Operations Transformation: Embracing change to meet new challenges

Shutterstock / Kolonko
Shutterstock / Kolonko
Published On
Sep 15, 2022

Change is always difficult to accept, and performing fire alarm system installations in today’s business climate is more challenging than ever. Typically, the plan for each project is to ensure all the equipment will be on-site and on time so technicians will have a smooth flow of work and planned completion dates are met.

For the first time in recent history, there are empty shelves and limited product availabilities in grocery stores. And now, in addition to supply chain issues, there are the effects of the “great resignation” and inflation.

Regardless of why these challenges are impacting businesses, contractors are responsible for completing the project on time and within budget. Building occupancy permits will not be issued unless the fire alarm system is complete, so the goal is to assure the building owner that it will be open on time.

Addressing all the challenges outlined above will require changes (there’s that word again!) in how business is conducted and how the fire alarm system equipment is purchased. Be open to the changes needed, but most of all, be creative in responding to these challenges.

Lack of technicians

Every contractor I speak with complains about the lack of qualified technicians. One creative approach to this issue is to hire individuals outside the business and train them as quickly as possible. Another approach is collaboration with fellow contractors to “share” technicians when they might have more availability. Obviously, if using this option, be sure to develop a contractual relationship to ensure neither company “loses” their technician to the other.

Another technique for addressing the workforce issue is to change the way you deal with the fire alarm system equipment supplier. Ask the supplier if they can provide the complete fire alarm system installation on a turnkey basis, rather than just supplying equipment and system programming.

However, remember that the goal is to serve the customer. They do not want to hear excuses when the system installation cannot be finished on time, which will delay the occupancy permit.


Dealing with inflation is a bit more troublesome. Costs continue to increase almost daily, and passing them on to the customer is not always an option. Review current methods of operation to determine how to be more efficient, and change operational methods where needed to mitigate the inflation pressures.

In addition, it will be necessary to change how fire alarm system equipment is purchased. Even if the fire alarm system supplier performs the installation to help mitigate staffing issues, ensure they will have the equipment when needed. Traditionally, a contractor waits until they are close to the end of the project to have the fire alarm system equipment delivered. However, given supply chain issues, it will be more advantageous to have it delivered as soon as possible to ensure all necessary equipment is ready for obtaining the occupancy permit on time.

Equipment availability

Another issue with getting the equipment on time is the fact that smoke detectors must meet new Underwriters Laboratories requirements, which have slowed the delivery and will affect the ability to complete a fire alarm system installation. Additionally, the ongoing semiconductor chip shortage is affecting the production and delivery of fire alarm control units and smoke detectors. Changing ordering and delivery requirements is important, whether for a turnkey installation or just equipment and programming.

There are more crises developing around delayed delivery of fire alarm system equipment than ever before. If supply chain issues mean the installation cannot be completed on time, the authority having jurisdiction will not allow the building to open.

It’s possible to meet these new challenges by implementing the necessary changes to operations and current procedures.

About the Author

Wayne D. Moore

Fire/Life Safety Columnist

Wayne D. Moore, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker, writer and expert in the life safety field, has been a principal member and chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24, as well as a former principal member of NFPA 909 and NFPA 914. He is the...

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