The Fiber Optic Association - Tech Topics
Today when we look at a communications project, we find that in many cases we are going to be dealing with an existing office building or factory. It is to be retrofitted and/or upgraded in order to provide the customer with a state-of-the-art, high-speed communications systems that will satisfy their needs now and hopefully well into the future. It could be all FIBER, all COPPER, or in many cases a combination of a FIBER backbone and a CAT. 5 horizontal distribution system. Please note that žfibre-to-the-desktopÓ and žcentralized fibre systemsÓ are fast becoming cost and efficiency effective alternatives to any copper communications network.
What we are
often faced with is
a change from an unstructured wiring system to a structured wiring
system that will comply with federal, state, and locally applicable
codes. We may also have to comply with the TIA/EIA Standards.
NB: We should make every effort to comply with most of the TIA/EIA
standards even though there are know cable police.
We must calculate what we are going to need in the way of hardware and the mounting locations for it. In most instances, the existing local communications room or telecom closet (which ever you care to call it) in existing buildings is totally inadequate. It was inadequate when the building was being built twenty-five, thirty or more years ago, but even more so now. In some instances it is totally non-existent. Many of the older communications rooms were shared rooms. Not only was the telephone equipment mounted in there, but so was the lighting and power transformer for that particular floor or part of the floor, as was the electrical distribution panel. In some, not so extreme cases, I have seen slop sinks in one corner for the janitorial staff. Many of the communication closets have been utilized as cloakrooms, and even as a good location for the office coffee maker, electric kettle and a small refrigerator. All of which are plugged into power outlets supposedly reserved for communications equipment. (And people wonder why they have interference on their communication systems). These are some of the things that must be observed when planning out the communications project in an existing and/or occupied building.
get much more involved
when you are dealing with industrial plants. (not a cable plant).
Most industrial plants today are proceeding, "full speed"
with the installation of some of the most advanced, and up to
date, communication systems know to man, mainly because their
existing systems are operating at full capacity. Its FIBER OPTICS
for the Back Bone System and CAT. 5 for the Horizontal Distribution
System. Where EMI is a problem, F/O is run everywhere required.
Many plants have had a conglomeration of systems installed, IE:
thick net systems, combined with thin net, combined with twinax,
combined with UTP, STP, Pots, etc., etc. Name it and they have
it. Now all of a sudden the systems are not working with the high
speed equipment that they are purchasing, over the long distances
that they may have to run. Their new high-end graphics engineering
programs are not working. Thus they are looking at, and going
with Fibre Optics.
The idea is
to remove all of the
copper cabling that is used for communications from the existing
conduits, swab out the conduits and replace the old cable with
F/O or UTP. They have found that it works very nicely on a small
scale "add-on" thus they feel that the only way that
they can keep up with the high speed communications in the plant,
is with a complete new system. Guess what? They are correct.
ART OF ESTIMATING
Any person that is involved in, or is considering the art of estimating must realize from the outset, that there are certain skills that they must be proficient in before attempting to do this job. If you do not have these skills and/or are not willing to develop them you could be heading for big problems. You may get away with a bluff on a couple of jobs, but eventually ineptitude will give you away.
should be rated as
one of the most important activities within the contracting industry.
It can be defined as: An educated and complete evaluation of a
proposed project, based upon calculations of the labour units,
material costs and other related factors which totally encompass
the project and thus predict its costs.
of the operating costs
of most contracting firms shows that the estimating department's
activities are every bit as important as any other department.
estimating department operating
costs are 15% of the projected operating budget for the contractor,
it must therefore prove itself to be a highly skilled and competent
department that can provide realistic, accurate and concise estimates.
The estimator is the human factor of an estimate. Computerized estimating, although concise is only as good as the human factor. (Garbage in = garbage out). Regardless of the method employed, the estimator must have the necessary abilities and qualifications to prepare a tender. Moreover, his abilities and qualifications must be complemented by a vast amount of technical experience. Remember, "You can't talk the talk, unless you've walked the walk ".
An estimator must be able to deal with situations that differ from normal cost estimating, if it can ever be normal. IE: maintain harmony within the organization, dealing with customers, solving field site problems, etc, etc.
An estimator must be able to plan out the job clearly, concisely, and methodically. This is the only way to control and verifying his work, and minimise the chances of error and repetition.
The estimator must create certain systems which can then be used in the preparation of the tender. He should also be able to create labour units which must reflect prevailing market trends and changes.
Often drawings are lacking in detail. The estimator must utilize his analytical abilities to detect these omissions. Please also refer to the topic marked Imagination.
The estimator must be able to use his good judgement in establishing the estimate units in particular and planning the project out in general. He must show courage in overcoming obstacles. The estimator works jointly with management and must be able to qualify and sometimes to defend the tender figures with confidence.
Often the estimator must endure busy, chaotic, and even clamorous conditions. Attention to detail and detachment from the world around you sometimes requires above average powers of concentration.
You must have a good knowledge of mathematics. Let me qualify this statement by saying that many a job has been lost by improperly adding a column of figures. Many jobs have been taken because a decimal point has been misplaced somewhere along the line or figures have been transposed incorrectly. A quantity may not been properly calculated or extended into the estimate itself. Thus the final figures are incorrect and you are in a costly mess.
You must have a good command of the English language, and a phenomenal knowledge of acronyms and abbreviations. Remember you are probably not the only person that will read your estimates. You might be called away on business and someone else may have to complete your project. You will, in all probability, have to hand over your calculations and computations to the project manager in order to control the hours, check your labour units, material lists etc. If your colleagues cannot read your writing and/or mathematical figures on the pages, how can they ever hope to work with them. There are hundreds of Acronyms and Abbreviations associated with communications and fibre optics. You must be fluent with them.
You must have a vivid and skilled imagination. You have to be able to imagine or visualize what the finished project or specific portions of that project will actually look like. Imagination is an acquired skill and is developed with experience. If you are mounting a distribution/patch panel on a wall in a telecom closet, you must be able to visualize the finished item in order to do that job properly. Too many people lack this ability and miss out on major components or labour units. It is hard to express the amount of imagination that may be required for you to do a proper and complete job, but please believe me, it is required. Those of us that lack this ability should try drawing small "detail sketches" in order to ensure that they have included all pertinent materials. This can be an advantage if you have the same type of repetitive installation on several floors of a building.
I have no idea in the world how a non-trades-persons can ever go out and do a complete and proper estimating job. However some do manage to muddle through, and they may make a profit for a while, but eventually it will catch up with them. If you do not know the project or the industry, how can you possibly hope to estimate it.
general and fibre optics in particular. If you are not aware of
the procedures for installing connectors, making splices, installing
the cables (both copper and in fibre), you cannot estimate the
job. You have to be aware of the different product lines that
are out there, how they are to be installed, and protected. If
you are not familiar with the time you have to take and the care
that must be exercised in the installation of these products,
you cannot estimate the job. I find it very difficult to understand
how a non-trades-person or a novice estimator at communications
and fibre optics can possibly hope to properly and completely
quote a job and show a profit. If they do, then there must be
a lot of blind luck and prayer involved.
Another area that must be considered when you are estimating are your personal writing skills. Many people have said to me that my handwriting resembles that of a doctors, and believe me, that is no compliment. My handwriting can be pitiful, but when it comes to estimating it is impeccable. In all estimating I print, as most estimators do. The reason is simple. People want to be able to read what is on the paper. Further more I want to be able to read what is on the paper. This is especially true in three or four months, or a year or two later, when you have to go back over a project.
I make sure that the materials and tools that I use when estimating are of a very highest quality. Remember; you only pass this way once, so you may as well go first class.
be used for the simple reason that everyone makes mistakes and
it is much easier to erase pencils marks than pen and ink.
only be the type that can provide you with printout or tape. Pocket
calculators do not work. They have a very limited means of storing
information, if any at all, and thus no means for you to review
or cross check your calculations.
Tape Recorders come
in very handy when going out on a site visit, or when you think
of something that would be of use later. This may sound a little
silly, but many of us wake up in the wee small hours of the morning,
when something has just come into our minds. We awaken thinking
that a particular item or method might work well on that particular
job. Either writing the thought down or recording the thought
on tape saves it for future consideration. (A short pencil is
better than a long memory.) The site visit can be a disaster without
a tape recorder. If you can talk into a tape recorder when on
the site visit, the tour will all come back to you when you play
back your notes and hopefully you will not miss out on the important
aspects of the project. Certainly you are still going to have
to take measurements and so on, that is a foregone conclusion.
However a lot of the detail can be saved very accurately on a
tape recorder. Stay out of ear shot of others on the site visit.
Digital) They work wonders. If you are working on an existing
building and you want to have a permanent record of some site
details, a camera will do the trick. On a new installation within
an existing building, or within a building that is being constructed
from the ground up, a picture can be worth a thousand words, and
may show details that the human eye has missed. Be sure that you
ask permission to use a camera on any site. Customer/Owners get
very nervous and upset if they think you are an industrial spy.
e. Good Office Supplies. A comfortable chair, drawing board, stool, pencils, graph paper, pencil sharpener, good lights, clock, radio, jelly beans, gummy bears, estimating sheets, blackboard, bulletin board, etc., etc. are all requirements for an estimators office.
f. Estimating Sheets can be as simple as a few lines on a piece of paper with a heading. They can be as fancy as you want, with company logo's and letterhead, or it can be a sort of in between effort that is available from many of the stationary suppliers in a loose leaf pad form that displays appropriate rows and columns.
See Fig. 1. on the Practical Example.
The information on the form should include:
From left to right;
Column one lists the item number,
Column two lists the quantity of the items,
Column three lists the name and short description of item,
Column four lists the individual item cost,
lists cost of the
individual items (col. 3) multiplied by the quantity of the item
(col. 2) .
Column six lists the labour cost per unit item
lists the labour
cost per unit (col. 6) multiplied by the quantity of the item
The bottom line of the page is for the dollar totals in columns 5 and 7.
See Figure 2 in the Practical Example,
It shows much the same type of calculation sheet, although the headings are different. It is used as a summary sheet or a recap sheet. We transpose the totals from each individual estimating page, material from Col. 5 and labour from Col. 7 into the appropriate columns on the recap sheet.
estimating manuals will list
approximate factoring percentages. The labour factors allow for
any work that will not be done at normal working levels or heights.
They may also make allowances for extreme cold or heat. IE: Will
the majority of the work be done off of an eight foot ladder or
a 20 ft. ladder, Outside in Alaska in January or Outside in Arizona
The Duties of an Estimator
Read Carefully "The
Instructions To Bidders"
This document specify that the bidder offers to perform the work within a specified time, at a fixed price or on a fixed basis for payment and that the work will be performed in accordance with the drawings, specifications and other contract documents which will usually be detailed in the tender. It gives the bidder specific instructions as to the date, time and address of the closure of the tender, etc.
2. Physical Estimating Duties;
A.The estimator must verify the drawings received with the list of drawings noted in the Special Conditions of specification.
The estimator must separate the drawings into systems or sections. This allows an easier and more systematic take off of the materials and application of the labour units.
Just as skill in your particular job or being very competent with your trade is important, so the site visit or project tour is every bit as important. It is necessary when doing a site visit to take in and digest everything that you possibly can. You are not on the site visit for sightseeing. You are on the site visit to equip yourself with some background so that you can properly and completely put together an accurate package for the estimate.
A site visit will show your actual equipment locations, routing for your conduits, proper elevations and it will allow you to apply the architectural drawings that usually accompany the bid package. (If the drawing package in incomplete, complete it or void the project).
The site visit will give you insight into what may confront you when you eventually come onto the job site. You may see obstructions to your equipment getting onto the site. The whole job may have to be done off of 12 foot ladders instead of rolling scaffold. You won't know unless you look.
That is the purpose of the site visit. Those that do not take the site visit would also consider playing contact football with a nitro-glycerine filled ball. There are many horror stories about the estimators that did not take the site visit seriously.
C. The Take-off;
The estimator must extricate all apparatus and material from the blueprints and list them on the estimate sheets. Detailing materials and quantities for the "take-off" is the most exacting aspect of any estimate. The labour units are directly proportional to the material quantities. Thus a mistake in a material or apparatus quantity will affect the total out come of the bid.
This is when estimators appreciate peace and quiet in their surroundings.
with the other trades
on the project, IE: mechanical, structural, etc., is a
prerequisite for most estimators.
Once the materials and apparatus have been listed on the take-off sheet the estimator must establish their cost. Conformity with the technical specifications, and the manufacturers specified in the bid package must be observed. If you have a better idea and the bid specifies that you can provide an equivalent product, you should always submit it previous to tender closure to ensure that it can be approved. This procedure will enable the estimator to verify if the description and price of each unit meets the customers requirements. Use col. 4 & 5.
Labour units are those little numbers that we use to calculate the time, in MANHOURS, that we will require to do the job. They are usually listed in hours or a percentage of an hour, but never in minutes. IE: 3.6 man hours converts to 3 hours plus .6 or 60% of an hour. This can sometimes be confusing to the novice but it must be mastered quickly if you are to estimate a project. Labour units are used as a guide for the estimator. It is very important to apply the labour factors when adjusting the manhour units to cover the loss of time, loss of efficiency, etc. which are related to the job conditions.
It is up to the estimator to apply the labour unit calculations to each individual material item on the estimate sheet. Use col. 6
Who's labour units do you use ? Do you use published labour units ? Do you create your own labour units ? Do you use a combination of published and your own labour units ? The last option is probably the best choice but they should be carefully checked. Labour units are usually developed by doing the work and/or watching the work. You must be cautious however. Accurate man hours must be an average of several labour samples. IE: You might be lucky when you do a specific chore and it only takes you 15 minutes. Realistically the chore will probably take you 25 minutes, and when Murphy's law is applied, it may take you 35 minutes. Thus a good average would be 25 minutes. I like to use the published labour units from several sources, supplemented by my own experience.
F. Labour that is not included in the Scope of Work Labour Units;
Factory technician assistance
Installing & removing of pulling equipment used to install cables
Anchors, fasteners, or supports for cable or accessories
Circuit or system identification tags or colour coding
Scope of Labour Units
Cable Installation Labour Units
unloading and inspection
for damage at the job site
Specification examination, layout drawing study, & location identification
Moving cable to the installation location
Pulling the cable
Removal of excess materials and shipping cartons
Cable Splicing & Cable Terminating Labour Units
cutting cable ends
to the proper length
Cable and preparation for splicing or terminating
Cable splicing or cable terminating
Clean-up of the cable coatings, buffers, & jacketing removed for splicing
Cable & Cable Splice Testing
equipment from the
tool storage to the splice location
Moving the test equipment to the subsequent splice testing location
Setting up the test equipment
Connecting temporary power to the test equipment
Performing the tests
Recording the test results
Returning the test equipment to the tool storage area
Fibre Optic Cable Accessory Equipment
unloading and inspection
for damage at the job site.
Specification examination, layout drawing study, & location identification
Moving the items to the installation location
Installing the items
Removal of excess materials and shipping cartons
Some Sample Labour Units are Listed on Pages 19, 20, & 21.
the Estimate Sheet;
Total the cost of the apparatus and material in col. 5 on the bottom line of the estimate sheet. Total the "MANHOURS" of labour in col. 7 on the bottom line of the estimate sheet.
H. Recapitulation Sheet;
Apply the man hour total and material and apparatus total from each individual estimate sheet to the Recapitulation sheet.
1) List all the field expenses, the labour extra's, the cost of the equipment and tools etc., in the appropriately labelled block.
2) Take into account the commercial and financial aspect of the General and Special Conditions of the Contract.
3) With the appropriate help from management, determine the overhead and profit margin to apply to the estimate.
4) Calculate the total labour per hour cost and enter it in the prime labour cost block.
the Recap Sheet;
Add in all the Totals; labour, material, taxes, profit, overheads, etc., etc., and there is the quoted price.
ESTIMATING DO'S AND DON'TS
1. When you first receive the bid tender package, remove the Bid Tender documents and lock them up securely until they are to be finalized.
2. Initiate a Bid Tender book. Every time you receive a Bid Tender, mark down the name of the project, the date that you received the documents, the date that the tender is due, the Customers name, the estimators name, and most importantly a CODE NUMBER.
3. NEVER post the project name on the bulletin board, show it on the estimating sheets or recap sheets. Especially, never show it on any paper-work that will be submitted to a supplier or salesperson for pricing. Only use the CODE NUMBER to identify the project. IE: M.Mouse Industries Inc. = 09FDE2300, (Month the Bid Tender received) , FDE (estimators initials) , 2300 (the 23thd bid of 2000)
4. Unfortunately there are many unethical people out in the market place that would not hesitate to use your figures to enhance their own bidding position. Treat the estimating department as a secure area, and limit any visitations to a safe location such as a private office.
5. Some of the vendors have their own installation firms. If they are reputable they will inform you of that fact, and protect your pricing. Be careful of them and avoid those that will not.
6. Know your subcontractors, vendors, suppliers, rental agents, etc.
7. Use your
ethics. Provide fair
pricing, and don't try to "buy the job", by undercutting
the prices and hoping for the extra's. The contracting industry
has been devastated over the past few years by contractors using
just that type of bid practice. A fair price, fair profit, and
quality work will ensure the industries survival.
BID TENDER PROCESS
Vs RFP Vs RFQ
An RFI, "Request For Information" is a general notification of an intended purchase of equipment or services, sent to potential suppliers to determine interest, solicit general descriptive product materials, but not necessarily material prices.
An RFP, "Request For Proposal" is a detailed document prepared by a company/owner/buyer defining his requirements for service and equipment that is sent to one or several vendors. A Vendor's response to an RFP will typically be binding on the vendor.
An RFQ, "Request For Quotation" is a tender document prepared by the buyer defining his needs for service and equipment in fairly broad terms and sent to one or several vendors. the RFQ is much less detailed than the RFP. The object of the RFQ or "Invitation to Tender" is to obtain firm offers to perform the work at a specific price or on a specific basis. The owner is under no obligation to accept any one of the offers received. Frequently, the invitation to tenders will say that the owner is under no obligation to accept the lowest or any of the tenders. What the owner should be interested in, is obtaining from a group of contractors, the highest quality work for the best price, not necessarily the lowest price for the work to be done. If the lowest price tendered is acceptable to the owner, and in far too many cases it is, he can, by an act of acceptance of the tender, complete a binding contract. Lowest price is not always the best. As of late many of the owners have adopted a new method of tender selection. They will invite five vendors to tender a specific project. When all the tenders are submitted through the bid process a selection is made in the following manner. The low bidder and the high bidder are tossed out of the pool. The remaining bids presented to a selection panel, they are carefully scrutinized and the best one is accepted. This is an attempt at keeping vendors honest and ensuring a quality job.
One of the problems arising from the submission of tenders, concerns the contractor who wishes to withdraw his tender. In this situation, the bidder may, prior to acceptance, withdraw his offer. In order to avoid this situation, the tender form will frequently provide that it is irrevocable for a specific period of time. If it is withdrawn and the owner suffers damage, he has a cause of action against the contractor.
If a bidder can establish that his tender was based on information submitted by the owner which turns out to be erroneous and which by law, would constitute an innocent misrepresentation by the owner, the bidder has the right to rescind his agreement. Normally, however, the owner is careful to point out in the tender documents that bidders cannot rely on such things as blue prints to ensure job conditions. They must make their own investigation. Hence the site visit.
problem which occurs is
when a contractor has made a mistake in his bid, realizes the
mistake and seeks to withdraw the bid. Normally, the time limit
to withdraw the tender varies from 24 hour to a maximum of 48
hours from the time of bid closure. If the tender is submitted
to a general contractor, the sub-contractor must usually withdraw
his tender at least 24 hours prior to the deadline for the general
contractor to submit his tender to the client.
If the bid tender has been submitted with a bid bond, the contractor must notify the client immediately with appropriate evidence justifying the error, in order to withdraw the tender and void the bid bond.
examine all of the bid
documents very carefully in order clearly ensure your own understanding
of the legal rights of both the owner and the contractor. If you
have any questions, don't guess, and don't surmise. Go to your
legal representative and get the proper interpretation of the
law. It might not be as bad as you think.
of a company in
setting up estimating standards is to provide a uniformity for
bid estimates and to ensure that the same base is used for progress
and productivity reporting on the job. It is therefore very important
that these standards be continually updated so that they are always
valid for both getting the work in the first place, and for controlling
To avoid complications, the base units once established, will remain constant, regardless of any updating input from any source.
The updating of input sources will be as follows;
a) Changes in craft productivity from one type of industry to another.
b) Changes in craft productivity from different geographical locations.
c) Data from actual job experiences.
The input changes will be applied as factors to the standards, either to total manhours or to individual standard units. A decision on factoring estimates should be made before estimating begins.
reporting we will
deal with "Estimated" and "Actual" hours.
The "estimated" quantities are expressed in "Work
units" and the "actual" quantities are expressed
in "man-hours". The difference is very important since
"Estimated" figures are hypothetical while "Actual"
figures are time that has to be paid for, whether the estimate
is right or wrong.
SETTING UP THE ESTIMATE
The bid estimate will be set up as follows;
In the format required by the client.
In areas or systems within format.
will be listed in
detail on the "Pricing Sheets" and standard "Work
units" will be applied to the material quantities and other
The breakdown will be coded if required by the client, to match up with the "Progress Report" and the "Code of Accounts" and shown on the "Recapitulation Sheet".
The Progress Report and the Monthly Cost Report are to enable management to be aware of the job status at regular intervals. It is essential that the estimate, the job control system, and the office cost report be directly related to each other.
A PRACTICAL EXAMPLE
estimating as a skilled
art - it is. Don't cut corners, it will catch up to you. Utilize
the most up-to-date materials, tools and computer programs. Use
every one of your skills at hand to your advantage. Be informed
and keep informed. Technology is changing as you read this article.
THINK, PLAN, THINK, PLAN, THINK, PLAN. Set aside time to read
and study your craft a minimum of four (4) hours a week. Take
pride in your work and enjoy your work. Don't endure your work
or you will never be a success.
The labor units shown in the accompanying list are necessarily average figures. They are based upon the following conditions:
1. An average worker.
2. A maximum working height of twelve feet.
3. A normal a availability of workers.
4. A reasonably accessible work area.
5. Proper tools and equipment.
6. A building not exceeding three stories.
7. Normal weather conditions.
Any set of labor units must be tempered to the project to which they are applied. They are a starting point, not the final word. Difficult situations typically require and increase of 20-30%. Some very difficult installations may require even more. Especially good working conditions, or especially good workers may allow discounts to the labor units of 10-20%, and possibly more in some circumstances.
|Fiber Optics Labor Units||
|Labor units (hours)|
|Optical fiber cables||per foot||
|1-4 fibers||in conduit||0.016||0.02|
|1-4 fibers||accessible locations||0.014||0.018|
|12-24 fibers||in conduit||0.02||0.025|
|12-24 fibers||accessible locations||0.018||0.023|
|48 fibers||in conduit||0.03||0.038|
|48 fibers||accessible areas||0.025||0.031|
|72 fibers||in conduit||0.04||0.05|
|72 fibers||accessible locations||0.032||0.04|
|144 fibers||in conduit||0.05||0.065|
|144 fibers||accessible locations||0.04||0.05|
|1-4 fibers||in conduit||0.02||0.025|
|1-4 fibers||accessible locations||0.017||0.021|
|12-24 fibers||in conduit||0.024||0.03|
|12-24 fibers||accessible locations||0.022||0.028|
|Splices||inc. prep and failures, trained workers|
|array splice||12 fibers||1.00||1.30|
|Terminations||inc. prep & failures, trained workers||
|FDDI dual connector||including terminations||0.80||1.00|
|cross-connect box||144 fibers, not inc. splices||3.00||4.00|
|breakout kit||6 fiber||1.00||1.40|
(C) 2002-10, The
Fiber Optic Association,
Return To The FOA Home Page
Return To FOA Tech Topics