Security integrators enjoy success by providing state-of-the-art solutions for customers. Having the technical know-how as well as the field technicians to deliver excellent solutions to the facility management team is how they stay in business.
The customer-pleasing process, however, can get complicated when the delivery of the system involves a third, and oftentimes, a fourth party that increases the communication distance between the integrator and the facility user.
This is especially a concern at security installation projects that occur under a general construction contract. The distance between the integrator and the end customer, the owner of the facility, can be so great that they do not even recognize each other during the building process.
The pitfalls of providing security systems under a general construction contract are numerous and can include:
- Specifications that do not provide the results the customer wants and thinks they are paying for
- Specifications that do not lay out the responsibilities of each trade, specifically the coordination between the electrical contractor and the security contractor regarding where power is to be delivered within the facility
- Drawings that do not allow for subpanels, power supplies and other intermediate layer requirements
- General contractors (GCs) who are pressed by deadlines and budgets, not to mention paperwork and safety requirements, and may have no understanding of the requirements of your installation and programming needs as a subcontractor
Another significant drawback arises when dealing with “interference” from the owner. It sounds crazy, but when an integrator subcontracts under the GC, the integrator’s “customer” is the GC. An integrator has to depend upon specifications, the GC, the design team, and excellent coordination and communication between the design team and the owner, to facilitate changes during construction.
When an owner casually walks through a construction site to see how the installation is going and discovers he is not getting what he thinks he is paying for he may try to make field changes without involving the architect. The integrator is the low man in the hierarchy at this point. In order to keep the GC happy, the integrator must refer the owner to the design team for changes. It is an awkward thing that occurs on almost every job as the completion of a project nears an end and curious observers want to see their new facility.
Then there is the issue of getting paid in a timely way, which can be troublesome for integrators, especially in institutional construction. Most GCs allow their subs to be paid after they themselves are compensated. Improperly executed pay applications can slow down the process, and if the application is disputed, the delays almost always cause at least an additional 30 days before a check can be cut.
It is common integrators do not get paid for at least 90 days or later, even after “substantial completion” has been achieved. Owners hold onto their money until the GC has jumped through all the hoops they require. If an integrator cannot wait this long for their money, they ought to reconsider whether the construction market is a place where they want to do business.
Even with all these downsides, the construction market is a good place for integrators to build their businesses. Many construction projects are high profile situations, and these can do wonders to enhance a company’s reputation as a capable provider.
A better place to be in the construction market is at the front-end when the design and product selections are being made. These are prized opportunities, yet they are hard to win. In most cases, they are obtained only by years of marketing by large manufacturers and global integrators that have the funds to invest in this kind of long-term opportunity.
Construction is a mighty opponent to change; it just goes with the territory. It is an amazingly successful industry, however, and it will always be with us. Integrators can resist the “system” to their own demise, or they can embrace it, understand it, and survive it by thinking and acting like a construction company.
Todd Thompson is a project manager for 2MCCTV, a Grand Prairie, Texas-based distributor of security cameras and surveillance equipment.