Who Does Your Engineering?
- By Charlie Howell
- Sep 01, 2015
Security systems today are getting more sophisticated to some, and
less to others. The further definition of this statement is gained by
understanding that there is what some consider to be the old school
security person that installs the locking hardware, runs the cabling,
terminates everything, does the programming and tests out the system or
rents the bucket truck and install the camera and enclosure. There also are
those in the security industry that are more IT centric and are not from the
world of installing locks, drilling frames, or sealing exterior wall penetrations
but are at home in front of the network programming end looking
through ports, VLANs and routing processes.
The explanation above highlights the difference between skill sets in old
school security installers and today’s security installation teams. Both are
still very much needed, especially when designing or laying out systems. As
a design engineer that came from the old school security world but has an
understanding of how the IT components work to support today’s security
systems, I have seen a growing battle within integration companies that are
trying to deal with this element.
When an IT-centric security person goes to design a security system
it is certain that the network routing, mounting equipment in IDF’s and
MDF’s, and locating the server(s) will be addressed. What
I am noticing though is that a few of these designers are
not addressing some of the basics like grounding, locking
hardware and power supplies.
So, what is the solution? There are integrators that
have dedicated engineers that are either from the old
school with some IT training or from the IT centric but
taught in the old school ways of installing. These engineers
are not typically degreed engineers but are specialists
in the design and layout of integrated security systems
to the point of an engineer title. These are
super valuable people for your organization.
The role of the dedicated engineer should be
focused on knowing the technology that his/
her integration firm is installing, selling, and
servicing and the intricate details of that
line of products. The role of the engineer
has a pre-sales function, a pre-install function
and a post install function.
The pre-sales engineering function is to
make sure that the sales team is sending
out adequate pricing/quotes for systems
to address the scope of the project. The
engineer should be reviewing the scope
of the project, the mounting environment,
and the data brought in by the
sales team. The review of this data will
enable the engineer to adequately put
the pieces of the proposal together to
make sure that the price is as tight as can be and the risk is as low as can be.
Proposals that have a pre-sales engineer putting them together with the
sales team have a smaller risk of missing something that will either be a big
change order or a big hit to the profitability of the project. The main reason
for having an engineer involved in this pre-sales function is to limit the risk
to the company when pricing and committing to prices.
The function of an engineer in the pre-install is to make sure that once
the purchase order is received and is placed, the parts list/bill of materials
is correct and the submissions are handled. In almost all submittals there
are shop drawings and product data. Most require samples to see the look
and feel of the card reader. The shop drawings are the most often underperformed
element of the submittal process. Of all the integrators that submit
shop drawings less than 1 percent that I have reviewed have been correct.
The engineer’s responsibility for the shop drawings is to get them correct
and in accordance with the project’s specifications.
The product data is less of an art and more of a check-off list to make
sure that each specification section has a product data sheet that accompanies
it and a reference to the specification section that required it. The real
intent of submittals is to show the client that you know how to install these
systems and can label them in a manner that they understand. When it’s
done right it’s a simple “Approved” but when it’s not right I have seen it take
as many as seven resubmittals to get it right. I have even seen many cases
where the project was completed and the shop drawings were still not correct
so the project went to the as-built process which took months past the
install to get right.
The post install function of an engineer is to review the install to ensure
it matches the design and then to prepare close out documents. This is an
important function that should be matched with the service manager/provider
to ensure that not only is the install complete but the paperwork is
ready for life cycle management of the system(s). This is also known as the
hand off to service.
I have seen integrators suffering from omissions in pricing, ordering,
or multiple resubmittals that could have been avoided by simply having a
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Security Today.