How to Write Purchase Specifications


Specifications are used by the university to describe what it intends to purchase. They are used by suppliers to prepare bids to supply the items or services requested. During the evaluation of bids, the specifications are used to determine each bidder’s compliance with the requirements and ultimately to select the contracted supplier. For this reason specifications must be as generic as possible and define the university’s minimum needs, without any unjustified bias toward a specific brand. After an item has been delivered or a service performed, the written specification–to which the supplier bid–is the key legal document in settling any dispute concerning the quality of the product or service received.

Determining Your Requirements

If you have experience with different varieties and models of a product, it is much easier to document your requirements in the form of specifications. If you do not have this experience, it is helpful to discuss your options with a purchasing agent and often it is most helpful to have suppliers demonstrate equipment for you. Although suppliers obviously wish to sway your choice toward their equipment, a demonstration can be an enlightening experience which will make you much more knowledgeable of different products and their capabilities. However, a supplier should never be given the impression that providing a demonstration will advantage the supplier, which would be unfair to other suppliers.

Brand-Specific Specifications

Brand-specific specifications are not to be used unless the particular requirement can only be met by the exact specifications offered by a particular piece of equipment. These items are generally more expensive since they often contain additional features. Generic specifications encourage competition. They should be used wherever possible. If a brand-specific requisition is submitted, it must be accompanied by a written justification explaining why the product is singularly able to meet the requirements.

Waiver of Competitive Bidding

There may be some situations where a highly-specialized item is only available from one supplier. In other words, no other supplier has the item, or research dictates that only the requested supplier can provide the item for research continuity. Waivers of competitive bidding requests must be processed through Procurement Services on a requisition. Visit the Waiver of Competitive Bidding page for more information.