What’s making work difficult for those installing and troubleshooting data cable? IDEAL Networks conducted research to find out the most common challenges facing the industry.
1. Costly cable certifiers
Anyone installing or working with data cable knows that cable certifiers are expensive. In fact, most cable installers feel that they are a necessary and unavoidable capital expense.
However, purchasing a number of cable certifiers can pose cash flow problems. This has a knock-on effect, reducing spending flexibility to spend within the business.
The research found that investment in equipment appears to deliver poor ROI, particularly in businesses with less certifier usage. In these cases, the fixed purchase cost of a certifier can be an almost crippling capital expense. ROI is further reduced in businesses where separate test equipment is being purchased for working with copper and fibre cable.
2. Sharing testers
To reduce the quantity of certifiers purchased, the research found that many businesses try to share them between their workforce. Rather than equipping each van with a certifier, as and when a certifier is needed, it is couriered out to the installer at the job site.
The research showed this has little commercial benefit as the costs and administration involved can amount to a considerable expense. The process can also cause delays in carrying out and completing jobs.
Jobs that require a warranty cannot be completed without a certifier but if all units are in use elsewhere, the installer simply can’t carry out this task, and therefore can’t bill for it.
3. Data sharing
The research discovered that sometimes installers conduct the tests for certification, but then have to send the certifier back to the office for the data to be transferred. Only once this has been done can a customer be given a warranty. Data cable installers on the road face similar issues, sometimes waiting for days before finding a sufficient internet connection to upload the test data so that reporting can be done at the office and the job billed.
The research showed that the time to complete the process – from testing to invoicing – can be up to two weeks. These delays inevitably hurt cash flow. Both of these data sharing scenarios also risk the loss of test data. Lost test data results in further delays and reduced margins.
4. Unfair upgrades
In the research, some interviewees were frustrated that support was being discontinued for certifiers that they had only recently purchased. With certifiers being such a significant capital outlay, many businesses are simply not in a position to upgrade their certifier, despite this seeming like the only option available.
5. Unexpected costs
Unplanned costs associated with repairs and maintenance were identified as a difficulty for some businesses. Budgeting for annual calibrations, repair costs, replacement parts, shipping costs, technical support and training is difficult.
In a worst-case scenario, these costs can prove prohibitively expensive, leading to a lack of equipment availability, impacting productivity and risking extended customer downtime. To avoid these issues, many data cable installers suggested they would prefer to opt for a fairly-priced care plan.
6. Too few testers
Often installers stated that they wanted more testers. Despite the potential challenge to cash flow, many felt having more certifiers within their fleet would be a benefit.
However, analysis of the work carried out by data cable installers showed that more cable certifiers are usually not needed. It is only in 25 per cent of jobs that clients and building specifications typically require cable manufacturer warranties. Many data cable installers do not realise that they could use a cable and network transmission tester on the majority of jobs instead. Three-quarters of the time, where a warranty is not needed, the proof of performance reports produced by this type of tester can be shared with clients. These testers are also more affordable.
So, what can be done?
Selecting the right type and quantity of equipment is vitally important for ensuring profitable, flexible data cable installation operations. With the support of equipment suppliers, companies need to analyse the work they carry out and select the right equipment to make cost savings. For example, IDEAL Networks recently helped a customer in the US save $1 million by selecting the right mix of testing equipment.
Far from being an added bonus, mobile data sharing is becoming a must-have and, nowadays, up-front investment in large quantities of certifiers is just not always feasible. As businesses try increasingly to move their investment in test equipment from a capital expense to an operational one, it is crucial for test and measurement equipment suppliers to respond effectively to these changing needs.