Robert D. Grossman

President, R. Grossman and Associates, Inc

Author Bio ▼

Robert D. Grossman is president of R. Grossman and Associates, an electronic security consulting group specializing in casinos, government facilities, and commercial and retail applications. He has worked for Sensormatic Electronics Enterprise Accounts group, Vicon Industries, and American Dynamics/Tyco Safety Products. Throughout his career, Bob has been associated with some of the largest, most complex electronic security projects in the world including for the MGM Grand, US Postal Service, and IBM. He has authored numerous articles for electronic security industry publications and has also conducted training classes and spoken at many industry events on topics ranging from designing electronic security systems to the future of technology in the industry.
September 16, 2013

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Some Corners a Security Installation Shouldn’t Cut

Security system installations are rarely done in a vacuum, although many integrators would tell you otherwise. Often the emphasis is on getting in and out quickly — after all, time is money, right?

Unfortunately, as many learn the hard way, that axiom cuts both ways. Sure, it’s more profitable to complete a job quickly than to see it drag out, but repeated returns to the job site to resolve problems that could have been handled right in the first place cost dearly, in time, profitability, and — perhaps most importantly — customer satisfaction.

Some common areas where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure:

Permits and licenses

This one has been a big one for our firm lately. It seems that many integrators only want to get the required permits and inspections when they are caught in the act. It is far easier to comply with the law than get caught breaking it and having to make amends. Permits and inspections are there to assure that the work was done properly and to code, and if you’re doing your job properly they should be no issue. We’ve seen integrators have to completely redo work because an electrical inspector was unhappy with the electrical panel being used, and subcontracted electrical work doesn’t usually come cheap.

Labeling

You may not want to label all outlets and circuit breakers that feed security equipment, but why not? After all, with a glass of water and a can of spray paint, almost any security equipment can be disabled if you have access to the equipment closet. The danger is far more likely to come from an accidental unplugging, and that is easily prevented by a neat, professional looking “CAUTION: DO NOT UNPLUG” sign.

Territory review

Click here to view Figure 1.

Make sure the system isn’t encroaching on someone else’s territory. If you install a camera in the summer and you find out later that the Christmas decorations will block the view five months later, I’ll wager the camera will wind up getting moved before the Christmas decorations. We’ve seen equipment plugged into outlets that may be periodically turned off, cameras blocked by spring foliage that was missed during a winter installation, and other preventable obstacles.

Training

This should be more than a five-minute “here’s how it works” session. More than one person should be familiarized with their system, no matter how small, and training should be conducted in conjunction with “leave behind” material. This allows them to look things up themselves later, rather than call you, or complain the system doesn’t work right. It may be crude, but consider leaving a copy of the operation manual in the bathroom — sooner or later, someone will read it!

Scheduled maintenance

If there are things that need to be done to maintain the system, ensure that they are pointed out if you’re not ultimately going to be handling things. Cleaning filters and lower domes on cameras can often be handled by an end-user if they’re told about it, or bringing it up may lead to a contract for preventive maintenance. But, if left to slowly degrade performance, you’ll ultimately get the blame if you can’t show that you pointed out the requirement.

No one is debating the need for repeat visits when the inevitable Murphy’s Law kicks in. My feeling is that, by accounting for the predictable problems, you are less impacted by the unpredictable ones.

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15 Comments on "Some Corners a Security Installation Shouldn’t Cut"

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Tony Dobson
Guest
Great article Robert. Totally agree as revisits erode already tight margins very quickly especially when the issue should have been foreseen They also erode customer satisfaction with and confidence in the installer especially when the reason for revisit is embarrassingly simple! I have seen CCTV images similar to the one you have published when reviewing existing CCTV systems, a focussed installer sometimes literally does not see the wood for the trees! Lateral thinking during installation is a must. As you mention, labelling is very important for accidental acts, deliberate acts should always be detected by the system anyway. Most important… Read more »
Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Is there a more effective way that equipment/software manufacturers can help end users get more value from their products. Tooltips showing people features they don’t use, regular tips emails, something like that?

Tony Dobson
Guest

There is always a big thick manual but who really reads one of them unless something has gone badly wrong? Can’t go wrong with a one-page bullet point list of the features available with a page number in the manual for more information in my view.

Robert Grossman
Guest
Many (if not most) feature-rich products have abridged versions of their manuals, often called “Quick Guides”. However, the nature of these guides is tgo provide the basics. If they covered the advanced (other 90%) features, they’d no longer be quick. So it really is a catch 22; if you want to knbow how to use your system, read the manual. Sure, you don’t need to plow through the whole thing. But you should sit down, skim it, and delve deeper into the features that matter to you, coming back later to master them if needed. Realisticly, on a large and… Read more »
Rob Ratcliff
Guest

I really think that flagging these bullets every so foten is part of the solution.

Robert Grossman
Guest
Sadly — and I’m hoping others weigh in on this — I don’t think the problem is with manufacturers. They provide detailled manuals, quick guides, online videos, local representation, and so one. Many will (for a fee) provide end user training and comissioning. This is the age old problem of people learning only what they need to know and not exploring further. We’re all busy, and something has to give. The “Microsoft Word” analogy holds true here as well. You learn how to do footnotes in Word when you need footnotes in a document. By the same token, you learn… Read more »
Built4Success
Guest

If the client does not understand or are aware of the full benefits of their system shame on their integrator. It is the integrators responsibility to fully inform, educate and train our clients, our clients staff quarterly (depending on clients turnover ratio) or annually bases. That cost can and should be covered in their Planned Service Agreements.

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

But you’re never going to ‘need’ a function that you don’t know exists.

SunitaT
Guest

@ Robert Grossman, I put all my weight behind it. Really the problem is often not with the manufacturers who have provided complete guides and manuals to know the full use of the systems. Users never read these manuals as they never read lengthy terms and conditions pages. They often find the description of feature they want to use in the contents list and go straight onto that page and leaving other information aside.

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Is this the way you use such manuals too, sunita?

Robert Grossman
Guest

I tell people “if you want to make sure something gets read — manuals, articles, even contract terms and conditions — put it in the bathroom.” 
Sooner or later it will get read!

Robert Grossman
Guest

Your last paragraph reminds me of a quote I read once, attributed to someone (I can’t remember who) at Microsoft. Regarding Microsoft Word, they said words to the effect “Everyone that uses Word only uses about 10% of the features. The problem is, everyone uses a different 10%”. I suspect something like that is true with large, complex systems as it has been my experience as well. That being said, I’m going to research this further — it’s a good topic for another blog! 

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Great topic for a blog! I suspect that is true for most technology in fact. Should security manufacturers focus on doing less better, rather than loads well (or dare I say it poorly). Every function should earn its place as an essential element or it shouldn’t be present.

SunitaT
Guest

Very useful article indeed, Robert! It can work as a simple guide to expert installers who are often seen to ignore these seemingly minor things while attending to more minor technical details. Territory review is very important, but then other things you mentioned are not less important as well. These things are often overlooked, but can be addressed during installation to avoid post-installation problems.

Robert Grossman
Guest

Someone told me once that “95% of a good job is still considered a bad job.” When something is missed, no matter how small, that seems to be what peoplw remember and tell others who ask.
Conversely, the reverse is also true. If you mess up during the installation process but it all comes together at the end, the perception is usually positive. The moral, I guess, is, no matter what, finish well!