Structured Cabling Training A Priority Not An Optional Extra
Traditionally, training for structured cabling has been viewed as an optional extra in the industry and as a result, there are a number of installers who have had little or no formal training.
This lack of training is obviously not a total disaster; otherwise the thousands of installers falling into this camp would not stay in business for long.
However, there is a strong argument that training can have positive impact on the bottom line of a cabling installation project, by preventing mistakes that take time and money to repair.
Furthermore, as structured cabling becomes increasingly complex, particularly with the growth of fibre cabling installation and the need to support data speeds of 10Gbps and beyond, the room for error decreases.
Many installers learn from looking over a colleague’s shoulder, but the problem is that the colleague may never have been formally trained, or over the years, developed bad habits that are passed on to junior team members.
I have witnessed installations where cabling systems have had to be ripped out and replaced, involving considerable cost, time and disruption, not to mention the damage to the reputation of the installation company.
Yet the mistakes that led to the failure of the cabling system could have been avoided, with better understanding of good installation practices.
Fortunately, once the basics are properly understood, installing structured cabling is relatively straightforward.
For instance, each category of copper cable has a maximum pulling strength or bend radius (in the case of Category 6, just 25mm).
If the cable is pulled too hard around a corner, or at too sharp an angle, then the structure of the cable could be degraded, leading to interference and poor performance in the LAN.
Only a certain number of cables can be ‘pulled’ at any one time and this can vary according to the manufacturer.
There also needs to be specific distances between copper data cabling and electrical power cabling, as well as other electrical items, otherwise interference can be created.
Other common problems that can be avoided with proper training include wire map errors where wires have been put in the wrong place and NEXT (near end cross talk), which occurs when a cable has been poorly aligned, or if the untwisted part of a copper cable is too long.
Return loss is another frequent issue, caused by energy reflecting back on the link, usually caused by unnecessary kinks.
Testing is another area where training can make a significant difference.
Customers increasingly ask for a test report upon completion of installation and so it is essential that someone is trained to carry out testing to the required standard.
In addition, equipment warranties cannot be issued by vendors such as 3M without evidence of a thorough installation test report.
Different brands of cabling system and accessories have different requirements.
To use an automotive analogy, it is like expecting an Audi service engineer to be familiar with the BMW range.
For instance, 3M cable can be fitted in the top of the connector, whereas other manufacturers take a different approach.
Although cabling kits usually come with instructions, we have seen situations where the installer creates tortuous connections that could potentially affect the quality of the overall cabling system.
Furthermore, some brands require the use of specialist tools and for good reason:
it is hard to prepare wires to the right standard using a cheap craft knife.
In addition, the new generation of cabling products can help to minimise installer error.
For instance, cabling systems and accessories that require little or no specialist tools, or which are designed in such as way so that there is only one way to create the connection.
These products include connectors that have been factory assembled and, as well as eliminating mistakes, these help to reduce installation time.
This approach is particularly useful with fibre cabling, which by its fragile nature, requires a high level of precision.
However, the right product does not eliminate the need for training, so what is available to today’s installers? City and Guild courses covering copper cabling are available throughout the country and typically last a week.
For fibre optic training, contact the FIA (Fibre Industry Association) for details of recommended courses.
Finally, many manufacturers including 3M will provide training courses on their specific ranges, taking from a half to two days.
When choosing a course, look for a good balance: while theory is important, there is no substitute for ‘hands on’ training.
Making cable connections requires manual dexterity that can only be developed with practice and it makes sense to practice in the safety of a classroom rather than on a customer’s premises.
Training is rarely free, but consider the fact that it can contribute directly to customer satisfaction and the reputation of an installation company, whether a one man band or a much larger organisation.
With the market becoming increasingly competitive, training is a priority, not an option.
Posted by VMD - [Virtual Marketing Department]