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Protest of Better Engineering Contract Award



Following is a MART Protest a U.S. government award of a $1+ million washing machine contract in favor of Better Engineering

RECAP: This Protest is included on our Website, not as a derogatory statement against Better Engineering, but to show how seemingly innocent claims by a washer maker can be accepted as engineering data rather than sales dialogue. The MART Protest is thoroughly researched from the legal and engineering perspectives, and is as factual as humanly possible.



December 3, 1995

General Counsel
Procurement Law Control Group
U.S. General Accounting Office
441 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20548

Attention: Ms. M. Penny Ahearn, Esq.


  Subject: File B-265934.2


Protest of MART Corporation Against Contract
Awarded to Better Engineering Manufacturing On
August 29, 1995 Under Contract
No. N68335-95-R-0185

Dear Ms. Ahearn:

We received, on November 6, 1995, a copy of the commentary by the lawyer for Better Engineering, and received affidavits from the Agency's technical evaluators on November 14, 1995. We thank you for the opportunity to present the enclosed rebuttal affidavits and our surrebuttal. The holiday schedule has delayed our response and we thank you for your forbearance. Per the telecon of November 29, 1995, between you and Jeff Doherty of MART, the due date for our surrebuttal comments and the enclosed rebuttal affidavits is December 5, 1995.

It is absolutely essential that the GAO and Navy understand that the proposal and product offered by MART fully conforms in all respects to the Solicitation requirements in that it meets the heat-up time specified and will not exceed the 59 amp electric draw and otherwise complies with all the terms and conditions of the Solicitation. It is also absolutely essential that the GAO and Navy understand that the Better Engineering proposal and product offered do NOT conform to all the Solicitation requirements in that the Better Engineering product will either draw more electric current than the 59 amp maximum allowed or it will not heat up in the time required.

The issue being addressed in this protest is the Agency's specification that the product must heat to 200 degrees F in two hours maximum without drawing more than 59 amperes of electric power. The requirement not to exceed 59 amps is specific and we call the GAO's attention to the fact that the specification did not state a round number such as 60 amps or "under 65 amps" or specify an amperage that was "about" or "approximately" a given value, but stated with specificity the allowable maximum of 59 amps. These products are being purchased for numerous installation sites, some of which have yet to be determined and, at some locations the maximum amperage available can be 59 amps. If the product exceeds the 59 amp maximum limit, then it cannot be operated efficaciously in those locations that only have 59 amps available. MART will prove conclusively in this surrebuttal, as it has in its protest and commentary, that the Better engineering F-4000-P product is fatally flawed.

The GAO is asked to note that the MART proposal includes electrical devices that keep the amperage draw of the MART product under the maximum 59 amps allowed. Had the Navy specification been relaxed, then MART would not have had to include in its proposal electrical devices to monitor, control and regulate the amperage draw so that its product would not exceed 59 amps. As stated in the MART protest, a MART product without these electrical devices and controls is less costly to manufacture and this lower manufacturing cost would have been reflected in the MART proposal by a reduced selling price to the Navy for the MART product. It is unfair, improper and illegal if MART must comply with the 59 amp maximum draw specification and simultaneously meet the two hour heat-up requirement, while Better Engineering is not required to meet the same standards.

As proof that Better Engineering's proposal and product is fatally flawed we ask that you refer to the TECHNICAL PROPOSAL FOR SOL # N68335-95-R-0185 submitted by Better Engineering Mfg., Inc., 2) Technical Description - 0001- Large Aqueous Parts Washer, which states, "Units to be equipped with 24 KW of electric heat (33% more than on a standard F-4000-P) to ensure temperature rise to 200 F in two (2) hours. Our experience and the laws of physics have shown that less than 24 KW of heat in this tank size will not provide required heat-up performance." The Better Engineering product, by its own admission, requires 24Kw of heat to meet the two hour heat-up specifications of the Solicitation. The above citation is taken from the unredacted TECHNICAL PROPOSAL of Better Engineering which was received by MART on October 17, 1995 which was after our October 16, 1995 comments.

Watlow Electric Manufacturing Company manufactures electric heating elements which are routinely used by MART, Better Engineering and other manufacturers of washing machines. The Enclosure 1 Affidavit by Dennis Long, Engineering Team Leader of Watlow, states that "A heating element designed to produce 24kW at 220VAC will draw 62.98 amps/line with a 3PH connection." (underscore supplied). The calculations can be verified by a Conversions chart titled Ohm's Law Ref. 108 which was furnished by Better Engineering's Counsel, Lee Curtis, as an enclosure to the November 6, 1995 commentary to M. Penny Ahearn, Esq.              

In this same November 6, 1995 commentary to M. Penny Ahearn, Lee Curtis states on Page 3 that, "When the appropriate calculations are performed for the Better Engineering product, the 24 KW heating elements at 240 volts will only draw 20.17 KW at 220 volts." In other words, although the Better Engineering product must have 24kW of heat to meet the two hour heat-up specification of the Solicitation, Better Engineering proposes to furnish only 20.17 kW of heat or only 84% of the heat Better Engineering states is required. The Agency's Electrical Engineer Mr. Jerry Parker, in his Affidavit, restates the formula in the Watlow catalog which shows that, when a 240VAC heater is derated to operate on 220VAC, "the heating elements will only dissipate 20.17 KW of power."

On Page 3 of Lee Curtis' November 6, 1995 commentary it is stated, "Moreover, Better Engineering's overall design concept – which includes an amperage limiting device - ensures that the offered product will never draw more than 59 amps. When the pump is running, Better Engineering's proposed product automatically shuts-off one or more of the four heating elements." MART calls your attention to several points. First, nowhere in Better Engineering's TECHNICAL PROPOSAL FOR SOL 3 N68335-95-R-0185 submittal did they state that an "amperage limiting device" was included in their proposal. Next, even if they had included such device, the Lee Curtis letter states that this device "shuts-off one or more of the four heating elements ... When the pump is running" and does not address the problem that heating elements that produce 24kW at 220VAC will overamp and draw 62.98 amperes when the pump is idle. If Better Engineering installed heating elements that produced the required 24kW of heat for their product, and relied on an "amperage limiting device" to shut down one or more of the four heating elements to prevent their product from overamping, then the Better Engineering product would always have one or more heating elements shut down in which case it would never provide the 24kW of heat Better Engineering claims is required. MART offers this argument as proof, once again, that, whether or not an "amperage limiting device" was installed on the Better Engineering product, their product would either overamp or would not heat in the specified time. We again iterate that the Better Engineering product, by Better Engineering's own admission as set forth above, will either draw more than 59 amps of electric power or it will fail to heat in the two hour time required by the Solicitation.

We now address the issue of the Agency's Mr. Christopher S. Mahendra's Affidavit and his statement that "I have been involved in the technical evaluation for the Large Aqueous Parts Washer project under Solicitation Number N68335-95-R-0185." Please note that Mr. Mahendra is a Mechanical Engineer and not an electrical engineer and may not be fully qualified to attest to the technical electrical issues of this Solicitation. We suggest that the GAO rely instead on the statements of Mr. Jerry Parker, Electrical Engineer for the Agency, whose Affidavit affirms MART's contention that the Better Engineering product would not provide 24kW of heat.

But since Mr. Mahendra's Affidavit has been provided and it furnishes insights into how the Better Engineering product was evaluated by the Naval Warfare Center and determined to be in compliance with the Solicitation, we offer Mr. Mahendra's Affidavit as further proof of the correctness of the MART protest. First, Mr. Mahendra acknowledges that the Navy had tested a "Better Engineering Manufacturing Company Model 300-ZX" and that the "Better Engineering Company had proposed a larger heating unit at 24kW versus 18kW" to compensate for the "greater tank capacity" of the F-4000-P product. In other words, neither Mr. Mahendra nor the Navy had first hand knowledge of the F-4000-P product because they have never tested the F-4000-P product offered by Better Engineering. Instead, Mr. Mahendra and the Naval Warfare Center, Lakehurst, NJ, who were charged with the responsibility for "technical evaluation" of the Solicitation at the Naval Warfare Center relied, not on their own product testing and engineering expertise but, instead, gave carte blanche acceptance of Better Engineering's claim that their F-4000-P product could meet the 59 amp maximum draw with a 24kW heater operating at 220VAC. Proof of this is Mr. Mahendra's statement that "I was confident that the statement by Better Engineering Manufacturing Company that the maximum amperage would not be exceeded was a true and achievable statement." We ask that the GAO take special note that the Affidavit by Mr. Jerry Parker, an Electrical Engineer for the Naval Warfare Center, concludes the reverse, stating that the heat elements in the Better Engineering product "will only dissipate 20.17 KW of power." Proof is also provided by Lee Curtis in the November 6, 1995, commentary which states on page 3 that "the 24 KW heating elements at 240 volts will only draw 20.17 KW at 220 volts." The GAO should disregard the word "draw" in this citation because, clearly, an electric heating element does not "draw" kilowatts of heat but, rather, "produces" kilowatts of heat by drawing current measured in amperage. The fact remains that the Better Engineering proposal is fatally flawed.

The documents relating to this Solicitation have made several references to "defying the laws of physics." Mr. Mahendra has certainly done so in this case. He states that "various methods could be utilized in order to avoid exceeding the maximum allowable amperage draw" but nowhere does he explain that, by applying any of these methods, the 24kW heat requirement of the Better Engineering product fails the specifications of the Solicitation.              

In his Affidavit, Mr. Mahendra states, "In addition, the MART Corporation proposal contained a similar statement proposing to use a load shedding device in order to meet the maximum amperage requirement." We point out that the term "load shedding" somehow suggests that the device mystically reduces the amp draw to comply with the 59 amp maximum draw while still providing the required 24kW of heat, which is physically impossible. Also please note that Mr. Mahendra conveniently credited Better Engineering with utilizing a "load shedding device" when, in fact, as pointed out above, no such device was included in the Better Engineering submittal. The only mention of an amperage control device of any kind for the Better Engineering product was the "amperage limiting device" that was alluded to, not in Better Engineering's proposal submittal, but in the commentary to the MART protest by Lee Curtis, attorney for Better Engineering, dated November 6, 1995.

Mr. Mahendra also states that "A prototype study was done by the Lead Maintenance Technology Center for the Environment at NAS Jacksonville to evaluate the performance of commercially available aqueous parts washers." The GAO might conclude that the machines that were tested were all comparable models to provide an apples-to-apples comparison which was not the case. A significant number of MART Power Washers were delivered to Navy repair facilities prior to and during the time frame of this study, but these MART machines were our larger heavy duty, high performance MART Power Washers that are not manufactured by the other manufacturers. These included MART products to NAS Dallas, NAS Cecil Field, NAS Jacksonville, Pensacola and San Diego, plus MART machines to non-Naval military repair centers as well.

The Agency, according to Mr. Mahendra's Affidavit, did test the Better Engineering Manufacturing Company Model 300-ZX and the Agency's test may also have included a comparable size product by Roto-Jet of America which cannot be confirmed in the Affidavit or STUDY furnished to MART because Table (1) and Table (2) mentioned in the STUDY were not included in the document supplied to MART. But we do know that the Agency has never tested the MART CYCLONE 2.2 Power Washer which is comparable in size and specifications to the Better Engineering Model 300-ZX or test the MART CYCLONE 3.4 Power Washer that was proposed in the MART submittal.

It should be noted that The MART Corporation did offer to furnish to the Agency the product in the MART proposal submittal for testing and evaluation. Prior to contract award Mr. Mahendra was made this offer by MART while Mr. Mahendra visited the MART factory and he verbally accepted this offer and so told the undersigned and Michael Curth, Sales Manager of MART. On the basis of this verbal acceptance by Mr. Mahendra, MART manufactured a Power Washer that met ALL the specifications of the subject Solicitation, to be shipped to the Agency at MART's expense for test and evaluation. MART attempted to contact Mr. Mahendra on numerous occasions for shipping and delivery instructions, but none were forthcoming from Mr. Mahendra who never returned the telephone messages from MART.              

As MART's final surrebuttal comments we respectfully provide the following to the GAO about certain defects contained in the November 6, 1995 commentary from the lawyer for Better Engineering:



a.    Reference to Better Engineering being an "intervenor, 4 C.F.R. 21.0(b)" is wrong. The term "intervenor" under "4 C.F.R. 21.0(b)" applies to protests filed with the GAO on and after October 1, 1995 which are under Fifth Edition 1995 Bid Protest Regulations. Our protest was submitted to the GAO on September 13, 1995 and was thus under the Fourth Edition 1991 Bid Protest Regulations. Such Fourth Edition does not use the term "intervenor".

b.    Contrary to the bald allegation contained in Lee Curtis' November 6, 1996 document, MART's protest of September 13, 1995 and our October 16, 1995 comments furnished clear and convincing evidence to show that Better Engineering's proposal and product did not and will not meet the Solicitation requirements on heat-up time and, simultaneously, the 59 amp maximum draw.              

c.    Counsel for Better Engineering inaccurately assumed that MART proposed 240 Volts in its calculations when, in fact, MART standard heaters are 230VAC and operate at 220VAC. The actual amperage values, listed in the table of page 4 of MART's October 16, 1995 commentary are correct and verified by the Affidavit of Marc A. Treppler, Professional Engineer, which is enclosed with this surrebuttal. The values MART claims as accurate are further verified by the calculations of Mr. Jerry Parker, Navy Affiant and Electrical Engineer for the Agency, and by the chart submitted by Lee Curtis, attorney for Better Engineering.

d.    The contention by counsel to Better Engineering that the GAO should not consider on the merits but should dismiss as "contract administration" the portion of MART's protest about Better Engineering's proposal and product exceeding the solicitation's maximum electrical load specified as 59 amps is a contention that the GAO SHOULD reject. Page 9 of GAO's booklet Fourth Edition 1991 states "GAO does not consider protests involving contract administration. Contract administration includes disputes arising during contract performance, such as whether the contractor is entitled to additional compensation and agency decisions not to exercise options." Whether or not an offeror's proposal and product meets and will conform to the solicitation requirements, as pointed out in numerous GAO cases (including the four cases we cited on page two of our October 16, 1995 comments), are matters that are within the purview of the GAO to consider and decide on the merits.

e.    The allegation by the legal counsel to Better Engineering about MART not being prejudiced because our proposal and product will not comply with the requirements of the RFP is NONSENSE. Seeing is believing. To this end MART repeats the last paragraph of our October 16, 1995 commentary which states:              

"As a final and concluding comment, MART repeats its offer to the Navy to supply at no charge to the Navy a washer built in accordance with MART's initial technical proposal for trial and test by the Navy anywhere in the contiguous 48 states or the District of Columbia to prove that without variances, modifications or special considerations the MART washer meets all salient characteristics of the solicitation."

f.     We implore the Navy to do a side-by-side comparison test of the MART product with that of Better Engineering and the products of all other manufacturers.


The parties have stipulated and agreed that the specifications require that the amperage draw of the product must not exceed 59 amps. This means that all electrical devices that are operating at a given time, in total, cannot draw more than 59 amps. All focus has been directed to the heating elements not exceeding the 59 amps allowed. However, when the heating element is operating and even when the wash pump is not running, one or more other electrical devices are operating and drawing amperage as well. Better Engineering, in its TECHNICAL PROPOSAL FOR SOL # N68335-R-0185, page 2 states:



"Power requirement will be 220 Volt, 3 phase, 60 HZ, with 59 Amp draw at full load. Unit will have 110 Volt controls."(underscore supplied).


A product that utilizes 3 phase electrical power and has 110 Volt controls has a transformer which is an electrical device that draws amperage to provide power for the controls. The transformer converts high voltage electrical power to lower voltage power for use by the controls. The high voltage heating elements are switched on and off by a low voltage electrical device. This device requires electrical power to operate when the heating element is heating and this power is provided by the transformer. Thus, when calculating the total amperage draw of the product, an allowance must be made for the current used by the transformer for the controls. Note the table in the Affidavit of Marc A. Treppler, Professional Engineer, wherein he states "Amp Draw Transformer Average per leg - 1.52 (amperes)." (parenthesis supplied). Because the Better Engineering product will also have a transformer to provide electrical power for the "110 Volt controls", 1.52 amps must be added to its total amp draw so that the amp draw for the Better Engineering product will be 62.98 amps for the 24kW heating elements plus 1.52 amps for the transformer. The total amperage draw for the Better Engineering product that WILL meet the two hour heat-up specifications will be: 62.98 amps (+) 1.52 amps (=) 64.50 amps total, or 8.5% higher than the maximum amperes allowed by the Solicitation.

Referring again to Mr. Treppler's Affidavit, when he calculated the amperage draw for the MART product he factored in the Steam Exhaust as well, since this electrical device can operate while the electric heater is operating in the MART-designed product. We did not include the Steam Exhaust in the total amp draw for the Better Engineering product because the Better Engineering TECHNICAL PROPOSAL does not state that their Steam Exhaust operates during non-washing periods.

The documents and information supplied, including: the proposal submittal by Better Engineering; the affidavits by the engineers of Watlow, MART and the Agency; the chart furnished by Lee Curtis, counsel for Better Engineering; and the analyses furnished by MART in its protest, commentary and surrebuttal; together prove that the Better Engineering proposal submittal is fatally flawed. It is obvious to MART, and should be to the GAO, that Better Engineering also knew or should have known that its proposal was fatally flawed because Better Engineering, instead of furnishing proof of the efficacy of its original design, offered post facto engineering solutions to cover up its flaws. Even with their reengineered product, the product fails and cannot meet the requirements of the Solicitation. If the GAO and Navy permit the awarded contract to stand, the integrity of the competitive proposal system will be impaired and the Government will be victimized.                              

Taking into account the entire record, MART considers it warranted for the Comptroller General of the United States and GAO to sustain our protest and authorize the reliefs requested in MART's September 13, 1995 protest.

Respectfully submitted,
The MART Corporation

Gary Minkin,



Industry Leader in Aqueous Parts Washer Technology

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