Productivity Begins With Product: Coffee break With Bob Dagostino, Dagostino Electronic Services

We don’t “build” buildings anymore. We assemble them. Most of what we have always categorized as “material” now more accurately deserves to be called “products.” Consequently, today in new construction or service work, the best guarantee of productivity is through end-to-end management of product handling.

Carefully plan and plot the pathway of products—from where you acquire them to their final destination—and you’ll never have to worry about the man-hours required to install them. This concept of a product-productivity connection suggests an advantage that it should afford to low-voltage contractors.

Unlike traditional electrical contractors who generally are product-agnostic, low-voltage contractors align with certain brands, becoming authorized dealers of selected products. Theoretically, that sort of allegiance should boost productivity.

We stopped for coffee with Bob Dagostino, president of Pittsburgh-based Dagostino Electronic Services, to gather his insights on the product-productivity connection.

One aspect that separates the low-voltage segment of our industry from traditional electrical contracting is in the closer ties that low-voltage contractors have with product lines and their manufacturers. Often, for example, they must be certified to install and service certain products.

Yes, close relationships with our manufacturers are very important to us. We leverage these relationships and the ongoing knowledge we receive from them to market solutions to our customers. Manufacturers are investing more than ever in ecosystems that offer scalability and sustainability. Our customers continue to look for a competitive edge of functionality or cost of ownership that will improve their bottom line or end-users’ experience.

In your opinion, does a close alignment with certain product lines translate into greater productivity? Standardization creates efficiency. Doesn’t standardization of products, their subassemblies and parts, command a more efficient installation?

Working with a standardized selection of products makes everything more efficient. Our people can be trained on specifics versus generics. Manufacturers seek ECs that can consistently showcase seamless solutions. They look for ECs willing to invest in promoting the anticipated solutions their products provide and continually search for even more innovative applications to benefit end-users.

Do close ties with product lines—and the concept of being an “authorized” dealer—create an opportunity for after-market business—i.e., service and maintenance work?

Having close ties that require a contractor to become an authorized dealer is beneficial to both the manufacturer and the contractor. The manufacturer benefits because the installer has been properly trained for the application of their product. The contractor wins because they’re able to build upon their close relationship with the manufacturer and take advantage of future upgrades and service support—keys to recurring revenues.

High-tech digital devices have the power to reshape how we deliver service and maintenance. They include products that can detect—and even cure—problems remotely. Now, there’s a huge boost to productivity!

It’s an “always-on” world. More and more of the things in the internet of things are connected and exchange data. This gives us the ability to monitor the condition of equipment and its environment. We are now identifying issues even before a customer knows that a problem is about to occur. And we’re doing lots of fixes remotely!

You have just described how a low-voltage service contractor can solve some customers’ problems without having to dispatch a technician in a van to do it. So what comes next?

Low-voltage contractors will need to dive deeper into their role as system integrators to meet their customers’ increasing needs. It’s a huge commitment of investment in engineering, help desk functions, software development, and much, much more. But it’s where we’ll need to go.

About the Author

Andrew McCoy

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Andrew McCoy is the Preston and Catharine White Fellow and Department Head of the Department of Building Construction in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. Contact him at apmccoy@vt.edu.

About the Author

Fred Sargent

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Fred Sargent is an electrical industry consultant focusing on service expertise. He can be reached at fred@sargent.com.

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