Member Discussion

How Long Does It Take Your Techs To Maintain The Following?

I'm an integrator and would like to check how long others on here get certain jobs done:

  • Camera cleaning - we rate this at 15 minutes with 2 persons
  • Server/NVR cleaning/checking logs - 1 hour/person
  • Switch cleaning - 15 minutes/person

I'm well aware that some of these may take longer/shorter depending on the specific device and location (up high on a wall, etc.). But I think it's time we do a reality check on ourselves in the industry.

Can you define "switch cleaning" and "server cleaning", so we can be sure of comparing apples to apples?

Estimating labor is one of the hardest parts of the job, in my opinion.

'Camera cleaning' alone - do we mean indoor units that get dusty, or outdoor units that get rain, snow, mud, dirt, and insects?

Rough estimation followed something like this for me:

  • Indoor camera installation (ie: drop ceilings, 8' height, new cable, focusless minidomes): 4 manhours
  • Outdoor camera installation (ie: brick mount, lift or scaffold height, new cable, focus lenses): no way am I going to guess at that blind, too many variables
  • Installing 1 door access control (ie: hollowcore steel door/frame, block wall, contactless readers, strike): 8 manhours
  • Installing 1 door access control (ie: hollowcore wood veneer/frame, gyp wall, standalone wireless lockset): 0.75 manhours
  • Updating/patching NVR OS (using MS): 1 manhour
  • Updating/patch NVR VMS Software: 1 manhour - 8 manhours, depending on VMS vendor

The difficulty in accurately estimating labor is why many estimators fail. I might even adjust labor based on the actual members of the labor team. If I knew that three techs in particular had worked together on a similar task at the same site before, that estimate is less than a team of three new techs who had never been to the site, worked together, and were jerks to each other.

"If I knew that three techs in particular had worked together on a similar task at the same site before, that estimate is" pretty easy?

I'm with you on the estimating juniors as slower, but call me pessimistic but sometimes three techs get along a little too well, you know? and three jerks create a kinda of competition, like a sorta bake-off, but for jerks you know?

A bakejerks!

A bakejerks!

you have method with your madness, to everyone this is so funny, but I can't for the life left in me figure out why to just laugh out loud, so hardly is it killing me to know! What I wouldn't give my leftover nut to get this one! Please explain in raw english. Thkx.

I think you know better quality jerks. The ones I'm talking about aren't motivated by anger. I'm talking about the type that fuss at each other over dumb stuff, and then refuse to communicate or cooperate beyond the margins forever after.

In any case, there are team dynamics to consider. At my engineering college, we were all trained to be disciples of Dr. W. E. Deming who had a lot to say about people in production. An overarching theme is not to consider workers as interchangeable gears in a machine, but to build the machine around the workers.

Work standards are great, labor estimates have to be given, but when those estimates blow up the question should be 'how did this happen?', not 'why did you fail to hit the mark?'.

...the question should be 'how did this happen?', not 'why did you fail to hit the mark?'.

Though I admit I've heard similar pop psych/motivational sentiments before, I've never really understood how to pull this off without the dialog of "how did this happen" becoming the same as the "why did this happen" in short order...

Any insight on how to avoid them ending up in the same place in the end?

Well, if heads need to be knocked together to address an issue, its appropriate.

But if the metric/expectation/goal was flawed to begin with, then don't beat people up on account of it.

You may really hope cleaning that camera only takes 15 minutes, but if it takes 30 then find out why, do not automatically go to war over missing the goal by 100%.

Like Ari I'd be curious to hear what your definitions of cleaning are. I'd tend to think you've got some pretty good estimates. But there are variables (the depth to which you clean) which will affect it.

Well, cleaning cameras to us means cleaning the dome bubble (inside out) and cleaning the plastic/metal casing from any caked on dust (if any). If there's dust inside the casing, then that must be cleared/cleaned to enable the cooling fans to work well and last longer.

If it's indoor, the inside of the unit is usually clean so it's just the exterior that is really cleaned. If it's outdoor, that's a whole nother story.

Cleaning servers/switches/UPS's/workstations - general dusting of the internals (if allowed by manufacturer and does not void manufacturer warranty). and applying updates as necessary, cleaning/checking logs for anything major, etc...

Undisclosed A...question. Are you yourself from the sales side or the field side at your company? I believe I know the answer but will wait to hear your reply. Good feedback will follow.

Michael - I'm from the field side and the field side is usually fighting tooth and nail with sales as to "why" such things take so long to do and are so costly.

Sales wants to keep driving down cost (unknowingly driving quality down as well) and I need to push back.

Sales usually works from a predetermined spreadsheet with values populated by....someone... that thinks these values are reality. I understand the need for that. Management wants sales people to do a walkthru, make a "count" of cameras, how many servers or NVR's are present, switches and make a proposal for a service/maintenence contract based on the pre-populated timeframes in the spreadsheet. Its simple math, right?

No. What the arbitrary spreadsheet fails to take into account are the unforeseens, the intangibles. Job logistics plays a huge role here. The biggest. That 15 min camera clean with two men? Was the camera 8' or 12' high? Is it in an office bldg where you need to use the freight elevator to get ladders and other test or cleaning gear to the 34th floor? Wrestle your 8' step ladders out and possibley into a crowded area. Doors being held open for you? Pardon me sir etc etc. There are countless variables of this scenerio. Urban or rural - it makes no difference.

Did the spreadsheet account for parking your truck - unloading and getting your tools to the job? saying hello, introducing yourself and what you will be doing today? I call this mobilizing. Maybe your contact who has the keys to the closets where the servers are is in another area..or building...or in a meeting and cant be disturbed for 1 hr.

And very often, updates. patches etc are not perfectly smooth. What fixes one thing breaks two others. You need to test functionality after an update/upgrade, right? What if something dosent work? Roll it back...but can you? Again, coutless variables.

All this takes time. Someone who has never worked in the field cannot appreciate this. Its not their fault. Its simple ignorance. If you voiced your concerns to management and still get no relief then resort to this simple redirect. Next time a salesperson (or management) who walks on water starts ranting at you "why did this simple maintenence call take 2 days instead of the one day I gave you" look them straight in the eye and say...."Show Me" Show me how its done. Do not MF the person or swear in any way. You lose credability if you do. Show me... without emotion but with a stern look and tone gets remarkable results. Try it and good luck.

Good insight, Michael. No job is as linear as the plan. My favorite adage ever:

"No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy."

...meaning that the work plan typically gets thrown out the window as soon as work actually begins.

Project Management is a gritty business, because you have to know where to clunk heads together: are the techs lazy, or were the sales estimates wrong? This is where 'the metric' should be carefully given credibility or not.

Next time a salesperson (or management) who walks on water starts ranting at you "why did this simple maintenence call take 2 days instead of the one day I gave you" look them straight in the eye and say...."Show Me" Show me how its done. Do not MF the person or swear in any way.

I would add that, assuming you are doing a stellar job, you should welcome these types of incidents as oppurtunities for education of superiors and laterals alike. Because by the time someone has finally 'had enough' of your 'ridiculous' and 'padded' estimates to 'call you out' on it publically, they have already rehearsed their 'rant' a couple times with your/their peers, derogating you at every turn. And so Michael you are correct that this misconception must be debunked.

However, a word of caution is in order, because although I don't doubt how effective the correctly deadpanned 'Missourian Motto' may be, Michael has a very matter-of-fact tone that belies his actual wealth of experience in these matters. Meaning easier said than done. It's as if a different, though equally qualified Michael, advised "When they double-team you, just pump-fake and then fade the 3 over Magic's head. Try it." Because the reality is that you might not know what comes after that 'stern look straight in the eye', and its best not be caught 'flat-footed'. Adding to the unpredictability of conceivable respones would be the presence of others, not uncommon in witch hunts.

So although one may be prepared for the possible retorts of "It's not my job to do yours", (said by peers), and "What do I need you for then?", (said by superiors), I doubt they are heard much. No, what's more likely to occur here, IMO, will be an awkward attempt at justification of the initial aggression, by resorting to the bean-counters favorite device, the dreaded line-item lynching.

Make no mistake, no matter how prepared you are, a public lynching is not easy (Think IRS Audit with Bill Maher as Auditor). If for instance, the inquisitor has in front of them one year of maintenance logs, and begins launching triple-tipped missiles consisting of "date/action/hours" warheads in rapid succession, choosing only the most egregious and deviant looking ones, you'd wish you were at the dentist (even with Bill Maher as the dentist) instead. This is made all the more frustrating by the lack of any specific allegations, e.g. "I'm not saying its wrong, Joe, I'm just asking if it's normal for x to take y long, z times in a row?". You might miss a couple jumpers in your career before you sink any in those situations. So I would say use 'Show Me' only when is absolutely confident of ones work and more of a last resort than a first.

A similar though slightly less confrontational approach might be dubbed "Show You", where you invite the interested party on a service call to have them help streamline the process and get their take on things. If there are inane internal procedures that can be eliminated, its amazing how quickly they can be changed if someone who can change them has to actually follow them. If they demur then they are likely to let it drop.

In a nutshell, when you tell someone 'Show Me' you may create someone who forever will be trying to do just that, although not the way you intend, e.g., "Crappy Cam's Cleaners only take 1hr to clean the crap out of their cams, etc."

'Show You' on the other hand can create an ally and advocate within the firm. Both methods though are based in reality though, the 'Show', so either is morally justifiable, but 'Show You' is easier for us passive aggresive types. ;)

I must admit, your posts are truly an exercise in reading comprehension. I have to read 3-5 times before your intended message is understood...I think. Did you know writing like that is illegal in 14 states? :)

I ommitted the part in my post that speaks to " try and do this privately" as opposed to a public outburst. Outbursts in public or in shop amongst peers involkes emotion and that is counterproductive...almost always.

Ironically, your "show you" approach I have used as well. A company I worked for some 13 years ago had a branch manager (who I hired to replace me...another story) who did not agree with me that a conventional access point (card access) takes 8 hrs to the door. Some take 4 hrs if everything just works out and some 16 hrs if its a double door, concrete filled jams, EMT everywhere, concrete everywhere etc etc. Average for pricing is 8 hrs at the door. This fella insisted it take 4 hrs a door no matter what. We went back and forth for quite some time on this. He claims he consulted others and the concensus was 4 hrs. Exasperated, I said come with me on the next one and we will see.

A week later, the perfect "hurry up and get it done" job came to the front. I invited him along to work with me - side by side - not knowing the job condition. As it happened, It was on one of the upper floors in a Hartford based insurance co. Vans with ladder racks cannot fit in any parking garage in that vicinity. We could unload everything at the dock (anybody that identifies with this knows you cannot possibly bring everything because you just dont know what you might need) and park at a contractor designated area 1/2 mile away. By the time we got to the floor with everything we could bring - two hrs gone. I look over the job, assign doors to members of the team, and I chose the data center door (double door / standard outswing) Well we were not the only contractors in the hurry up mode. The place was a beehive with everybody in scramble mode. Now he is useless as an installer so he was there to help me- and by doing so gain an understanding of REALITY!!. Tall doors, all ladder work. These are doors now - portals - so up the ladder, start drilling - someone needs to bring a pallet in - down the ladder, move out of the way, reset. This repeated at least 50 times that 12hr day. Now in all fairness, this door was a bitch. Not standard framing. Of course you have the jack studs and header but hidden behind that sheetrock were cross members. Very tall exit point for cables which made drilling thru those aluminum cross members a nightmare. My "boss" tried his best to help that day, moving the ladders when required, climbing up and down for snaking etc.

Fast forward to the end of the day, the door was not half done. We did not bring a job box so everthing back down and loaded on the vans. He hops in with me and we start the hr long ride back. I said nothing for 10 minutes or so concentrating on getting out of the conjested city area and onto the innerstate. "so you still think its 4 hrs a door?" No reply. He is passed out cold and literally drooling!! OK, I will wait until we get back. Upon arrival at the shop, I woke him up and repeated my question. Some mumble and off he goes to his car to go home. I was laughing inside but made no mention to the guys.

The next morning, I repeat my question. He has no intention of repeating his ordeal today claiming meetings or some other BS. Still no answer from him. Another day or so and I repeat my question.....and he has the balls to say "you tricked me on that knew it was going to be like that" My jaw hit the floor. 4 hrs a door is what a door takes. That is what sales will use as the sell # for labor.

The "show you" approach only works with people that are open minded and teachable....which this fella certainly was not. There are many like him. Ego? Pride? Mentally certifiable? I am sure there are people that this would work with..but not in my circles so far.

I only wish I had pictures of him passed out like a drunk drooling on himself. This was before the age of the smart phone with a camera in everybody's pocket.

But I still would not post them here. Not professional. (tempting though)

100% True Story. No Embelishment.

I must admit, your posts are truly an exercise in reading comprehension.

That's easy for you to say, but just try writing them sometime! (Show Me?)

On the other hand I must admit to understanding 99% of your post, including all of your charming "can't win for losing" saga on the first pass. I will try to be as clear as you in what follows.

The only difficulty I find with your post is that, I'm not entirely sure what your point is, though I think you are arguing that the confrontational Show Me is a better tactic than the cooperative Show You approach.

I say 'I think' because you never actually come right out and say this. Instead you present a case that you feel demonstrates how the SY method failed. You then imply that this method would never work on anyone you have ever come across. But you never take the natural step and explain what might have happened had you used your SM method in your story instead... Why not?

For are we really to believe that this 'close-minded', 'egomaniacal' and 'certifiable' man would have been placated by a 'stern look in the eye' as you said 'Show Me'??

Or isn't it more likely to have caused an escalation of 'counter-productive' emotion?

Moreover, assuming SM had any value, why couldn't you just say it after the 'boss' was insisting on 4 hours? Surely the fact that he had just experienced first hand the potential dangers that await him would add considerable force to your SM, yes/no?

Michael for the record, I don't doubt your sincerity in your initial advice. I believe you have had great success with it. I also believe that this is due in no small part to your more forceful personality and no-nonsense approach. However this technique can be risky, all the more so for anyone who doesn't have bigger cajones than their adversary, and therefore not for everyone... But, I'm not saying you should change...:)

Curious, have you ever read any Dale Carnegie?


I enjoy your "challenge and response" style of writing. It is thought provoking. Even your dumbed down version requires me to read it twice and think. Well played.

Now I will attempt to answer your inquiries. The point between the SM vs SY. I use the "show you" method all the time when training or teaching someone a skill etc. I subscribe to the coaching/teaching method of management vs. my way or the highway. This has worked well for me over many years in the trade. The point here is the person must be willing to be taught or coached. I will show you anything if you are willing to listen and learn. Constructive feedback is encouraged as well. I remain teachable as much as possible. Nobody knows everything.

Undisclosed A did not appear to be in the position to ask for a "let me show you" session. He/She is looking for feedback. This is my feedback. "show me" while in the process of getting your ass chewed is more appropriate - in my opinion. Very rarely will sales or management have all their ducks lined up for a firing squad as one of your earlier posts eluded to. Show me will knock them back usually. And yes, your side of the street best be clean. You need to be diplomatic and respectful and of course the timing must be right.

In my case, the SM method , which I tried, failed. Did it cause an escalation? probably but at that point I was frustrated with the incompetence. Failure to launch..period. You know about the "show you saga"

I resigned shortly thereafter.

"How to make friends and influence people" Never heard of it ;)

Agreed, sometimes it's better to bonk the bully. And it's defintely more fun.

So how about it @Undisclosed A, bring us in as high-level cleaning consultants, AKA bulky bonkers, pro bono of course, and maybe together we can Show 'em! :)

Calling undisclosed A......where are you? There is a wealth of knowledge in this thread that just may help you. Hope your undisclosed status was not sniffed out and your being threatened by your employer.