Mapping the Way Forward

Industry Vertical

Mapping the Way Forward

Careful documentation is vital for maintaining, expanding your facility’s security systems

Any security investment starts with a realization that you have people and things to protect. Or, maybe you experience a security breach and finally see it: You have both a moral and legal obligation to build barriers between your organization and the forces out there that threaten it.

You researched the products and systems available. You hired a top-flight consultant, someone with the credentials and track record that gives you confidence that he or she understands your security problem, and how to solve it.

With their help, you look at the most cost-effective systems and run the numbers by your risk management team. The consultants steer you toward the best integrator. They use their contacts to get you the best deal on the components for a full-fledged system that ticks all the boxes: full coverage video, inside and out, audio and motion sensors, card and bio readers to control access at different levels, and a command-and-control monitoring module that would make ESPN proud.

The project comes off on schedule, and with a little luck, the system is up and running on time and under budget. Everything is going smoothly—until something breaks, or business growth forces you to expand and upgrade your system, or the maintenance schedule notifies you that one or more components need attention. Suddenly, you realize that you do not have the documentation that enables you to find the equipment that needs attention or understand exactly how the system is wired.

The Need for Documentation

When it comes to documentation, a generic brochure or standard manual can usually point the way for a residential system or even a small office complex. But today’s more complex, fully-integrated security systems require detailed drawings that show the system interconnects, connector information, cable runs, wireless coverage area, and fiber and cable types.

Proper documentation provides cost savings in multiple ways. Maintenance and expansion are the two most obvious ones. Despite the reliability of today’s technology, things wear out; they suffer from the elements, and they break. Knowing how a particular piece of equipment ties into the overall system is paramount when it comes to replacing it. No one goes into business not expecting to grow

that business. Knowing how to add to an existing system successfully is next to impossible without knowledge of how the current system is allocated, wired, interdependent, etc. Even something as simple as expanding the physical facility can be a threat to your system; simply knocking down a wall to add more square footage can have disastrous consequences unless you know what’s behind or in that wall.

While your current staff engineer may have had a hand in running cable and installing cameras, what if he leaves? Then, that maintenance requirement or expansion challenge becomes more critical.

In addition, if your system is not properly maintained, there could be additional cost. A growing number of local governments are beginning to charge for malfunctioning systems that cost them valuable public service time in the form of false alarms. An unmaintained system can impose a direct cost from that municipality.

Upfront costs on the original installation must also be taken into account. Few new construction projects or even simple add-on integrations can afford to fall behind schedule. Missing your construction timeline can cost you in many ways, not the least of which is the efficient function of your on-going business.

Detailed schematic drawings allow install crews and wiremen to keep the process on schedule and avoid reworking portions of the project caused by inaccessible cable runs, blocked conduit paths, etc. Those drawings can cover the changes that are certain to pop up during the implementation phase of the project. When the project is complete, the as-built drawings that include those inevitable changes that take place during any construction endeavor can be priceless.

Getting Started

Most large system integrators maintain a staff of CAD operators who can take the sales engineer’s conceptual sketches and turn them into detailed drawings. Add someone to perform data entry into a dynamic database for all of that drawing information, and you have the documentation needed to maintain, troubleshoot and expand their customer’s security system.

As larger security integrators are already aware, a well-trained, efficient CAD operator is an integral part of the design and implementation team. Working closely with the consultant, the sales engineers, the integrator, and the customer can help all parties guide the project through to conclusion with detailed documentation.

Of course, they need to use specialty software that is flexible enough to meet diverse drawing standards and comprehensive enough to provide adequate detail of the integration. A big plus is using one of a handful of software applications that tie the CAD drawings to a dynamic database, which provide the customer with a full list of all the equipment in the system, as well as a list of cables and their connectivity.

Meanwhile, many smaller integrators and operators do not have the resources to field a design staff. Like many other industries in today’s economy, the security integration business is cyclical. It’s often difficult to justify the cost of a highly trained and effective CAD operator, not to mention the additional expense of required medical coverage and other benefits and the annual subscription cost of expensive design software. Full documentation is necessary to remain viable in the very competitive security integration market.

As a result, many integrators today outsource documentation to a private contractor. While that additional service no doubt adds to the overall cost of the integration, in the long run the return on investment (ROI) is well worth it. Where the cost of maintaining a CAD design department, or even a single operator, is prohibitive, well-trained, equipped independent CAD contractors are available to provide a full complement of drawings and other accompanying documentation in a cost-effective manner.

Documentation for Peace of Mind

With over 40 years’ experience in broadcasting and communications design, I’ve seen first-hand the value of detailed documentation in the communications industry. Time and again problems that developed during or after the construction of a complicated facility or system were solved quickly and economically. Small changes did not become large disasters. Cost overruns were held in check simply because thorough drawings and a detailed database of equipment and cables enabled all parties to have the information needed to make the proper decisions to stay on schedule.

Once the system was in place, up and running effectively, I have seen detailed documentation enable many facility managers and engineers save themselves countless hours of sleep, not to mention long, overnight stretches of work tracking down cable runs and verifying equipment interconnects and failures. I personally know of one case where complete documentation enabled an operator to rebuild quickly following a disastrous fire. The examples of the effectiveness of full detail drawings, complete equipment and cable list are endless.

That same solution awaits the security industry.

This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Security Today.

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