Finishing with Style - AvNetwork.com

Finishing with Style

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Sometimes the success of a project is in the final stage.

Some

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technology projects last quite a long time. Ideally, planning for an AV implementation begins at the early stages of any construction project. Much has been written about the importance of AVrelated design input at the beginning stages; what is equally important is the proper way to finish a project.

As a consultant, most of my projects usually follow a carefully prepared set of drawings and a specification. Part three of a typical AV spec details exactly what is expected of an AV contractor or integrator at the completion of a project. Therefore, when an integrator prices a job, they can include in his bid price a cost for completion efforts. You will find many specifications that ask for all sorts of highly technical tests. In fact, some of these tests require instrumentation-grade equipment, which can be costly and quite time consuming for an AV company to provide. In many instances, these required tests might not even be relevant to the type of project you are doing. So when putting together completion requirements, put some thought into their conception.

One worthwhile requirement is that integrators test every single input and output of a system for proper operation. Each I/O test should be documented and signed off by a technician with date and time. Many times I have been on a site to conduct a punchlist and found that an integrator has never even tested a laptop input or a video output panel. It can be frustrating and a waste of everyone's time. Be sure to look at all of the features of your system and require that they have been specifically tested and documented.

Another completion task is providing a reference binder that contains all of the instruction manuals and warranty information for equipment within your newly completed system. Sadly, some equipment will be obsolete less than five years after it's installed; but it is always important to know how to go back in and adjust things with the help of an instruction manual. If a device is no longer in production, chances are that its instruction manual will be hard to come by.

Perhaps one of the most important requirements is that all of the programming used to adjust your new system, all the saved program files, and a copy of any AMX or Crestron interface and code be provided on disc for future use. Relationships with integrators can change, and having all the code that was developed for your project will simplify future changes, especially if it is with a different AV integration company. You might encounter some resistance from some integrators when it comes to handing over their control system programs. This is because they tend to treat certain macros and custom modules as their own. Most reputable integrators will have a software agreement that stipulates their expectations with regard to the possible future reuse of their code.

All of the software will be useless to possess unless you receive a good set of "as-built" documentation. Code-related adjustments cannot be made in the future if you don't know how various signals are routed through switchers or matrices. In addition, if there are any problems in the future, proper as-built documentation is essential for troubleshooting. Copies of this documentation should be provided at every equipment location, as well as on disc for safekeeping.

Once all the codes, test reports, and as-built drawings have been delivered by your integrator, it's time to conduct a thorough punchlist of your new system. All interested parties should be present - and that includes owners, consultants, general contractors, and a representative from the AV integrator. During the punchlist process, every aspect of the system should be tested and observed. All inputs and outputs should be checked, all equipment racks should be inspected for proper cable management, labeling, and dress, all equipment should be verified to be securely installed, and all audio systems should be listened to. It's also useful to do a spot check on the accuracy of any as-built documentation. I usually pick three to four random cables per room and verify they are accurately represented on the as-builts. When the punchlist session is complete, all items that require some level of remedy by your AV integrator should be verified to be part of the specified scope, then compiled and sent along with
a required timeline for completion.

Once the punchlist is complete, several training sessions for the intended users of the system should be arranged. There are a number of ways to organize these, and the best one may depend on your corporate culture. But regardless of how simple or complex the AV system is, you absolutely must train the user. A rule of thumb I use is that about eight hours of training should be provided per $500,000 of installation value. Training sessions should be offered on a regular basis, and it's also a good idea to capture them on video.

When you make it to the end of a long AV project, you owe it to yourself to cross the finish line in style. Having good testing requirements, documentation, software archives, asbuilts, and training will go a long way in helping a project wrap up smoothly. 

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 joseph.dangelo@cmsalter.com.

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