Now is an excellent time to get into the datacom field and become a leader. A cabling installation system (CIS) can be a key to success for the installation contractor. With today’s high-speed networks and more sophisticated cabling, a customer’s requirements can be very demanding. You can meet those demands right away by using a CIS that manages your cables from start to finish. A CIS can be a full cabling installation system that is portable and holds cable reels set up for installation. A CIS helps you pull the cable off the reels (up to 48) and separate, organize and label them, then bring them into cable pathways where they are terminated and labeled. The benefits to the contractor—besides saving time and materials—are that a CIS reduces cable twisting and friction, it facilitates labeling, and it helps maintain the ANEXT (Alien NEXT) performance of the future augmented Category 6 cables for 10 gigabit Ethernet applications.
James “Jerry” Barger of Allison Smith Telecom, a design/build engineering firm in Atlanta, found a CIS was extremely useful in large data center applications because it could pull in 48 cables simultaneously in a controlled manner and label them accurately. He also felt with a year’s time of doing larger projects, the system would pay for itself.
“The installation, sorting and labeling of communications cables consumes a significant portion of the labor hours allocated to a project,” Barger said. “By increasing the efficiency and accuracy of the installation process, a cable management system can have a tremendous impact on the project’s overall profitability.”
Many electrical contractors already are in the datacom field, as two recent studies conducted for the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) show. Using innovation will get you on the datacom fast track. If you look at the cabling installation as though it were a whole system and use a CIS, you have found a way to out-innovate the competition—it’s a true management tool, and you are now able to differentiate yourself from competitors and add value for the customer.
The“2006 Electrical Contractor Profile Study,” conducted for Electrical Contractor magazine by Renaissance Research & Consulting, New York, showed 70 percent of contractors surveyed already were in the communications market. However, for those contractors, the communications-related revenues were significantly less than those from traditional power and lighting work. Still, this may fit a “buy low, sell high” analogy: If the contractors’ involvement in the market is low now, this is an excellent time for them to develop their datacom business for another income stream.
“The Guide for Entering the V/D/V Market” by Dr. Thomas E. Glavinich outlines concerns contractors have about entering the datacom business. These include the cost of test equipment and state-of-the-art tools, finding technically qualified workers, accurately estimating projects, training staff on the latest materials and practices (e.g., for gigabit networks), having an established sales force, determining which market relates to a company’s philosophy and which pays for work performed.
These concerns can be alleviated by using a cabling installation system (CIS) on the job:
1. The cost of using a state-of-the-art tool, such as a CIS, should get a return on your investment (ROI) in 90–100 days when using it for large installations, such as data centers.
2. You will have technically qualified workers because you can get training on a CIS and rely on its manufacturer for support for the lifetime of the product. The training is necessary to stay competitive and can be provided by a manufacturer, an organization, an educational facility or online. For cable installation, the contractor receives training on the CIS he or she is going to use.
3. When estimating a job, a CIS can be considered part of operating costs.
4. Using a CIS can alleviate concern about being paid for work done. Because it helps on-time job completion, it promotes on-time payment.
5. Developing a sales force can start with investigating the datacom field and presenting your qualifications to potential customers. That information needs to be instilled in your company’s technical/sales staff and combined with the right training.
6. As to which market relates to a contractor’s philosophy, take the example of how closely related communications and electrical work are. By using a CIS, a contractor is delivering communications. For instance, a company needs electric power to operate, and they also need the ability to communicate within and outside the company. If they cannot communicate, there is no way to do business; therefore, communications equals doing business. A company’s network is their means of communication. For that network to function, the cable needs to be installed, and power needs to be present for everything to work.
To become a leader in the datacom contracting business, there are some specific steps to take. Determine the type of datacom contractor you want to be: installation only, installation of different systems or media for a customer, or a contractor who can offer a full suite of services from cable installation to testing, working with interoperable systems and offering integration services. It is important to remember that datacom services can be composed of incredibly sophisticated systems that require expertise that surpasses Category 5e cabling install and termination work.
Position yourself as the best in the area you choose, and follow that up by reaching prospective customers in your area and finding out what they need. Customers want someone who can solve problems, who uses and knows the latest technologies and whom they can trust.
Make commitments because this is a growing industry now. Note that margins are better if you are at the top of the market—you are more efficient, which saves time and puts dollars into your profit.
¡ Train: Analyze your sales to determine training needed, set aside time for sales training, develop a training budget and have all technicians trained on a CIS.
¡ Motivate: Adopt a reward program for your staff, figure out how to reward employees (e.g., title, money, plaque), recognize high performers and consider a profit-sharing program. Motivation is improved with a CIS on the job.
¡ Be Consistent: Consistently lower the number of failures, reduce rerunning of cables, reduce labeling errors requiring retesting for tone, reduce frequent callbacks and reduce the rate of cable failures. This is where a CIS significantly improves installation performance and consistency.
¡ Market/Sell Yourself: Make professional presentations to potential customers; show you are state-of-the-art; describe your installation methods; explain you understand your customer’s needs; and convey how you are network savvy, efficient and well-organized. Explain the benefits of using a CIS—proper handling, eliminating cable twisting/spiraling, adherence to manufacturer’s specs (e.g., bend radius), greater value for the customer, lessening of alien crosstalk and preparing for easy removal of abandoned cabling if required in the future.
A CIS can help with increasing profitability, especially in a new or growing communications installation business. Paul Lagana, IBEW Local 164 in Paramus, N.J., feels the installation practice had been the same for 25 or 30 years and needs improvement by using the latest in technology for the most fragile part of the installation—the wiring.
In his work, he did this by using a cabling installation system—the management tool that improved productivity, costs, profit and quality and handled Category 5e, 6 and 6A labeling. He also felt the contractor became the “one-stop shop” because the contractor could do all the work from installation to testing.
There are many ways to start implementing your plan to become the significant datacom contractor in your area. Check out the training programs, especially those that cover many aspects of local area network (LAN) cabling such as installing and certifying LAN cabling systems, copper structured cabling, data center architecture, CISCO programs, fiber networking and certification and distributed control systems (using LonWorks).
Figure out the size of the market in your area; decide where you want to be; and then train your technical and sales staff. You should acquire a state-of-the-art cabling installation system. Electrical contractors can do more work with fewer people and less equipment in the same amount of time.
Finally, you’ll need to market your company. Meeting and talking with potential customers gives you the chance to clarify the advantages of hiring you and address any objections and/or technical issues the customer might have.
Electrical contractors now have a way to out-innovate others using a cabling installation system. Contractors can use a CIS to set themselves apart from the competition. They can take the necessary steps to get more datacom work now because they are more highly trained, they have the proper tools and components and they are skilled in handling installations more professionally and efficiently than others. And, it’s always important to tell the customer how valuable it is for the marketplace to have a highly skilled and trained electrical firm handling their datacom work. EC
Technical information supplied by Beast Cabling Systems Inc., www.beastcablingsystems.com.
MICHELSON, president of Jackson, Calif.-based Business Communication Services and publisher of the BCS Reports, is an expert in TIA/EIA performance standards. Contact her at www.bcsreports.com or email@example.com.
¡ ore efficient use of labor hours
¡ Ensures uniform installation practices and adherence to standards, guidelines and manufacturer specs
¡ Creates a work station for organizing the job and reducing work stress on technicians
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