Friday, July 20, 2012

ASCET Meeting 6/28/12 - Speaker: Frank L. Lindsey

June 28, 2012 Meeting

Frank L. Lindsey, Speaker
Vice President of Keller's, Inc.


I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the organization of an ASCET chapter in Wilmington. And hopefully you will find it a rewarding experience and encourage your associates to support this venture.These are challenging times. And, I am concerned, albeit fearful that the impact of these challenges are not recognized nor responded to. I have worked in the Fire and Security Industry for a lifetime. So forgive me if I relate these challenges to the industry I am most familiar with. However, I would be surprised if your experiences are much different.  When I first started, technicians for the most part understood off/on, relays, and if it was a really sophisticated application, Boolean logic. Today's technician works with microprocessors, utilizes software, and understands protocols and transmission technology. Having lived through this transition I have witnessed the evolution of technicians from apprentices learning a task oriented skill to technicians who understand theory and applications. The foundation for these skills is education.


Our company is totally committed to education. Every technician we have is NICET certified. We have six NICET Level IV certified technicians, two of which have Level IV certification in two areas, Alarm and Suppression. When the City and County fire services sponsored the organization of The Fire Alarm Alliance we made our training facilities and programs available to anyone who wanted to participate including competitors. Philosophically, I can compete with knowledge, I can't compete with ignorance.As most of you are aware our program was adopted by CFCC, driven by the skill and dedication of Paul Inferrera. CFCC offers on line distance learning for Basic and Advanced Fire Alarm System Training, recognized by the City and County Fire Services as meeting the NFPA 72 "qualification" requirements.


Professionalism is based on two fundamentals, knowledge and conduct. Generally, a technician's success is based on a perception of his professionalism. In my industry this is a catch 22. The technician frequently is not recognized on the professional level. The result is that planning, design, and commissioning generally exclude the technician. He is scheduled at the last minute, isn't allowed proper preparation, but is held responsible for the operation and acceptance of the system. This creates a problem for the AHJ or the client's representative.They have exposure to liability on one side and are under pressure on the other to expedite operational capability or facility occupancy.The National Fire Protection Association has developed a new standard specifically design to encourage the participation of the commissioning technician at an early stage in the design and installation of fire protection systems. NFPA 3 calls for the development of a commissioning team including the owner, designer, AHJ and test entity. That's currently the technician. If technicians fail to meet the challenge a new group of third party testing entities will emerge. So the issue of professionalism is very personal.


All certifications require attaining a level of proficiency, and their maintenance requires continuing education. Unfortunately, it is frequently seen as an inconvenience rather than an opportunity. In order to be competitive, a buzz word for secure, technicians need to be leaders in technology and focused on producing the highest quality work at the lowest cost. As a nation we are struggling to maintain this lead. India graduates 650,000 engineers a year. In the US we graduate 65,000 engineers a year. While the Indian population is only four time the US population, they graduate ten times as many engineers.I recently had a conversation with an officer in the leading architectural firm in Wilmington. He commented that they used to go overseas to secure engineers because they were cheaper. Now they go overseas because they're good. Tragically, in a time of great unemployment we have a shortage of qualified engineers and technicians in this country. My company and many other company owners I talk with indicate they would hire a technician if they could find one who is qualified.Unfortunately, most people don't understand what has changed in our economy. The jobs that were lost will never return. As a society we have to understand where the new jobs will come from, how to prepare for them and most important how to perform them competitively. In plain language we need to learn how to do things better and cheaper. Those are not opposed conditions. They don't imply lower standards.I read two journalists, George Will and Thomas Friedman. They represent both ends of the political spectrum. I don't always agree with either. I read them because they have ideas. For example Friedman talks about "sustainability". One of the foundations of competitiveness is sustainability. The longer our work performs the more competitive we are. The more efficient our maintenance procedures, the more competitive we are. For example, remote diagnostics may eliminate the need to travel to a site or at least better prepare us once we are on site.  All of the issues I mention are driven by education.

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