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5 Ways to Improve Field Efficiency

Some relatively simple changes can have a big effect on your installations.

When I first started The Source Home Theater, a lot of what we did was by the seat of our pants. I would visit a client and put together a proposal. I would order the product and print a work order for my installers with a list of products to be installed by room. On the install date, my installers and I would show up on-site and we would walk the site while I talked them through what had to happen. That actually worked well for a long time. But then we started growing and getting larger and larger projects, and there was just too much going on to rely on such an unstructured process. I recently sat down with my team to discuss what is working well, what isn’t, and what we can do to improve. Here are five great ideas that came out of the meeting.

Also by Todd Anthony Puma: 3 Networking Tips and Tricks

1. Use labels to mark prewire locations. I have developed eight different label types for everything from TVs, touchscreens, and speaker locations to convenience coax and data locations. Before a prewire starts, I walk through with the client and/or architect and we place stickers exactly where everything will go. My team has a schedule that tells them what each sticker means for wiring —for example, a TV location gets a coax, shielded Cat6, two unshielded Cat6, and a fiber. Now the team can easily see exactly what has to happen, no matter who is on-site.

2. Develop and share cable schedules. Paired with the above, this step serves two purposes. First, it is a check on the labels to make sure there is a match between the schedule and the labels. Secondly it allows for the instances where a wiring point is not exactly as the label indicates. We mark that this is an outlier in the cable schedule, so the installer knows it isn’t an error.

3. Rack-build drawings. I provide our rack builder with a drawing of the rack that specifies exactly where everything will go. This leaves little to chance and takes a lot of layout errors out of the mix. Paired with a wiring diagram for the connections in the rack, and I get the perfect rack every time —one I can program ahead of time because all of the connections are pre-determined.

4. TV mount templates. We have standard mounts that we use, but it was always starting from scratch when prewiring or providing an electrician with a location for the power outlet behind a TV. One of our installers had a great idea to make templates for the mounting plates (and arm locations for articulating mounts) for all of the mounts we use. That way we can put the template on the wall, and easily mark (with a handy label from #1) where the low voltage and high voltage should be located.

5. Extra router. This is even easier now that SnapAV has an Araknis router with WiFi built in. I always have an extra router with WiFi in my bag now (they are so small that it is easy). If we are on a site without a network, this at least allows me to set up several devices on the LAN to do some work. It also is great for testing if there are issues on a troubleshooting call to ensure it isn’t the router.

Share your ideas in the comments section — let’s all help each other get better!