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Author Topic: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers  (Read 4392 times)

Devin Rice

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Hi all,

I will be interviewing a few installers who are bidding for a project in an office building I work in, a multi-zone distributed PA/BGM system. The installers are representatives for established products (TOA, JBL, Bosch, etc). but I would like to know what questions can be thrown to really test the company's knowledge on the ability to execute?
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2013, 09:30:12 am »

Hi all,

I will be interviewing a few installers who are bidding for a project in an office building I work in, a multi-zone distributed PA/BGM system. The installers are representatives for established products (TOA, JBL, Bosch, etc). but I would like to know what questions can be thrown to really test the company's knowledge on the ability to execute?
Ask for specific jobs they have done that are similar to the one you are doing.

Ask for coverage maps (although you can fudge these and make them look just about any way you want-at least it is a start.

Ask what guarantee they have (and  specifications) on the results.

Since this is a "public building" (not a house), do you want to have the system act as a MNS (Mas Notification System) in the event of an emergency.  If so- will the company be able to do STIPA measurements to make sure the system is clear enough for people to understand what to do?

Do they have the ability to interface with the fire alarm system (if needed by local codes)?

And of course the obvious-do they have the proper licenses to do work in your county-do they have proper insurance-what is the system warranty.
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Devin Rice

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2013, 12:00:25 pm »

Ask for specific jobs they have done that are similar to the one you are doing.

Ask for coverage maps (although you can fudge these and make them look just about any way you want-at least it is a start.

Ask what guarantee they have (and  specifications) on the results.

Since this is a "public building" (not a house), do you want to have the system act as a MNS (Mas Notification System) in the event of an emergency.  If so- will the company be able to do STIPA measurements to make sure the system is clear enough for people to understand what to do?

Do they have the ability to interface with the fire alarm system (if needed by local codes)?

And of course the obvious-do they have the proper licenses to do work in your county-do they have proper insurance-what is the system warranty.

This is great, thanks Ivan. Yes, the system will also need to act as an MNS. Thanks again, and looking forward to any other suggestions anyone may have.
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2013, 12:43:41 pm »

This is great, thanks Ivan. Yes, the system will also need to act as an MNS. Thanks again, and looking forward to any other suggestions anyone may have.
As part of the interview process-ask them what the STIPA number is that they anticipate for the system.

The answer will start to separate the companies real quick.  Acceptable numbers would be 0.5-0.8.  Anything other than that and either they don't know what they are talking about-or will not meet recommended codes.
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Tom Young

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2013, 01:35:53 pm »

As part of the interview process-ask them what the STIPA number is that they anticipate for the system.

The answer will start to separate the companies real quick.  Acceptable numbers would be 0.5-0.8.  Anything other than that and either they don't know what they are talking about-or will not meet recommended codes.

And also ask how they intend to measure (quantify) the STIPA of the completed system. They should have the ability to measure this (with measurement device or software) and it should conform to the IEC60286-16 standards.

You can read up on this at:

http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/f159d2fc#/f159d2fc/14

plus the preceding parts of this series of articles.
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Brad Weber

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2013, 06:26:45 am »

Before getting into directly answering your question it might help to get a little background:
 
  • What is the bid process and how much of the final decision will be based on the interview versus factors such as schedule and price?  Is this a competitive bid scenario and do you have to accept low bid, a situation where you will pick the firm you are most comfortable with and then negotiate with them or some other approach being used?
  • Related to the above, is this going to be a 'face-to-face' interview or submitted documentation?  If 'face-to-face' then who will be there from your side?
  • Is the scope of work the installation of an existing design or will it also include designing the systems?
  • How large is the project?  An office building could be a small building of one or two stories or it could be a 40 or 50 story high rise or a sprawling facility covering acreas of area and those might have different issues and question associated with them.
  • Is this part of a larger project or is it a standalone project?  A standalone design-build project can have different needs and requirements than a project with a Consultant and/or one that needs to be an integrated part of a larger project.
  • How did you 'prequalify' the firms you are interviewing?  It makes no sense to suggest factors that may have already been considered.
Based on direct experience, I have to ask that if you don't know what questions to ask then how do you plan to assess the responses received?  Some answers may be simple to assess but I have been involved in situations where it ends up being much more who can make it appear as though they've responded well than it is the actual content of the responses.
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Brad Weber

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2013, 06:39:45 am »

Yes, the system will also need to act as an MNS.
That's the kind of detail that is critical to identify as there can be differences in hardware, design, implementations and liability between a Mass Notification System and a public address/background music system.
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Devin Rice

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2013, 07:08:33 am »

Hi Brad,

Please see my responses in blue and I thank you in advance for any input you can give me.


 
  • What is the bid process and how much of the final decision will be based on the interview versus factors such as schedule and price?  Is this a competitive bid scenario and do you have to accept low bid, a situation where you will pick the firm you are most comfortable with and then negotiate with them or some other approach being used?
  • -
The organization has a procurement matrix that involves scoring of some submission/industry standing criteria as well as project related technical criteria and the installers performance at the technical discussions. This is then weighted and combined for a score that is 40% for commercial and 60% for technical (technical being the total scored at the interviews based on the above)

   
  • Related to the above, is this going to be a 'face-to-face' interview or submitted documentation?  If 'face-to-face' then who will be there from your side?
  - It will be face to face, in the presence of myself (representing the company's purchasing/facilities team) and the consultant. I should note here that I am not a installed sound consultant and only have experience in live audio. Hence my appearing green in this area of selecting installers. However, I do have a basic working understanding of distributed audio through this forum, SynAudCon training, etc.
The installers have already submitted based on designs tendered out by the main consultants for the refurbishment of this office building. However, the installer has the leeway to suggest meaningful modifications and "value engineering" prior to the awarding of the contract.


   
  • Is the scope of work the installation of an existing design or will it also include designing the systems?
- It is the installation of a system specced by the architect's technical consultant. As mentioned above, some input from the installer is allowed/encouraged.
   
  • How large is the project?  An office building could be a small building of one or two stories or it could be a 40 or 50 story high rise or a sprawling facility covering acreas of area and those might have different issues and question associated with them.
- It is a 6 story vintage office building (around 95 years old) of about 90 thousand square feet that is being refurbished. The refurbishment is being phased on a floor-by-floor basis (i.e. the rest of the building will be live when the individual floor is being done). There is no overlap with the existing system, which will be phased out when the relevant floor is gutted, and whose central equipment is located in a different place. It is a fairly straightforward project with PA/BGM for each floor, plus a separate zone for elevators, landings, and customer facing areas on the entrance floor that will have a different input source to the upper floors that are all back-office. There is a small auditorium with its stand alone system that would also need a feed from the general input sources, while larger boardrooms will also have standalone systems. We do require priority override and MNS capability built in, which has been specified in the tender proposal

   
  • Is this part of a larger project or is it a standalone project?  A standalone design-build project can have different needs and requirements than a project with a Consultant and/or one that needs to be an integrated part of a larger project.
- A standalone project executed over the refurbishment period of the building, which is around 1.5 years floor by floor

   
  • How did you 'prequalify' the firms you are interviewing?  It makes no sense to suggest factors that may have already been considered.
- Selected for tender based on consultant recommendation and value/scale of previous projects.

Based on direct experience, I have to ask that if you don't know what questions to ask then how do you plan to assess the responses received?  Some answers may be simple to assess but I have been involved in situations where it ends up being much more who can make it appear as though they've responded well than it is the actual content of the responses.
I will be attempting to check that they have a proper understanding of our project and its unique requirements, rather than simply specifying products for the job (for example, through outlining some scenarios that may arise and seeing what their response is). However, I am completely open to suggestions here.
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Brad Weber

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2013, 12:23:53 pm »

First, thanks for all the infromation and it's nice to see someone with some relevant knowledge will be involved, I've been in too many interviews that seemed to be decided by providing the answers people wanted to hear rather than providing relevant answers.  I once worked with someone that had a great ability to avoid actually offering direct answers while making everyone think it must just be their inability to understand the answers he did offer.
 

- It is the installation of a system specced by the architect's technical consultant. As mentioned above, some input from the installer is allowed/encouraged.

and
 
- Selected for tender based on consultant recommendation and value/scale of previous projects.
If they aren't able to provide that input or want help then that is a different situation but shouldn't this be something your Consultant is addressing with you?  They are much more likely to have a better understanding of your needs and goals, the project conditions, what is important to the project and the situation in general.  It is a personal preference but I hate being 'second guessed' by people who may not have an understanding of the situation, thus I hesitate to possibly do the same to others.
 
On a general basis, related to the factors you noted:
 
  • Look carefully at any 'Value Engineering' input offered.  I tend to look at true VE suggestions as being very positive signs but also generally look at cost reduction masquerading as Value Engineering as a bad sign.  I still remember a bidder offering a VE suggestion on one project bid that the was presented as offering a product that was only a little lower performance than the product in the base bid for a large savings, however the product in the base bid was itself lower performance than specified and the VE suggestion was apparently an attempt to get the Owner to accept a bid from someone that could not comply with the Specifications.
  • There are some certifications in the professional audio industry and they can be useful in establishing some level of potential competence for individuals or the company overall.  However, such certifications and any qualifications in general are only relevant if they are actually relevant to the work performed.  I worked for a contractor that at one point gained a reputation for using their 'A' team to get jobs only to end up having most of the work end up being performed by others and we eventually had some Consultants who would only consider us if we agreed to not do that on their projects.  It doesn't matter that someone in the company has all sorts of certifications if they won't be performing the related work.  And a certification that indicates someone knows how something should be done is not the same as a commitment to do it that way.
  • With a phased project scheduled to last 1-1/2  years, the stability of the company and how they will work this into their schedule may be important factors factors.  Of course coordination with the General Contractor will also be critical and it's disappointing how many times audio and AV work doesn't even get included in the overall project construction schedule or is assumed to be able to be compressed, occur concurrent with other work, etc. without that being discussed.  The interviewees may not be able to offer specific answers but they should be able to provide some concept for how they plan to support the project schedule.
  • Don't undersell the 'warm and fuzzy' aspect.  This will be someone you may have to work with for years and you want to be comfortable with one another.  You can certainly find a way to work with just about anyone and sometimes other factors may be a higher priority but it will be a lot easier for everyone if there is an inherent 'comfort factor' on both sides.
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Devin Rice

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2013, 01:38:10 pm »

Thanks Brad, I shall very carefully take in to account all what you have said and will let you know how this goes. We will be meeting them at the end of this week.
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2013, 07:54:44 am »

This is great, thanks Ivan. Yes, the system will also need to act as an MNS. Thanks again, and looking forward to any other suggestions anyone may have.
ALso be sure that the installer is aware that since it is part of a MNS-it falls under NFPA72.  Which is a WHOLE different "set of rules"-including what kind of gear can be used-what type of wire-survivability of the system-inspections-performance requirements and so forth.

It is NOT your normal "ceiling speaker" install.

Somebody could be a lot of financial trouble if they do not address that on the front end.
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Jason Lavoie

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2013, 10:32:52 am »

The refurbishment is being phased on a floor-by-floor basis (i.e. the rest of the building will be live when the individual floor is being done). There is no overlap with the existing system, which will be phased out when the relevant floor is gutted, and whose central equipment is located in a different place.

Be very clear up front about whose responsibility it is to keep the rest of the old system running while the GC goes in with sledge hammers and wire cutters. Just because the floors are separate zones doesn't mean they won't hit something passing through and you want to settle ahead of time who will come fix that up and whether it is included in the construction bid or not. (you can decide if you want to take the risk or if you want them to pad their price enough to take on that risk)
Also, while this is in progress will the old and new systems be linked? which is the master? I would step through the timeline of the project and think about what the system will look like and how it will operate at each stage.

Jason
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Devin Rice

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2013, 10:49:23 am »

Be very clear up front about whose responsibility it is to keep the rest of the old system running while the GC goes in with sledge hammers and wire cutters. Just because the floors are separate zones doesn't mean they won't hit something passing through and you want to settle ahead of time who will come fix that up and whether it is included in the construction bid or not. (you can decide if you want to take the risk or if you want them to pad their price enough to take on that risk)
Also, while this is in progress will the old and new systems be linked? which is the master? I would step through the timeline of the project and think about what the system will look like and how it will operate at each stage.

Jason

Thanks Jason. Hadn't thought about this and I will bring it up with the team before deciding who will take this on. The old system will not be linked to the new and will be phased out floor by floor, so it will mainly be about managing the pass-through risk (which is very likely in this old building). Thanks again
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Devin Rice

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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2013, 10:54:55 am »

Selection done, now to arrange for a listening test. Thinking of playing some pink noise and programme material for both the ceiling speakers and the auditorium speakers (the latter in the proposed space prior to renovation). Any other suggestions? I will look for rattles, build quality, etc., although the products are name brand and should not have any issues.
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Re: Selection discussion questions for distributed system installers
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2013, 10:54:55 am »


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