Who Does Your Engineering?

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 dedicated engineer.

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


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