reimbursements will no longer be available in the new fiscal year. The Committee did not state objection.

Meeting adjourned at 12:30 p.m.