Planning for the Project

By Jim Hayes | May 15, 2009
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So you have the installation job, contracts are signed and a set of plans has been handed to you. What’s next? Plan-ning the job is your first task. Proper planning is important to ensure the job is installed properly and on time and that it meets cost objectives, so you, the contractor, make a profit.

(Ed. Note: For part 1, click here.)

We assume you have a finished design for the project, know where and how everything will be installed, and have any special re-quirements, such as permits, ready. We also can assume you have a completion date, hopefully a reasonable one, to work toward. The first step is to create a schedule that will be the centerpiece of the planning process.

In order to schedule a job, you need a lot of information, much of which can be acquired from estimates you did when bidding the job. When buyers price the components to be used on a job, they should get delivery times and prices. Some items used on fiber optic projects should be stock items, such as connectors, patch panels or splice closures. Cables, however, may have to be made to order.

Many fiber optic cables are custom items, depending on the cable type, number and types of fibers, and color-coding. Custom cables often will be less expensive because they don’t have extra fibers for specifications you don’t need, for example, but they will have longer lead times since they must be made from scratch. When specifying a fiber optic cable, always try to have a few extra fibers available, just in case fibers are damaged during installation.

The astute contractor always tries to use the same types of components on every job so it is familiar with not only the installation procedures, but the typical costs, yield (e.g., number of connectors or splices that will pass testing the first time) and any likely prob-lems.

If any installers are not familiar with the components, they must learn how to install them correctly, either by experimenting in the office on off-time or by getting manufacturers to train them. The need for training also may arise if new equipment types are re-quired, such as outside plant cable-placing tools or new types of test equipment. The cardinal rule of installation is to never take an unfamiliar component or tool on the job; that is a recipe for disaster.

Buyers should order the components when the job is acquired, scheduling delivery to the job site either to have everything available be-fore the installation begins or, on a large job with an extended schedule, according to how long the installation of that component will take. Here, you also need to plan on where the components will be delivered, for example, either a staging area in your warehouse or to the job site.

Components delivered to the job site may require security. Theft can be a problem particularly with cable, since some thieves think all cables contain copper and the price of copper is still high—both erroneous. But vandalism is another concern, requiring that components either be locked up or, if too large to put indoors, such as large spools of cable or fiber optic innerduct, that on-site overnight guards be brought in.

Next, one must schedule labor. Again, the estimates should tell you how many installers of what experience will be required and how long it will take them to complete the installation. If any training is needed, additional time may need to be added to the schedule.

Having covered labor and materials in the schedule, the planning process is almost done. Review the schedule with everyone involved to get them on board, and start the processes, beginning with acquiring materials. Then add to the plan a review of safety rules for su-pervisors, installers and anyone expected to be on-site. Also add notes to keep all scrap cable, connectors, etc., to package and present to the user in case they are needed for future restoration.

If the start date is not tomorrow (because the customer wanted it yesterday) and you have other projects in the interim, pull out this schedule regularly to check if everything is on track to prevent any last-minute surprises.

HAYES is a VDV writer and trainer and the president of The Fiber Optic Association. Find him at

(Ed. Note: For part 3, click here.)

About The Author

HAYES is a VDV writer and educator and the president of the Fiber Optic Association. Find him at

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