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Back To Work, Part 5: A First Look At Design And Engineering

This is Part 5 of a series.

Welcome to Part 5 of my series on getting back to work. In this series, I offer reminders, tips and thoughts for each of the seven stages of a project. I hope to make this a worthwhile read by bringing something to the fore that you either didn’t know or long ago forgot! So far, we have covered pre-sales, preliminary design and documentation and the kick-off meeting. This month, we’ll be covering design and engineering.

Double Check

By this point in the project lifecycle, you, as the designer, should have most, if not all, of what you need to complete your (or the pre-sales engineer’s) design. Shipping should have weighed in if there were any issues with equipment or delivery timelines. Operations should have weighed in as to any issues with the installation that might affect the design. And sales should have provided updates as to any changes in the client’s needs and wants, as well as delivered any missing documents, architectural background, photos and the like. You also should have heard from project management, accounting (has the check cleared on that deposit?), etc.

So, what do you do first? Why communicate, of course! Depending on the workload you’re juggling, perhaps weeks of time—maybe more—elapse between the kick-off meeting and when you actually start on the project. So, first things first: Reach out to all the key team members and double check that there are no changes! Again, do it right the first time—don’t cut corners. We’re all busy and we’re often playing catch up; naturally, things are overlooked or forgotten. A colleague easily could have forgotten to tell you that the client now wants white cameras, not black ones. Been there, done that! It’s why double checking is necessary.

Detailed Designs

The next thing I do is get into the drawings, which convey your design to the installation team. Hands down, I look at the drawings as the most important aspect. Why? Because drawings are how you communicate your design to others. You shouldn’t leave anything out. I strive for no errors or omissions! Think of it like this: The true test would be that you could send the drawings overseas and a team of installers there would have no questions!

You can put yourself in a position to do a great job by using some hard-and-fast routines, like setting up the drawing package. It’s worth noting that some larger companies have extensive premade drawing sets for their engineers to use. Some are so detailed that sales can just pick a premade design for smaller jobs, without engineering being involved. Imagine that. Well, frankly, I can’t! I have never been a fan of one-size-fits-all, premade systems. I also don’t believe in taking shortcuts to maximize profits. Let’s be real here: that’s all about money.

So, what do I do? In advance, I set up the entire drawing package, from AV-000 to AV-900. I plan out the sheets I will need: a riser diagram, detailed power diagrams, rack elevations, device details, networking details, etc. Typically, I use two drawing sets: One set is exclusively for the plans and reflected ceiling plans (RCPs), device locations, etc. The second set is for everything else. I external reference (XRef) in the master border and use tabs and view ports for each individual sheet.

Keeping It Concise

I have heard of those who still use one drawing for every sheet (so a 40-sheet set of drawings has 40 drawings). I used to do that—many, many years ago, back when AutoCAD was clunky with larger drawings. It was a way just to be safe so that, if a massive crash occurred, you only lost one drawing. But, with so many options for backups, the cloud, etc., as well as super-fast computers and newer versions of AutoCAD (which I prefer), I think it’s better to have fewer drawings.

Yes, it takes some time to set up the entire package, which involves looking at all the rooms’ and spaces’ bills of material (BOMs) to determine how many sheets for each. But I can tell you that, when crunch time comes, it’ll make it less likely that anything was missed. In fact, when it comes to large projects, there’s no better way to estimate the engineering time you should put in your pre-sales quote. Think about it: if you determine how many sheets you need, and if you have an idea, as I do, of the average time it takes to do a drawing, you have a sense of how much time the drawings will take. Don’t guess! You’re an engineer—do the engineering!

Single-Line Sketches

There should have been some single-line sketches of how the system goes together to aid in the BOM. This is the project phase when you convert the “napkin CAD” to professional drawings. This is so important because it’s when you’ll discover if there are any connectivity issues between devices. That’s not something you want to find out in the field, I can tell you that! Imagine laying out a 12-port switch only to discover that you need 14 ports. Or imagine missing an amplifier channel for a dedicated zone. Not good!

I’ll continue with this topic next month. Don’t forget that I always welcome your feedback. Email me any questions, comments or stories you would like to share at You could also share your thoughts about how you define “success.” In the meantime, stay well!

Defining ‘Success’

According to Merriam-Webster, “success” is defined as follows:

“favorable or desired outcome; also: the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence.”

Then, I went to, which defined success this way:

  1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.
  2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors or the like.”

The differences are interesting, don’t you think? Although both sources have their secondary definition appearing virtually identical (i.e., attaining wealth and position), sneaks the word “prosperous” right into the first definition.

I believe that this illuminates something important about our society. In Merriam-Webster’s definition, the outcome precedes the attainment of wealth—at least, in terms of definition order. I can’t speak to when Merriam-Webster wrote those definitions, but I suspect it was many, many years ago. It was likely at a time when folks did deals with a handshake and when achieving the desired outcome overshadowed attaining wealth.

Growing up with my grandparents, I observed my grandfather’s work ethic. He was a homebuilder, and it was always more important to him to build the home well—even if it meant sacrificing some profit. He wanted to earn his clients’ recommendation, not make more money but leave his clients unsatisfied.

Think about the company for which you work. How does it define success? What comes first? Does your company cut corners to maximize profit, sometimes sacrificing your customer’s overall expectations? Or does your company always make good decisions and do it right? Is profit more important than customer satisfaction? I write about this because I feel—indeed, I have witnessed the fact—that there is an imbalance these days. The evolving definition of “success” might just reveal that wealth has overshadowed favorable outcomes and customer satisfaction.

What do you think?

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