As a professional structured cabling installer and a business owner,
I have to admit that going from booth to booth at a BICSI (Tampa,
FL) trade show can be a real educational experience. You can see
a lot of cabling products and demonstrations of how those products
work, but at a recent show, one practice struck me as odd: When
it came to patch-cord-management systems, I could find only one
company that was actually practicing what it preached-installing,
identifying, and managing patch cords. (Notice I used "cords" in
the plural form.)
As I walked by the dozens of exhibitors on the show floor, I saw
beautiful patch fields with custom-fitted patch cords plugged into
patch panels. All cords were routed through horizontal and vertical
wire managers. For a second, it was like being at an art gallery,
looking at a classic work by Picasso or Rembrandt. Could it be?
Had I discovered every cable installer's dream? Yes! By learning
from these masterpieces, I'd be able to walk into any telecommunications
closet anywhere and whip it into such good shape that it would look
like a Picasso or a Rembrandt. I would be the most sought-after
cabling installer in the country.
reality set in.
The longer I looked, the more I realized that only one exhibitor
was actually relocating patches, identifying cords, or installing
new cords in any amount greater than one. In fact, I stopped by
one booth and asked the exhibitor to locate both ends of a patch
cord that was nestled in a highly populated but beautiful management
system. She began tracing out the patch, but after a few minutes
she gave up. The boss stepped in. It took him about five minutes
to fully trace one end of the cord to the other end. During those
five minutes, he turned the once-beautiful management field into
a disaster area. The most ironic part of the story was that the
two plugs on the patch cord he traced were located in adjacent ports
in the same patch panel.
My intention here is not to criticize exhibitors on poorly functional
patch-cord-management systems. However, I do think it is time for
exhibitors to start practicing what they show at these trade shows.
Demonstrating how to terminate jacks, patch panels, or fiber connectors
is one thing; many exhibitors will show you that. But what happens
after the jacks, patch panels, and fiber connectors are installed?
That's the real challenge.
Speaking of challenge, I would like to challenge all attendees
at the next BICSI conference and trade show, which will be held
in Fort Worth, TX, this May, to see if the exhibitors practice what
they preach when it comes to patch-cord management.
Outlined herein are three scenarios that you undoubtedly will encounter
at the show, as well as suggestions on how to begin a good-natured
dialogue with the individuals at the respective booths.
- Scenario 1: You see many patch cords plugged into patch
panels. Recommended actions: Attempt to locate the ports of several
of these cords, and relocate several cords anywhere in the management
- Scenario 2: The exhibitor has cut off one side of each
cord to make the system look attractive. Recommended action: Ask
how to patch the end of the cord that is cut off.
- Scenario 3: Only a few patch cords are in the management
system. Recommended action: Ask the exhibitor to patch the empty
ports with cords so you can see how the system works with more
than just a few cords. Then, follow the recommended actions for
As you play out these scenarios with exhibitors, note how long
it takes to populate and make changes to a patch field, as well
as the different cord lengths used. Then, with this patch-cord-management
experience behind you, make your own judgment about the practicality
and functionality of these systems. Then have a frank discussion
with these exhibitors about your findings. In this millennium, I
would like to go to BICSI shows and see exhibitors not only demonstrating
how to terminate jacks and connectors but also installing and identifying
patch cords in their management systems. I believe the industry
should strive to achieve this objective. After all, if we can't
manage these systems in the controlled environment of an exhibit
hall, how can we expect end users to deal with them? The issue of
patch-cord management has already tarnished the structured cabling
industry in this millennium, prompting the use of terms like "spaghetti
bomb," "jungle," and "rat's nest." Let's not let it tarnish the
NEXT (pun intended) millennium as well.