What factors do you think need to be considered when estimating the cost of installing electronic security solutions?

A: Making an accurate assessment of costs for security system installation involves 4 key steps – firstly, establishing a comprehensive list of all devices required – this must include sensors, cameras, routers, readers, controllers and more, as well as measuring for wiring required for every link in the system. Secondly, listing all materials required to install/integrate the solution. Thirdly, establishing the cost of labour and finally, adding labour costs and material costs to establish total cost, as well as to establish profit margin.

Some planning needs to go into creating electronic security system proposals – you need to create material takeoff documents for all the components you intend to include and, depending on the application, that could make for real complexity. You’re talking about going down to wiring, brackets, fastenings and everything upstream in terms of controllers, readers, sensors and all the rest. Adding complexity will be the network component.

Once everything is listed, it all has to be priced with suppliers and that’s another layer altogether. There are a number of good reasons many integrators standardise on hardware – the complexity of pricing being one of them. You need to retain some flexibility, however. Depending on the installation, there will need to be some to and fro so as to ensure everything required is covered off – you don’t want the goal posts to be moving mid-installation as the job creeps.

There are also likely to be special materials or components that will need to be factored in, including some custom work. It this can’t be undertaken inhouse, it’s likely custom work will be more expensive than expected. Some overshoot might be required – a quality operator will credit that overshoot back to their customer if costs turn out to be lower than estimated.

We haven’t mentioned the software side of the integration – it’s going to be a challenge, too. You need to select carefully to ensure your management system supplier will offer assistance, or that your chosen off-the-shelf management/NVR system, or access management solution, is within the abilities of the team. You may need to pull in a specialist to handle parts of the work. When it comes to big integrated PSIMs, you may need to partner with suppliers to ensure you’re across every aspect of this part of the job.

Estimating installation labour costs isn’t easy either but it’s less complicated than a component takeoff for a large integrated electronic security solution. Labour units are used to represent the length of time that will be taken to complete a particular aspect of the job, with the sum of labour units (give or take), representing the labour cost component of the installation. As part of the process, labour units are applied to material to express the total work hours required to complete a task multiplied by tech’s hourly rate.

Where integrated solutions are concerned, this can become complicated – not every tech in the team is paid the same amount and some specialists might be paid considerably more. The estimation also needs to cover breaks for meals and time taken for the loo, handling hardware, moving around the site, etc. Once the estimation is complete, the admin team will also need to create an estimate summary. It goes without saying that this precis is limited – estimation is a real speciality. If you find a skilled estimator, don’t let them go.