Russ Lambert has trained as a lawyer (with a legal degree), served as a project manager for an electrical contractor (in this case, Fischbach & Moore) and worked at a high level for a major electrical distributor (specifically, as director of e-Commerce for WESCO Distribution during the dot-com boom). There aren’t many who can boast such diverse and impressive experience in the professional world.

Lambert is now COO of Supra Telecom in Miami, Fla., a telecommunications provider. He recently added another line to his resume: author. He wrote “Executive’s Guide to the Wireless Workforce” to demystify wireless for the technophobic.

Wireless, as explained by Lambert, is not a wonder. It’s another tool to be used by companies that want to work smarter and grow faster than their competitors.

Important notes

First, note that this book is not about the electrical industry or distributors or construction. However, unlike other scribblings on this topic, the “Executive’s Guide to the Wireless Workforce” focuses on real-world applications. “Gee whiz” technology explanations are minimized, as are fantastic projections (from big market research firms) on future wireless usage.

Instead, Lambert focused on 50 organizations that are already using wireless technology. In addition to using the experience of these companies in the main text’s pages, he provides a profile of each in the appendix. You’ll find Sears in there, as well as the Daytona Beach Police Department.

In addition, a book like this can be “out of date” about 5 seconds after ink is applied to paper. Technology moves ahead relentlessly. However, most of us in electrical construction are neither living on the “bleeding edge” of the wireless world nor trying to.

Electrical contractors need to understand the “lure” of wireless. Your customers may well transition from Category 5e to wireless, for a variety of reasons. Additionally, wireless technologies may well be of use in your business.

Service work

Many electrical contractors provide service work; not each and every one is expert at it. Here are some ideas from Lambert on this:

“Reduction in paper processing by entering data only once at the custom site [on a wireless device] and transmitting the billing information to a central system can save labor costs and speed billing.

“Prompt, more precise record keeping on service calls [time spent and parts used] can help avoid the typical 20 to 30 percent rejection rate of service invoices by customers who object to the charges.”

“The return on investment and customer impact of wireless for the service technician workforce is so powerful that we can look for this segment to outpace all others in wireless italicization.”

Specific examples of how wireless field service has improved life for service techs—and profits for their employers—are provided from GE Medical Systems and Sears. There’s also a look into the future:

“More experienced technicians could see and diagnose a problem remotely using digital microcameras, and would then instruct a less qualified (and less expensive) junior technician on how to repair [the item]. Diagnostics could be uploaded and analyzed, providing information on the best course of action,” the book notes.

The skilled electrician shortage is coming. Service work takes a certain type of knowledge. With that know-how in short supply, wireless communication from less-experienced journeymen to those older workers with that special savvy might be one way to provide the expertise needed while also getting the work done.

Lambert’s ideas can be built on. Think about the future: Your most experienced service tech or electrician wants to step back. He wants to work out of his house and not do physical labor 40 or more hours each week; he’s tired of driving.

You supply him with wireless equipment at his house. He agrees to make himself available during certain hours of the day. You equip the less-experienced journeymen with everything they need to do the work, including wireless handhelds with cameras.

When they run into a problem, they contact the semi-retired expert … and he helps them troubleshoot via phone, video and keystrokes. Does that sound crazy? It’s possible today.

There’s a lot in the book that will be of value to contractors only in terms of gaining insight into how leading-edge customers are going about business.

For some of your customers, wireless adoption may be less about eliminating cables and more about gaining advantages with outside-the-building communication (such as speedy salesforce communication, to use one example).

As noted earlier, the book does not deal directly with construction contracting, electrical distribution or anything directly related. However, it provides insight into what is driving your customers to wireless today—and the kind of work you might find available tomorrow. EC

SALIMANDO is a Vienna, Va.-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. He can be reached at jsali@cris.com