|STEPS FOR CLEANING UP A
PATCH-CORD MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
The following procedure has been made generic so you may implement
it for the cleaning up of your patch-cord management system. You will
find this to aid you in the acceleration of your clean up. Although in
these steps we discuss in detail the aspects of the clean up, we have
developed easy-to-follow worksheets, which incorporate the steps
mentioned. The worksheets may be clicked on and printed.
Back at Office
1) Consultation with Key Contact. Interview the end user (customer contact) who has been delegated the responsibility for the patch-cord management system. Review with the customer contact the way they perform the management of the system and what problems typically occur. Find out when they last cleaned up the mess. Typically, during the life cycle of a patch-cord management system this occurs, at least, once. Ask who did the clean up and if that person(s) is available to give you any advise (heads up) on what they encountered.
2) List of "Patchers." In larger organizations there will be a few people who actively do most of the patching. Be sure you have a list of those individuals and include them in the brief training session that must occur later.
3) Management Survey. Thoroughly examine the patch-cord management system, at latest, two weeks prior to the clean up. This will provide you with time to order additional materials, if required, and schedule technicians for weekend work. Review the management methods the end user utilizes to perform the patching. Common problem areas are the following: an inadequate number of horizontal wire managers and vertical wire managers that are too small in size for open racks. Other environments, like cabinets, are restrictive. They may need custom-made vertical managers to increase capacity size or you may need to provide an alternate route for patch cords behind horizontal rails in the cabinet to give more room for the patch cords. Wall fields lack large horizontal wire management to accommodate the amount of cords that travel through this route.
3.1) Wire manager requirements. After a review of wire managers, you must determine if additional wire managers are required for future management needs. Typically, patch panels cannot be moved because they are terminated and cables are formed in place, so you have to work around this obstacle for horizontal managers. Usually, at the top and bottom of the management system you can install horizontal managers or increase the size to larger ones due to the absence of adequate horizontal managers. The vertical managers will probably need to be replaced with a larger capacity type. Remember the key to good patch-cord management is for the patch cord to be easily accessible. The more restrictions you put on a cord the harder it is to route and trace. (See figure 1 for management tips.)
3.2) Patch-cord length requirements. Take twenty feet of four-pair cable and a PerfectPatchTM kit (patch-cord adjusters). Cut the cable to determine the optimum length for your patch cords. By applying the PerfectPatchTM, you will give your patch cord an adjustment range of up to 60%. This typically translates into a five- and seven-foot patch-cord requirement at single rack or cabinet.
3.3) Patch-cord counts. Count all the patch cords utilized in the management system.
3.4) Diagrams. Make a diagram of the management system, indicating the layout of the patch panels and wire managers. A better method is to take pictures and videotape the patch-cord management system. Always ask for permission. Although pictures and videotaping are not necessary, it is a great benefit when taken back to your office for analysis. Pictures can also be a great psychological tool, which will be discussed later. Indicate problem areas and possible solutions.
3.5) Equipment setup. Ask customer if the concentrators you are patching into are segmented for users. (For example, four boards are for 10BASE-T users and three boards are for 100BASE-T users. You will have to know this so you can label the patch panel ports with the designated color stickers.)
3.6) Large Sites. With multiple patch-cord management systems, the project should be broken down into small projects, so you can get a feel for the requirements of the end user. This will also give the end user time to acclimate themselves to the clean up project. Then you and the end user can refine the process for the next management system. Do not bite off more than you can chew it can have devastating results.
3.7) Access. Ask about arranging access to parking, building, closets, equipment rooms, security codes and work area locations.
3.8) Preliminary findings. After your exam is completed, discuss your findings and
follow up with a call and an estimated cost report. It is best to provide a
time-plus-materials with a not-to-exceed price. This provides a cushion in case
you run into an obstacle. Plus there should be an exchange of materials like
patch cords and wire management that you would be able to offer the customer,
lowering their cost and making it beneficial to them to use your services.
BACK AT THE OFFICE
1A) Parts List. Take the diagram, pictures, or videotape and thoroughly analyze the management system, rechecking your site visit. Make a list of the number of wire managers you might need, additional hardware like screws, D-rings, and the amount of patch cords (a one-for-one replacement of UTP cords). All estimates should be on the high side, because once you start removing the patch cords you have to make do with what you have at the site. If you are a contractor, you should be able to pull a lot from stock.
2A) Tools. Field testers for media you will be working with. Toner, amplifier and other typical tools you would use for moves, adds and changes. On rare occasions you will need RJ-45 and RJ-11 plugs and a crimp tool because you may be required to make a few cords that require a different pin configuration.
3A) Labels. Purchase a booklet of 1/4" round labels (Avery labels #05795) or similar type color labels. These small labels are used to indicate on patch panels and blocks what ports have cords plugged in to them. The 1/4" size works the best and does not obstruct numbers on panels or blocks. Take some different color tape and sharpies (non-erasable markers) incase you need to label any cables.
4A) UTP Patch Cords. You should take as many patch cords that the job has or plan on having an additional person on site to untangle the mess of cords that are removed. This can be a time- consuming process, often rushed at the site. Hasty installations can cause damage to clips on the modular patch-cord plugs. The most effective method is to exchange patch cords with the end user. This options lowers your labor cost and allows you to have an employee back at the office untangling the cords when time is not as critical.
5A) Fiber Patch Cords. Usually, due to cost and the small amount of fiber patch cords utilized in the system backbone, a replacement or exchange of cords should not be necessary. But it is wise to bring a few fiber jumpers in case damage occurs during the project. Remember: without backbone connections this will cause major network access problems.
6A) Patch Cord Length. The patch cord sizes were determined in Step 3.2.
7A) Scheduling Clean Up. Give yourself at least a two-week lead-time to prepare. Remember you want to perform the reconfiguration over the weekend to have a safety zone. Make it clear that you will be in on Friday to start labeling, and by evening, you will start removing patch cords. Clarify arrangements with the customer about notifying people on the network in advance that the network will be down on Friday night, Saturday and possibly Sunday. This is important. If there is a conflict, you must know in advance to see if it can be accommodated. There might be a few individuals with high-priority needs bring up their computers and phones first after re-patching.
8A) Access. Ensure your access to the customer site during the scheduled time. Arrange to park your vehicles for an extended period of time. Parking can be a problem on weekends and after 9:00 PM in some cities. Besides access to sites, confirm your access to all involved areas in building, including equipment rooms, closets, office areas, etc. Require that all security codes be available to you and/or your customer contact.
9A) Scheduling Techs. Inform your technicians this is going to be a weekend job:
Friday night, all day Saturday (possibly late), and maybe Sunday. Use your best
technicians. This is one job where you cannot spend your time personally instructing
and coaching your team at each and every step. Also schedule back up tech in case
someone is sick.
1B) Customer Checklist. Has the customer informed network users their equipment (PCs, phones,etc.) will be "down"? Do you have a list of the users who might be in during the clean up period? What are the critical network patches such as servers, routers, and backbone? (You want to make sure these computers are brought up first, if required.) Will there be access and parking after hours and over the weekend?
2B) Labeling. All color dots (stickers) are affixed to only patch panel and/or blocks labeling strips that have patch cords plugged into them. This allows you to identify only the ports that need to be plugged into. Use the following colors to represent equipment connections: red dots - critical network, blue - users that will be working during the clean up, yellow - 10 BaseT ports, green - 100 BaseT ports. Remember, when you put on these small dots, the patch field is highly congested, so take time to review after all color dots are installed to determine if all dots are located on the proper ports.
3B) Sorting PerfectPatchTM. It is a good idea to purchase an inexpensive pouch or apron (about $1.00 at hardware stores) with two or three pockets so you can place the PerfectPatchTM bases and covers in for easy access when patching occurs. The PerfectPatchTM is packaged in one kit with the pieces to custom-fit one patch cord. You will want to take a few minutes to separate these parts for quick access during patching.
4B) Patch-cord Removal. Unplug all the patch cords from top to bottom, removing cords in large groups or one big glob. Do not remove each cord individually. This will cause snagging and breaking of the modular plug cord tips and increase labor time.
5B) Patching. Patch all cords back into indicated dots on patch panels and/or blocks in accordance to priority requirements: red dots, blue, yellow, green, etc. Install each cord individually then apply the PerfectPatchTM to custom fit the cord before proceeding to next patch.
6B) Patch-cord Adjustment. Remove the PerfectPatchTM base and cover from your pouch. Clip (install) to a patch cord. Adjust the patch cord to the length required for that patch, then clip on another base and cover. This only takes a few seconds but is necessary to prevent future maintenance problems (See figure 2).
7B) Testing. The customer should be going to some PCs while you are still patching
to see if the PCs can access critical locations. It is up to the customer to determine
the number of network connections you want to check. Typically, on large clean up jobs,
10% is sufficient.
1C) Monday Morning. Schedule one of your installation technicians (who did the clean up) to be on call, or at the site, Monday in case something unexpected occurs. Less than 2% of the patches may be incorrectly placed, probably due to a color dot being put on a wrong port.
2C) Training. Your customers must undergo training. Do not let them off the hook. Lack of training is detrimental to the life cycle of the patch-cord management system. You must instruct your customer's key "patching" personnel on the use of PerfectPatchTM in their management system. This should take three minutes. The key is each time they perform a patch they will remove the PerfectPatchTM to adjust the patch cord to the other patch location, resulting in a custom-fitted patch cord. When this task is completed, they assure the maintenance of the system, making it self-maintaining.
3C) Before and After Pictures. These pictures, if possible, should be scanned; then put together side-by-side on an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of paper, laminated, and posted at the management system. The pictures will provide a boost to the personnel performing the patching. They will remember the hardships associated with the "before" pictures. They can compare the past with the present. With minimal effort they maintain their system every time they plug in a patch cord (see figure 2).
4C) House Calls. Just like those good doctors, who used to make house calls, you want to take care of your patient who just went through major re-constructive surgery. You should stop by the site after six months and after one year to review the management of the system. As long as the small task of using the PerfectPatchTM on each cord is applied, there will be no change in the appearance and performance since the weekend when you cleaned it up.
Note: As a reference the number that is located in parentheses on these worksheets indicates the step for further details.
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