Article Business Practice

AGS data: improving the flow

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Mark Shaw of the Business Practise Working Group recently attended a meeting of the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) Technical Committee to further explore areas of common ground with respect to IT and e-Commerce.

Three main issues were discussed:

  • Online Bidding
  • Electronic Tendering Protocol
  • The use of AGS data format

Online Bidding

Both the AGS and FPS have now published position papers concerning the use of on-line bidding for the procurement of geotechnical contract.  Both organisations have expressed some reservations. The full position papers can be found on the AGS and FPS websites ( and

Electronic Tendering Protocol  

A survey of AGS members carried out in 2003 revealed that nearly 75% of those who responded had tendered for contracts based upon electronic information and of those 75% indicated that tendering based upon electronic information had not saved them any time. The main reasons highlighted for this were:

  • Poor Indexing (Can’t find the right information).
  • Too much irrelevant information (Information Overload)
  • Fixed formatting (Not able to manipulate the data provided)

In an attempt to address this situation, the FPS and AGS have prepared a joint protocol for the presentation of electronic data when provided for tendering purposes. The purpose of the protocol is to encourage good practice with respect to indexing, the provision of relevant information, and the use of open electronic formats when inviting tenders based upon electronic information.

The AGS and FPS are seeking to promote the protocol within standard specifications for geotechnical works such as the new specifications for Site Investigation and the specification embedded walls.  A copy of the protocol is provided below.  If you have any comments to make on the protocol or how and where it should be promoted please contact Dianne Jennings at

AGS Data  

The AGS data format is long established as the preferred format for exchanging electronic geotechnical and geo-environmental data within the UK and increasingly in many other countries around the world. The advantages in rapidly sharing data in a universal format between different organisations are clear and yet there are still many organisations still not using the format. The “cry” from the site investigation contractors is that AGS data is not being demanded by their clients. The “cry” from end users, such as FPS members, is that the data is not available.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest that most site investigation contractors are both willing and able to produce AGS data and equally many sub-contractors and sub-consultants are keen to use AGS data.  There seems to be some blockage in the chain preventing the data getting from source to user (see diagram).

The FPS and AGS have agreed jointly to attempt to clear this blockage, focusing in the first instance on the use of AGS data by piling contractors.

This problem is trying to be addressed from both ends:

  • The FPS has requested its members to routinely ask for AGS data when tender invitations are received without it. Although this may not always elicit data, the regular request should help build awareness that there is a need for the data.
  • The AGS is seeking to encourage site investigation contractors to promote the need for AGS data and to make it readily available. Simple actions make include :
  • Using the AGS data format logo on boreholes and reports to indicate that AGS data is available.
  • Making AGS data available on request either free, or for a very nominal charge (giving due consideration to their contractual obligations).
  • Being aware that when requested the AGS data is needed rapidly, typically within half a day from receipt of the request, for tendering piling contractors.

Quite understandably site investigation contractors may feel it inappropriate to provide the information to an organisation that is not their client.  This difficult issue is still being considered further by the Business Practice working group.  In the meantime, a questionnaire is being prepared to gather the thoughts and views from site investigation contractors and this will be distributed later in the year.

If you have any comments or thoughts on any of the issues raised please contact Dianne Jennings who will put you in contact with the relevant working Group member.