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- The Specialist September, 2009
- By Eric Hussey, Product Advisor
The challenge for estimators in the world of structured cabling has always been to read and understand what is being asked of you, and then sort through the data to provide the solution that best matches the requirement.
After laboriously walking through the takeoff process by counting and highlighting each and every cable drop for the fifth time to make sure you've got them all, scale every cable run or figure out an average length, and develop pathways that make sense for horizontal and backbone cable runs, we then turn to the specifications and begin to sort through the rubble. Starting at and focusing on the basics, we can ask: has a standard of bandwidth been specified? Has a manufacturer, to meet these standards, been accepted? In most cases, the answers to these questions are yes, so at this point, we must begin piecing together the solution. Sometimes, the data to build a quotation may be readily available to you. You may have pre-built default data, be it in the form of a spread sheet or an estimating software package with structured cabling products, including the manufacturer's information listed to match the request. You may have even pre-built or acquired the correct standards in this default data. Putting together the complete solution quickly and accurately may take some time. If the solution is not typical of your standard approach then look out.
For many of us, the manufacturer's catalog becomes our best friend or worst enemy when building. These catalogs can sometimes produce as many questions as they have answers. If you have ever built a manufacturer-driven quotation I'm sure you know what I am talking about. I had every manufacturer rep on speed dial when estimating or project managing, and they got used to hearing my voice. Descriptions in these catalogs are often confusing and proprietary to each manufacturer. Product deemed to be part of an OM2-50 micron solution may in reality be their OM3-50 micron solution when you turn the page. Or the colors available in a Category 6 telecommunications outlet may be different in the Category 5e product line. How about product grouping? Manufacturer A may group product by standard while Manufacturer B may group by product type. If a specification asks for product outside your company's traditional partnership capabilities then this may become a lot longer process than imagined.
Pulling together your bill of materials for distribution pricing in a format that will expedite the process can also take a lot of manipulation. If you're looking for multiple quotes does Distributor A carry all of the product requested or do you need to source from a secondary supplier? Does Distributor B carry different products and still not carry all required? Have you listed all of the correct part numbers so you are getting priced exactly what you are looking for? Putting it all together takes time and that phone call with questions from the distributor is bound to come. Maybe you just send a list of descriptions and let your distribution partners sort it all out. We never do that, do we? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
Again, these are just some of the basic frustrations I have encountered in my time as an estimator. They did and still do stick out most in my mind as I started to feel the crunch of closing. Where do I find a Cat 6e patch cord, and is there such a thing? Have I included a complete solution, and do all the components meet the specifications as requested and match each other for that matter? That feeling of jubilation can quickly turn to a knot in your stomach when you realize that the cable you thought was graded at 250 MHz wasn't.
The Accubid Enterprise program meets these everyday challenges of a structured cabling estimator head on. With one click on the Specification drop down list, we drill you down not only to the exact standard you are looking for, but also the exact standard for the exact manufacturer you require to complete your build. It's like opening any manufacturer catalog right on the exact page you were looking for. Then, once you have selected your specifications, you can quickly and efficiently put together a complete solution from that product grouping using easy-to-use takeoff pads. Takeoff pads are designed for everyday use with the ability to directly add or remove takeoff buttons. Being able to select a Category 6 specification, for instance, with one mouse click certainly expedites the whole process at takeoff. Takeoff pads can be associated with specifications and will automatically load when the required specification is selected. For example, select a Category 6 – Systimax GigaSpeed solution and the horizontal cable system takeoff pad loads allowing you to select any and all components of that Category 6 – Systimax GigaSpeed solution. From the takeoff pad, you can select items or assemblies without having to scroll through a database of information to find the exact product you are looking for. No more doubling back to match product with specifications.
Couple these features with a number of other Accubid Enterprise Estimating time-saving enhancements and you will clearly see the benefits at bid time for structured cabling on the Enterprise platform. Sorting through the data has never been easier. It's like having a full lineup of interactive manufacturer catalogs at your finger tips. See for yourself at the NECA Show in Seattle (September 12-15) or the BISCI Fall Conference in Las Vegas (September 20-24).
Illustration by Angelo Katsaros