A good strategy is to shop for a system expert/vendor who can lower the purchase price by combining one client’s order with orders from other projects. For example, SSOE, one of the leading A&E firms in the United States, designed and managed a fire, security and access control project which required SMF cable and components. Bundling this order with three other projects, SSOE’s procurement department could leverage a 20-percent price reduction for all four projects.
To make sure that all materials are delivered in time to meet the construction schedule, the military engineer should purchase in bulk whenever possible and order well in advance of scheduled installation—18 months of lead time is a good rule of thumb because SMF cannot be obtained in six months and the only option is using MMF. This is especially important today because two of the major SMF cable manufacturing plants were damaged in the Japanese nuclear power plant disaster. They are not expected to increase production until September 2013.
Before putting a specification out for a bid, the engineer should ensure that the spec includes precise quality and performance standards for each component. For example, there are some 50 manufacturers of Ethernet data jacks, but only a handful of them comply with the accepted standards for communications equipment as defined by BICSI (Building Industry Consulting Service International), especially its durability standards. No military project manager wants to install sub-standard components and then have to replace them at government expense.
It’s possible to eliminate this risk factor by requiring detailed performance criteria in the specs for every component, as well as detailed shop drawings that include a cut sheet of every proposed component. These are provided by the system expert/vendor for the engineer’s review in advance of scheduled installation. But it’s not a good practice to wait for the vendor to submit all of the shop drawings at once. This creates a bottleneck in the review process, which is typically on a tight deadline. It makes more sense to stagger the required submittal dates of shop drawings over several weeks to stay in synch with the construction schedule.
Design Money-Saving Custom Solutions
The most cost-effective technology for an application can sometimes be a custom-designed solution. Consider the task of detecting intruders. Many facilities spend the largest fraction of their security budget on perimeter intrusion detection. But what happens if an intruder gets past the outer perimeter? Typical monitoring systems lose track of an intruder until they enter a building. And so, to cover the gap of technology blindness, the commander has to deploy expensive security officers to locate the intruder, at a significant cost.
A recent project for a government client sought to solve this problem using a new CCTV camera technology with expanded capabilities. The rudimentary camera they would have preferred to buy met all of the performance criteria except one: the feature that allowed security officers to keep monitoring the intruder to the point of entry to any building. With this feature they could, while in their vehicles, use their existing system to show a video of the intruder along with a graphical map of the overall facility. Of course, the advanced camera in the catalog had this feature, as well as a number of other features that were not needed. The problem: it cost five times more than the rudimentary camera.
Custom design solutions may appear more expensive at the outset, but money spent on design can pale in comparison to the money it saves in equipment, personnel, and other resources. For example, in the past a client had desired the ability to store video locally at a fixed positioned camera. At the time, this feature was only available in the pan-tilt mode, adding 200 percent to the overall cost.
An enterprising vendor proposed a custom solution to the camera manufacturer: develop a fixed camera that merged the ability to store video locally into an existing standard fixed camera. Based on quantity, the manufacturer agreed and was able to produce the product at an additional cost of only 10 per cent. In an agreement between the client and the manufacturer, the client committed a lump sum for the development process in return for a beta test agreement, which assured the client that the manufacturer would continue to test, advance, and make this product available for at least ten years.