This article is posted here with the consent of the author. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position, view, or opinion of Crestron Electronics, Inc., or any of its employees. Crestron Electronics is not responsible for, and does not verify the accuracy of, any of the information contained in this article.
by Doug Jacobson
As the world starts to come out of hibernation over the next several months, or perhaps even the next few years, not much will be the same. Among those things sure to be different for the foreseeable future: the way you install your projects.
The reasons are obvious. Time in other people’s homes will be limited, and you or your staff may not be able to share the same space with other trades like electrical contractors, shade installers, and lighting designers. This is for the safety of your clients and also for your safety.
On top of that, no one knows for sure whether your own team will be able to work in the same space. So, you will continue to have to improve your team’s efficiency working apart.
Here are some suggestions to avoid costly delays:
1. Build and test racks off-site
I know, I know; you already do this. (Or if you don’t, you should be.) But just how complete is your process? Are you just building the racks off-site and then checking all the wiring, but not fully testing all of the programming before shipping to the job site? If so, you are asking for trouble.
Even though we all know it’s nearly impossible to get it 100% right until it’s all installed, you should take the attitude that you have to. It takes discipline and it may seem to delay the installation up front, but in the long run you’ll be much better off.
So, write the entire program and develop all the user interfaces (or configure the entire Crestron Home™ system – more on this later) off-site, then test as much as humanly possible. Load up all the touch screens, install all the keypad buttons and connect all the keypads, press all the buttons and check all the feedback.
I recognize this won’t work for everything. Lighting, shades, and climate control can be tough to stage off-site. But the more you can, the less variables there will be to deal with at the job site.
2. Pre-wire and test
Nothing slows a job down more than chasing down and correcting wiring issues at the job site. It’s stressful and labor intensive. To minimize this as much as possible, try to dedicate time and resources to installing the wiring ahead of the equipment. Then each wire can be toned out and tested without the added pressure of having to connect it to gear. Plus, by testing the wiring separately, you immediately know where the problem is: with the wiring! No guesswork or finger pointing!
3. Order engravings asap
This one can be tough because “my client doesn’t really know what he wants yet.” But we all know installing engravings after the keypads are installed is labor intensive and invariably leads to programming changes on the job site. Push your customer to make decisions ahead of time. Create your proposed layouts, send them to your client, and have them formally approved well in advance of installation. Then place your order!
4. Use our fixture test service
Lighting used to be so simple… before the advent of LEDs. But now, fixture/dimmer compatibility is a fact of life in our business. Don’t leave it to chance; use the Crestron fixture compatibility service. It’s easy and it’s free.
First, take a look at our fixture compatibility database. There you’ll find the results of all the fixture/driver combinations we’ve tested in the past.
Don’t see what you’re looking for? Simply fill out the online form and follow the directions. You’ll receive a full report of our test results, and those results will be posted online for all to benefit from.
5. Use Crestron Home
Crestron Home software is by far the most efficient way to deploy Crestron, and that means less time spent on-site. If you haven’t dived into Crestron Home yet, now’s the time!
Yes, Crestron Home configuration is done live, but much of that can still be done off-site alongside the equipment racks (see point 1). And for lighting configuration you can use the Crestron Home Configurator, which allows you to pre-configure lighting loads, enclosures, dimmers, and keypads within an easy-to-use web interface. This configuration is hosted on the myCrestron portal.
For everything you ever wanted to know about Crestron Home visit crestron.com/home.
6. Provide remote access
OK, so the installation is done and the client is happy… mostly. If something goes wrong or they are looking for a change, you’ll want to avoid a truck roll if at all possible. That means having access to everything on the network remotely and securely.
For the most common troubleshooting scenarios, nothing beats installing a remote management tool like Domotz at each installation. They’re small and inexpensive, and you can purchase units with up to a five-year subscription plan direct from Crestron. With the ability to check Internet bandwidth and device connectivity, cycle power on devices, and so much more, chances are they will pay for themselves within the first year.
Another great feature of Domotz is the ability to offer access to any device on the network directly to Crestron support. With the click of a button, you can enable our award-winning support team to have temporary and secure access to the network to troubleshoot any device. No annoying VPNs, no ports to open.
7. Set expectations
Your customers are experiencing disruption in their lives just as you are, so they should recognize that the way you provide service for the foreseeable future will differ from what they received from you in the past. Still, make sure you communicate clearly, so expectations are set up front.
This is also a great opportunity for you to tout all the ways you’ve adjusted your business to minimize that disruption. This will only serve to strengthen the value of a trusted and professional technology adviser in their eyes.
It’s cliché, but these are crazy times, and everyone is being impacted in negative ways. The silver lining is our industry has some of the smartest people in the world, so who better to adjust than us?
I’m sure there are things many of you are doing beyond what I’ve mentioned above. If you are, and you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them. Perhaps I can share with others in a follow-up blog post.