Examination of your proposals can save a good deal of money.
Most AV Technology readers work in a technology-oriented field or manage some type of high-tech system whether it is IT related, AV related, or even security systems. Nowadays,
we are all probably more than just a little overwhelmed with things to do on a daily basis. This is very true in a time when technology budgets and headcounts are frozen or shrinking drastically. So when you receive proposals from a company for anything related to AV, you should know how to weed out items that don't deliver the value that your shrinking budget might require. Here are several ways to avoid spending unnecessary dollars when reviewing a typical proposal from a vendor in the $100,000 range.
If you're buying a projector, immediately find the make and model your vendor has suggested and go to www.projectorcentral.com. You can search for projectors by specification there, and you will instantly know whether or not you are getting the most bang for the buck. [Careful evaluation of your proposed projector can possibly save 5 percent of a $100,000 system's cost!] However, if your company has any corporate standards already in place, you should adhere to them, even if it does cost a bit more money.
Say that a vendor has included ceiling loudspeakers in their proposal. Require that they do a reflected ceiling plan and consider the coverage of the proposed loudspeaker system. As a rule of thumb, if you have a 10-foothigh ceiling, your loudspeaker speakers should be at least 8 to10 feet apart. Any closer together and you are probably buying too many loudspeakers. I cannot tell you how many times I have walked into an airport, nightclub, or retail venue and just been appalled at how many loudspeakers a vendor will sell someone. [This can save you perhaps 3 percent of a $100,000 system's cost!]
Take a good quick look at the video switching that your vendor has built into their proposal. All too often I will come across a system in a boardroom or conference room that has a 12 x 8 RGBHV matrix in it. If you need one, that's fine; but if the system only has a single laptop input and a videoconference codec, anything larger then a 4 x 4 RGBHV matrix is overkill. This can usually represent a rather significant cost savings. So as a rule of thumb, always demand that your vendor provide you with an exact justification for each input on a matrix switcher, with reasonable consideration for future system expansion. [This can save you perhaps 7 percent of a $100,000 system's cost!]
Another area that should receive some attention is audio amplifiers. If you ever see the same number of amplifier channels as there are loudspeakers, there should be a profound siren buzzing inside your head. Astoundingly, this happens more often then one might think. Vendors will often suggest that extra amplifier channels are needed to provide users with a "mix-minus" audio distribution system; however this need has really only arisen twice in my 190-plus project, 11-year career. So it's a good idea to make sure that your vendor has put some thought into how to best appropriate amplifier channels to loudspeakers. [This can save you perhaps 2 percent of a $100,000 system's cost!]
Your control system is another area that should get should be scrutinized. A big portion of your system cost can sometimes be associated with the type of touchpanel you may employ. Most control system manufacturers provide a broad array of sizes and capabilities. For a boardroom system, no matter how important the room may be, I have seldom seen a need for a touchpanel larger then 10 inches. The reason for this is because the cost for a typical 10-inch touchpanel is about $4,800. Prices for a 12-inch touchpanel come in at $12,000, and pricing for a 17-inch panel is $13,600 and above. [This can save you perhaps 7 percent of a $100,000 system's cost!]
Lastly, you can also strive to save money by looking into the type of cable a vendor has chosen to use. There is a recognizable cost difference between plenum and non-plenum cabling. Plenum cabling is always more expensive because it is designed to be employed in spaces within a building that are used for ventilation. Because of this, they could be subjected to open flames in the event of a fire. Therefore they must not burn easily and they must not emit toxic fumes. A vendor should always inquire, or be able to determine whether or not they will be running wire in a plenum environment. If they are not, they should not use the more expensive plenumrated cables. Many vendors use plenum cable by default, and never take the time to consider whether it is actually needed. [This can save you perhaps 2 percent of a $100,000 system's cost!]
Given all of the aforementioned avenues for savings on a typical $100,000 system, it isn't unthinkable that a keen eye could easily find ways to save up to 26% for every $100,000 of AV system. So the next time a vendor slides a proposal across your desk, take a quick, efficient look at projectors, loudspeakers, matrix switching, amplifiers, touchpanels, and cable types. Your budget will not regret it!
Joey D'Angelo is a principal consultant with Charles M. Salter Associates in San Francisco, CA, and specializes in AV/telecommunication systems. Joey is also a musician in a punk rock band where he plays guitar and performs lead vocals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.