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Ideas to Streamline a Cabling Department

By dra7400 ·
I've been asked to come up with some suggestions to streamline our cabling department. I am not a part of this department, so this is a little hard for me.

Over the last 4 months I have had some exposure to the operating procedures for the Cabling department, and honestly it seems that there aren't any. They order the parts and cable that they need on a per job basis. Then the manager sends the guys out in to the field to work on the job. At the end of the day, the guys come back to the office and try to write on a sheet of notebook paper what they did for the day, for example: "ran 4 cables, terminated 4 data jacks, punched down one 48 port patch panel at X company, then did troubleshooting on one phone line and two data lines for y company."

They also list the times that they spent on the job, then the cabling manager uses their notes to come up with a bill based on the amount of time spent, what was done, and whether or not it was a pre-quoted job or not.

Do any of you guys have any ideas or advice from experience? Can you think of anything obvious or do you know of a website or a whitepaper that I can look at for guidance on this before I type it all up for the boss?

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by dra7400 In reply to Ideas to Streamline a Cab ...

I couldn't fit this into the 2000 character limit on the question but:

So far the suggestions I have come up with are for them to stock at least some of the parts they use on a regular basis, because I have seen them have to delay a job because they didn't have what they needed the morning they started, also that they come up with a checklist for the tools that each of the workers has, because there seems to be no standard there either, and I have seen them delay jobs until they can borrow a tool from another worker or the manager. I am also going to suggest that they stock each company vehicle with certain things that they need more often than not such as, cable tester, a push pole, 2 boxes of cat5 one box of cat3 X number of Cat5 Jacks etc.

I would also like to see them come up with some type of work order like the ones we use on the Systems Engineering side, so they can simply fill in the blanks when they finish each job and hand it in when they get back to the office at the end of the day.

I would like to see the cable manager come up with account codes to signify what job was done, troubleshooting, pre-wire, terminating, installing a rack, a patch-panel, etc. I think this would make it easier on the billing department, but this is also something I think needs to be done within my own department, so I'm not sure how far I will get with that one.

Thanks in advance for anything you guys can come up with to help.

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by rahammers In reply to Ideas to Streamline a Cab ...

Possibly a what "not to do". Be wary of trying to overly streamline and compartmentalize what these cabling techs do. I have recently spoken with a tech from a major telco and they have recently gone through reporting changes and "streamlining". Everything has unintended consequences...The ammount of paperwork increased to justify what they have done. The company now knows what exactly they do and expects each accounting code to be filled in for everything. The net affect has been to remove the efficiency of a tech who knows his job well and builds rapore(?sp?) with the customers by going the extra mile. The extra mile may be a minor billable item and the new system will allow the money to be received but customers are lost due to nitpicking accounting and time reporting.

How much customer loyalty has been gained through the "inefficient" system currently in place. How much tech loyalty has been instilled with the inefficient system that allows them some freedoms.

I know...it is always easier to point out pitfalls than provide solid answers... but hopefully this will help.

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by Nilt In reply to Ideas to Streamline a Cab ...

I agree with the other poster on this. Cabling is something I do in my own business, although it's not a major focus. It's one of those areas that unless you're doing a new install during a build to suit project you just can't tell what all is going to be needed. I think the "standard stock" as far as parts is required. This is something that each tech should have on their own *assigned* vehicle and that is restocked daily from an office supply. That enforces inventory control and helps prevent delays.

As far as tools go, that's hard. Are the techs required to provide their own tools or are they work-owned? There really aren't all that many tools needed for this sort of thing, so each vehicle should have them on hand. A daily checklist for tools is handy too because sometimes you leave a toner at a clients on accident; knowing it's at one of a few clients is easier.

Billing codes? AGH! Aside from perhaps billable and non-billable (either "we screwed up" or "covered under an agreement") there is no good reason a tech should be worried about codes. That's what the bean counting department is paid for; allow THEM to fill in codes if need be. A tech's job is to resolve issues. Filling out a small report on a work order should be sufficient.

With that in mind, you shouldn't go spending thousands on custom forms. Go check out what's available at office supply stores. Solicit feedback from a tech or two (and a manager as well) on a couple different layouts and go from there. The thing is that a good tech should be paid more than a decent bean counter data entry employee. Let that data entry employee handle codes from the forms if necessary and let the techs do their jobs.

There really are several ways to go on this, though. If you want more in depth feedback from an actual business owner on your specific situation, please PM me. Depending on the issues you're dealing with, this could go one of several ways.

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by Nilt In reply to

You never said how big the company is but it sounds like it's large enough to have a decent budget so I'll assume that. It sounds as if you may be suffering from management's lack of understanding of the realities of this field. I typed up a big old reply but it's much too long for this system. Shoot me a PM and I can reply directly. Hehe

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by dra7400 In reply to Ideas to Streamline a Cab ...

The tools are company owned tools and I have seen several issues come up over tools being left at job sites. Including push-poles, toners, Cable testers, key hole saws and even entire ladders, and some of them (the cable tester) weren?t found for until a few weeks later when another tech lucked up and revisited the same portion of the ceiling that the previous tech had been working in.

As for the custom forms I doubt we would spend much more than the time it would take to copy one of our current forms that we use on the Engineering side of the house and tweak it to fit the cable side. But one thing you said about the account codes did kind of raise my curiosity.

Our ?Bean Counters? are paid a good bit more than our Cable techs. This is also a huge problem that I see with the cabling department. I don?t know what a competitive wage is in today?s market, but I?m pretty sure that we aren?t paying it, and we don?t have any quality techs because of it. They had one really talented and experienced Tech that worked for them for about a year and a half, but ended up leaving for a higher paying job about 5 months ago. This left them with one person in the department besides the manager, and the one person left was a 19 year old kid working his way through college with no experience at all. I was a cable tech about 17 years ago so they pulled me out of Engineering and asked me to help them out until they got caught up. I was happy to do it just to get out of the office for a while, but I was really shocked to see the way things were run. I helped the cabling department for about 4 months off and on, and then they hired a 25 year old construction worker that wants to ?break into the IT world?. So now they have 2 people that don?t really know what they are doing other than what I was able to teach them in 4 short months. Their starting pay is between $10 and $12 and hour?and they wonder why they can?t attract people with experience..And why they can?t keep the peopl

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by stormymalaise In reply to Ideas to Streamline a Cab ...

I had this same issue a couple of years ago. My solution, to avoid BLOATING the tracking methods for these employees and to keep them from becoming unhappy employees, was to outsource them to a local company, which they all went to work for and never really even left our building. They now work for another company, and it is that company that has to take care of all the tracking. We simply recieve a monthly bill. Of course it's a little higher than if we had kept them "in-house", but we also eliminated all the associated cost for an FTE. Overall, we are actually saving money.

Not everyone would be able to do it this way, it took a lot of effort on my part to swing people to this idea, but it worked.

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