Beyond the RFP: Reimagining Urban Procurement
To celebrate 2020’s International Cities Day, the United Nations stated that 56.2% of the global population now lives in urban areas. In North American countries alone, that number jumps to 83.6% of citizens, followed not far behind by the Caribbean, with 81.2% of city-dwelling citizens. Especially since well-paying tech jobs and white-collar roles primarily exist in New York, London, Dubai, and countless other heavily-populated cities around the world, it’s time logistics and supply chain companies started to take note.
More recently, cities have started to consider procuring urban tech that will help them return to a pre-pandemic normal. Temperature sensors can help monitor infections at city halls. Hybrid office layouts require new infrastructure and building materials. Cloud-computing technologies allow remote and in-person team members to better collaborate and adapt to the post-pandemic work culture.
What’s Wrong with RFPs
Usually, cities invoke a Request for Proposals or RFPs. Companies can view the city’s project budget as well as the solution constraints, and decide if they’d like to tackle the challenge. Although they give city governments a decent idea of the industry’s offerings, private companies and startups don’t always apply. After all, RFPs take significant time and don’t always result in a contract.
By seeking individual project solutions, cities may also miss out on partnering with unique companies that might solve three or four city roadblocks with one stone. Viisights, for example, is a video intelligence company that uses advanced systems. New software can monitor crowd size restrictions, cars driving in bike lanes, and violence—all without relying on the invasive measures of facial recognition.
But if a city put out an overly detailed RFP that specified exactly what technologies and features it required, it might shoot itself in the foot. The project manager, not up-to-date on the latest industry data, might specify outdated video analytics technology. And voila—Viisights need not apply.
How Can We Encourage Innovative Procurement?
Cities can develop requests that outline their big-picture needs and inefficiencies and let companies offer myriad solutions. For example, Carlsbad, California chose to ask for “innovative digital transformation partners”. Other urban centres, such as New York City, have pioneered hybrid solutions, coupling a traditional RFP with an open call for other ideas. And challenge-based initiatives, such as London’s £1mn Mayor’s Resilience Fund, help bring startups onto the main stage by providing visibility and funding.
To cope with post-pandemic job insecurities, increased remote work, and sustainability challenges, cities will have to broaden their perspectives. As New York City’s CTO John Paul Farmer said, “There is no one solution. We welcome any and all ideas and the opportunity to work with all those who share our goal of closing the digital divide”
Grupo Espinosa: 70 years of constant evolution
Founded in 1952, Grupo Espinosa has been relentlessly supporting the publishing industry with producing more than 100 million copies every year – whether its books, magazines, catalogues or single-order custom prints. No project is big or small for Grupo Espinosa, as the facility can scale up on demand and their turnaround times are highly competitive. Grupo Espinosa works with on-demand digital press or offset press, in paperback with glued softcover binding, PUR softcover binding, stitched paperback binding, binder’s board, hardcover, saddle stitched, Spiral or Wire-O. Equipped with the experience needed for a product to leave the plant ready for distribution, Grupo Espinosa delivers anywhere inside or outside Mexico. Traditionally starting off as a black and white printing press, Grupo Espinosa has experienced transformation first hand – from colour to digital offset printing. Currently, Grupo Espinosa is also looking at making capital investments into audio books to match with the increasing demand.
So how did a seemingly local operation in Latin America become a world-renowned printing facility trusted by hundreds of clients? As Rogelio Tirado, CFO of Grupo Espinosa for the last six years says “It all comes down to our market experience and our dedication to quality”. With nearly 70 years behind them, and located in Mexico City, Grupo Espinosa has two major locations – one spanning 75,000 square metres and the other about 45,000 square metres. Both locations are controlled by a single ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system ensuring speed, consistency and quality of work. Tirado says this isn’t their only competitive advantage. He adds “Our competitive advantage is the relationship we have with customers and the trust they put in us with their intellectual property”. Speaking of trust, global publishing giant Macmillan Education exclusively partners with Grupo Espinosa for their Latin America operations, as part of Macmillan’s decentralized hub strategy. Having a facility that offered the full spectrum of service – from storing digital content to printing and distributing – was one of the major requirements for Macmillan, and Grupo Espinosa was recognized as the leading printing hub for providing this 360 infrastructure. Another factor that has led to success for Grupo Espinosa is the absolute focus on quality and time. The staff are committed to providing the best quality in the best possible time, without causing wastage of resources. Sustainability is a huge factor playing into Grupo Espinosa’s operations, and they’ve created a healthy environment with the sustainable use of paper and energy resources as well as keeping their employees – most of them associated with the organisation for over 10 years – happy. He adds, “In order to be truly successful, you need to be good to the environment, employees, suppliers, and your customers. But most importantly, you need to be sustainable, you need to have proper working conditions, pay proper salaries, proper prices for paper, source the paper from sustainable sources, pay your taxes, basically be a good global corporate citizen and that's probably one of the biggest achievements that we have.”