Surveillance Subcontractor Usage

By Ethan Ace, Published Feb 22, 2012, 07:00pm EST

Whether or not to subcontract all or part of a security deployment is often a polarizing subject. Some integrators refuse to subcontract work, preferring to have their staff do all work and maintain complete control of a project. Others say they could never do all the work they do without subcontracting. To find out what is really going on in the industry, we asked integrators how often they use subcontractors.

The Results

Across all integrators, subcontractor usage was mixed. However, the larger the integrator's average job size was, the higher subscontractor usage rose. For instance, overall, a slight majority of integrators used subcontractors infrequently.

However, integrators specializing in small jobs overwhelmingly (more than 2/3rds) infrequently used subcontractors. The results were the opposite for integrators specializing in large projects with more than 2/3rds regularly using subcontractors.

Here, regularly means users answered they were using subcontractors more than 33% of the time. We suspect that there are two factors at play:

  • Geography: Those deploying larger system often serve a larger geographical footprint. This results in higher travel and lodging costs if internal employees are used, making subcontors a more attractive option.
  • Labor skillsets: Larger systems are often more complex than small deployments, requiring more training for technicians. Those deploying systems of this size are less likely to keep a "stable" of lower-level labor to pull cables and install conduit, and less likely to use highly-trained techs for these tasks, making subcontracting more likely.

Quality Control

The main reason given for preferring not to use subcontractors was the issue of quality control. Subcontractors may not be managed as well as an integrator's internal staff. Since they do not report directly to the integrator's project management, nor do they have a direct relationship with the customer, they're often viewed as having less at stake in projects, and thus show less concern for quality or timeline.

  • "We have been better able to control quality keeping labor in house, as well as keeping a unified face to our customers, by having key installers in direct contact with customers during, and after, an installation."
  • "The problem we found we sub contractors is your gambling with your reputation of the company, for instance if you take a 'subbie' on for a job and it turns out he's a hack job it reflects very badly. It's kind of a last resort if the job is particularly big or requires something special that we can't do ourselves. That being said some we had performed exceptionally and would of loved to give them a full time job!"
  • "sometimes we do, but we normally can handle our own jobs. plus it keeps installation wiring consistant from one to the next."
  • "Things go better when we do the job ourselves. We never use subcontractors for installation unless it requires something special like an electrician. We only use subcontractors for service, very infrequently, for simple things like 'plug this wire into this port.' Generally we've found it's better to do it ourselves."
  • "Hard trying to find someone who is affordable and reliable. Sure I can find any guy to run a wire for me on a new job, but trying to get a hold of him when we have a problem with one of the wires is difficult and usually they take shortcuts when running wires making it even harder to track down where the problem in the wire is. You get what you pay for."
  • "I never do i would always prefer my company to do the entire job that way i know its done correctly. my reputation is worth too much to hand out work to subbies."

Subcontractor Skillsets

The most common reason given for subbing out projects was that subcontractors, especially electricians, were often better or faster at certain tasks, such as conduit and cable installation. It is often inefficient to use technicians who are trained and certified in VMS systems, wireless, networking, and other higher-level skillsets for installing cable. Hiring subcontractors for these tasks may lower costs overall, allowing skilled techs to do more higher-level work.

  • "Our company is not a network company so we typically sub out a lot of our structured cabling and advanced network programming. We've also found that electricians pull cable faster and more efficient then our technicians.:
  • "Wherever possible we do the work ourselves to maintain product consistency. That being said, we do not hold ourselves out to be electricians, plumbers, carpenters, glaziers, locksmiths, or painters and are more than willing to offer that related work to others."
  • "Prewire cabling is generally contracted to a specialist cabling company. It is more economic for our company to use their skills rather than have our techs prewire networks."
  • "I'm convinced that the business model for an integrator does not offer the margins to sustain all of the talent in house to meet the needs of the existing customers and complete new installation projects. It's very expensive to keep a cabling/install crew on staff when you are between projects. We have been recently subcontracting some of that work, and focusing our in house techs on back end installation and service/support."
  • "We out source items such as cabling which have become a commodity"
  • "Our office will use subcontractors as often as we can to support project management efficiencies. The cost of a software-literate technical person does not favorably compare with pulling cable, installing hardware, or bending pipe."

Assists in Larger Projects

Many integrators do not have more than a handful of technicians on staff. Hiring subcontractors for conduit and pulling cable may allow smaller integrators to take on projects which they would otherwise be unable to handle.

  • "It's often cheaper and easier to have an electrical install all the cable, conduit, back boxes, etc. required than to do it in house. They'll install the equipment and our techs will terminate , set up the head end, do the programming, and do the testing. We can run a lot of large projects with very few techs this way."
  • "We have only 2 installers on our company; for any bigger jobs we have to do we get extra people we regularly work with."
  • "There's the matter of work load variations and electricians seem to be able to handle that better then our company so when we get a big job were not pushing it so far out."
  • "Allows us to take on bigger jobs without having to keep lots of employees on staff."

1 report cite this report:

Video Surveillance Statistics Directory Vol 2 on Mar 18, 2012
In this report, we aggregate and present numerous statistics about how...
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