Channel

Electrical distributors’ support programs ensure quality, performance for contractors

Imagine that you found out that the installed cable did not meet the transmission requirements of the product you thought you bought, AFTER you just completed the installation a 700 station cabling system for a call center and bank. While this is not a common occurrence, it does happen. What safeguards can be put in place to minimize the chances of a horror story like this happening to you?

The pace of technology in the communications network industry is moving so quickly that a purchasing agent would have to be dedicated to new products and improvements on a full time basis. If the purchasing agent gave each vendor with a new product 15 minutes seven days a week, at the end of a year, the first vendors would be back in line with more new products and no decision would ever be made. That is not a practical solution.

Now, add to the frustration, the need for product testing and quality control and bingo – now you need another dozen or so full time employees. Also, don’t forget the million-dollar test lab. The problems are more than just evaluating the product on a stand-alone basis, now you have to put it to work in a real network to calculate the actual performance with other components. To do that type of testing, you will require some real “high dollar” techs. Throw that in your budget.

There are powerful resources available that give real insurance to the quality control challenge. We have researched the communications industry and found a set of solutions from an unexpected source. The world’s largest electrical/datacom distributors, have programs for the communications cabling and infrastructure industry. These programs meet the challenges of insuring integrity to the purchasing process with a level of quality control that we have found to be superior to all other product sources.

Counterfeits or faulty products happen. There are many things that a contractor could do to reduce or eliminate this scenario. The most sensible approach to insuring you won’t have this problem is the DISTRIBUTOR programs.

By now, you should have gotten part of the message about why the DISTRIBUTOR program is a “no-brainer” for the contractor. Let’s add a few other bonus points to the distributor value. Face it; the distributor is the communications cabling and connector markets largest buyer. For the manufacturers, maintaining the best working relationship possible with a distributor is an absolute must. The distributor is the focal point for the products to meet, combine, and create the network systems required in the marketplace. We don’t buy parts anymore. We buy systems. The systems must be integrated and maximized. We buy system parts, but not “parts” parts.

Today the process of developing a design and evaluating alternatives for the cabling network infrastructure is more challenging than ever before. Functionality, performance, life-cycle term, and budget are thrown into the mix along with the entire technical specification. In the world of communications infrastructure, using a distributor is a logical tool for the contractor. However, we still see many contractors failing to use or capture the values available from the distributor.

A distributor has more purchasing power than any other buyer in the marketplace. The distributor is a high-volume repeat customer with the ability to enhance the manufacturer’s product value. the DISTRIBUTOR program commands and delivers competitive prices far more effectively than any contractor could ever hope to achieve. Day after day, the DISTRIBUTOR program is one of the biggest buyers in the world. When there is a problem with a product, solutions must be found, remedies must be negotiated. Once again, the DISTRIBUTOR program gives the contractor the big hammer to resolve technical “boo-boos”.

The time to find out about glitches or mismatches is not “after the fact”. The communications infrastructure was once a formula of 80% labor and 20% materials. Today that formula has evolved to 52% labor and 48% materials. Once the installation has been performed, a change-out could cost the contractor the entire labor investment. That scenario is a death sentence for the contractors’ profitability. If you think lawyers are the solution for that type of problem, you have a lot to learn. Your best bet is having a distributor that will go to bat for you with the manufacturer, using their clout to get the best resolution possible.

It’s one thing to make the sale. It’s another thing to deliver it. There are no mystical gurus in the back room at the contractors’ office with a database of current connectivity solutions and the costs. However, we found out that the DISTRIBUTOR programs can add virtually all-available information to develop the solution. This is a great equalizer for any contractor to compete in the marketplace.

Inventory

Everybody knows that the customer will wait until tomorrow to order the network that they want yesterday. Timetables and availability on the labor side is somewhat controllable by the contractor. Cables, connectors, and other required materials, are a challenge of inventory and usually outside of the control of the contractor. Maintaining large inventories to service their customers is not a good business practice for the contractor. We have all seen inventory building up in the contractor’s warehouse AND that sometimes adds up to a small fortune. Much of the contractor inventory that is not installed immediately usually ends up as junk. Out of date, obsolete, or incomplete materials mean wasted dollars. Most contractors don’t manage inventory on a small basis. As an option, the contractor should turn to the distributor to offer that part of the business solution for their customers.

Having all of the materials for the communications network is only part of the solution. We must have the peripherals. We need labeling and record systems. We need testers and analyzers. We need to stay abreast of technology, codes, and standards. We also need to be able to predict the future. Building barriers to obsolescence requires a vision for the future. Planning for the future challenges while delivering today’s solutions, is imperative. Anything less is usually unacceptable. If you are a contractor, you do not want to go it alone.

Good advice: Use the DISTRIBUTOR programs. Capture their values and add them to your total solutions package. This approach is the least expensive and most effective business insurance available. Old words but still on target for addressing to current market—distributors are a powerful player in giving the contractor the tools to tackle a constantly changing technology in a difficult economy…we can’t live without them.

Frank Bisbee, President of Communication Planning Corporation

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