Roundtable: Major Security Systems Retrofits

An exclusive STE-SIW online discussion

How can you best realize cost savings during a retrofit project and how would you determine the TCO and ROI of the project?

Arcement: When considering a security retrofit, it’s important to quantify the return on investment in four areas: reduction in operating costs, mitigation of risk, improved compliance management within your organization, and in some cases, business revenue that will be generated. Each retrofit project is unique, yet there are some surefire ways to best realize cost savings. One is to design around an open architecture and integration framework so that the systems are flexible for integration as new technologies become available.
Mechler: Estimating TCO involves understanding the initial acquisition cost, the operating requirements, labor for installation and maintenance, and the cost savings or other efficiencies achieved from the project. When savings achieved are in hard dollars, the ROI for a retrofit project is much easier to calculate. For example, retrofitting an existing intrusion alarm system to communicate over IP instead of traditional phone lines enables you to eliminate the dedicated phone lines used for control panel communications to a central monitoring station. This cost can range from $15-$30 per phone line, per month depending on your telecommunications service provider. For an organization with multiple control panels, eliminating the need for these phone lines instantly cuts recurring operating costs.
Toscano: Viewing the secured opening as more than a collection of individual components enables the security manager to expand the usefulness of those components. For instance, biometric credential readers can tie directly to human resource management systems, positively affecting payroll and personnel scheduling. Another example may involve remote wireless access readers used for mustering to accommodate large commercial or corporate campus settings. Such applications improve security, lower the total cost of ownership and increase workforce productivity. From an installation viewpoint, given today’s constraints on time and budgets, wireless access control solutions result in substantial installation savings and significantly reduce the disruption that a facility experiences during retrofit.
Hunter: You can realize cost savings by first taking a look at reusing existing materials; for example, alarm devices or locking hardware. Ask yourself: what are we retrofitting and what can be re-used? Are there pieces of the existing system that you can upgrade and not replace? It’s also important to take into account all aspects of the total cost of ownership, not just the initial cost of the retrofit. Think about how you are going to maintain the system and the types of services you are going to need for that maintenance.

What strategies must you employ to ensure a seamless migration from the old to the new system?

Hunter: This goes back to the first question – do you have a strategy and plan that will dictate how you are going to execute the work? Having a plan will help ensure a seamless migration. Take into account if you will be running the old and new systems simultaneously until the new system is fully operational. Also consider when you will test and, subsequently, commission the new system during or after business hours? This will affect your training and communication strategy. You should also prioritize the risk – determine where it’s acceptable to have downtime and which highly sensitive areas need to be secured at all times. Training your security officers and operations staff is crucial to a seamless migration.
Mechler: If the retrofit is going to involve using your corporate network or existing or new Internet infrastructure, it is important to engage your IT colleagues early on in the planning and design stage of the project to ensure there is no delay during the installation phase when it is time to run network cables or create network drops. The IT team can also identify and help eliminate any potential issues that your firewall may pose with the retrofit.
Moceri: In all cases, it is important to discuss up-front what elements of the system need to be online throughout the transition, what can be taken down for a cut-over period, and what access is available to areas of the facility. A 24-hour facility is obviously more difficult than a facility that is typically occupied during the weekday. All of this comes down to project management and execution. On-site project management is the key to ensuring the right materials are available when needed, that crews work in accessible areas, and that problems that will come up are addressed in a timely fashion.
Arcement: Selecting the right technologies at the front-end of a project can help enable a seamless transition to a new security system. Choose head-end technology that can accommodate both the existing legacy and future edge devices. For example, if you are upgrading an old analog video system, be sure to select a hybrid recording solution that can support this old camera equipment as well as new IP camera and encoder technology. Planning ahead and taking an enterprise-wide approach will help with migration now and in the future.

Typically, what are the most challenging obstacles faced during a major retrofit project?

Mechler: Retrofit projects often include a variety of existing systems that may or may not have the same characteristics. If systems have been installed for a long time, support may not be available or may be difficult to obtain. This can be overcome by choosing a product that is flexible and can interface with multiple types of systems.
Toscano: The growing sophistication and broader spectrum of choices available in electronic access control is leading to greater integration with total building controls and systems. This results in an increase in the economic value of a door opening that goes beyond security concerns. The adoption of electronic access control technology is also redefining the meaning of the term "total opening" in the facility market and beyond. The new retrofit solution must integrate with these needs.
Arcement: The most difficult challenges often stem from unclear or incomplete understanding of a customer’s needs by the technology contractor or consultant. If the scope of the project is not clearly identified up-front, the customer will not get the desired system functionality and business outcomes. Consider these four main areas of security up-front: event management, identity management, building management and compliance management. Event management allows security decision-makers to have full situational awareness of the building; identity management reduces risk by controlling access rights; and building management systems integrated with security systems can further maximize occupant safety, increase productivity, and create operational efficiency. Lastly, adding real-time data from security systems to traditional compliance management software applications enables compliance enforcement, documentation and intervention.
Moceri: There are many potential obstacles with some being lack of drawings or as-builts to fully understand the current installation. Another challenge would be working around the occupants and normal use of the facility. Running into the unknown such as walls that cannot be penetrated or existing conduits that were planning to be re-used are laden with asbestos. Likewise, existing cabling that was planned to be used is not of sufficient size or quality. All of these problems, while challenging, can be minimized with a good initial survey of what currently exists in the facility to identify these obstacles before a project is started.