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Checklist Reporting: What goes where?

Checklist Items Under Test: The Executive Summary Report for all checklists in general.

Reasoning: Whether performing staging or commissioning checklists directly for a client, or for other members of your team, it is important to create an executive summary of your findings. This allows for easier digestion of the material by other team members. It also provides a simplified means of reviewing any open items. AVR typically uses three categories in this summary: Non-Conformances (show-stoppers), Items Requiring Action (somewhat minor items that still have to be addressed) and Performance Notes (questions, comments or praise), detailed later.

Understanding where to document a particular finding can be somewhat challenging, and may actually change on each project. The most important thing to remember is to capture all the issues with the system. Categorizing these issues is more of a convenience rather than a necessity, but may have serious consequences depending on the distribution.

 

The Story: Commissioning systems according to the AV9000 Standard attempts to be as objective as possible. Issues are scientifically investigated with calibrated test equipment so there can be no arguing over whether or not an uncovered issue is, indeed, an issue. With this process in place, finding problems with the system is fairly straightforward. However, reporting these issues can oftentimes be subjective, especially when they are required to be categorized in an executive summary.

AVR will categorize our findings into three sections:

• Non-conformances: A key feature in the system is not operational, and the system cannot be accepted.

• Items Requiring Action: Smaller issues that impact the system, but not in a critical way. Either the client won’t realize it is wrong (labeling) or there are workarounds (use a backup deck). A system with several Items Requiring Action may not be accepted, even with no Non-Conformances.

• Performance Notes: This section is kind of a catchall for comments: either recommendations, questions, concerns or praise for the team.

Knowing where to place items is an art. It can have drastic consequences. If an item is listed as a Non-Conformance, that typically means that the system cannot be accepted. This may require changes to the room turnover date. It may hold up payment. It may trigger other team members getting involved with the project to remedy the situation. This is why being as objective as possible is so critical. But categorizing the findings is a challenge.

For example, if a display fell off the wall during testing, clearly, that is a Non-Conformance/Show-Stopper if I ever heard one. That’s a no-brainer.

What if there was no IP information available at staging? You may say to yourself, “Self, that’s not a big deal. I can test the network functionality with temporary network settings and just load the actual settings onsite.” That may be acceptable for some clients, but not for all. Several clients insist on categorizing “no IP information available at staging” as a Non-Conformance. All too often, the entire project is held up because the building/floor/router has run out of ports for the AV System. So, if the client has not supplied the information, we have to assume that the physical ports do not exist for the system. That is a Show-Stopper.

What if the lectern microphone does not function? You might think that is a Non-Conformance. A key feature is not operational. However, is there a backup microphone that can be used? Is a wireless microphone an acceptable replacement? Depending on the project and the users, this may only be an Item Requiring Action.

What if there is a better way to do something in the system? What if the design called for a device that is difficult to operate, but a less expensive, more streamlined solution just came on the market? This is a Performance Note.

As a commissioning agent, you are most likely not privy to the entire design evolution. As long as the device is installed correctly, there is nothing actually wrong; therefore, there is no issue with the system. Perhaps it was selected for budgetary reasons. Perhaps the CEO’s cousin manufactures the device. We can certainly note that it is difficult to use, listing timed events, physical obstructions, etc., but making design recommendations during system commissioning can be opening a can of worms. Plus, as commissioning agents, we are there to test systems and make sure the designed systems have zero defects. We are not there to improve them.

One of my favorite quotes from Brad Malone, Partner at Navigate Management Consulting, is, “Our job is to meet client expectations, not to exceed them. That’s asking for trouble.” We are there to test the systems according to the approved design. We are not there to offer design services.

What if a feature of the system was not tested, such as network remote control of the system? If it is not ready for business, it may be a Non-Conformance. If it’s not a critical component, it may be simply an Item Requiring Action. If it was ready but not accessible, it may just be a Performance Note to remind someone with the proper network permissions that it has to be tested.

What if the client is amped up about a non-critical feature that isn’t working? For example, we just had a project where very specific automatic mixing modules were specified for a digital mixing console, and they were not configured. The operators had full access to the inputs and outputs, and they could perform events, but just didn’t have the automatic mixing processing of the module. My gut told me that this should just be an Item Requiring Action (not critical to events). However, this particular client’s reputation was on the line, and the functionality of the module was perceived as being a critical feature of the system. It therefore had to be categorized as a Non-Conformance.

When the executive summary is sent to the main point of contact on a project, there is no way of knowing who else it will be distributed to. There is also no way of knowing exactly how much trouble it can cause. Categorizing issues properly in this report is important to the entire team. It also is an indication of how well you understand your client’s needs. This is where subjectivity and even politics can come into play in the otherwise scientific, objective nature of commissioning systems.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be engineers?

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