Performance under pressure

A couple of the technology introductions you can read about in this issue reflect the structured cabling industry’s current economic dynamics.

A couple of the technology introductions you can read about in this issue reflect the structured cabling industry’s current economic dynamics. They are General Cable’s introduction of halogen-free Category 5e and Category 6 cables, as well as Belden’s introduction of a fiber-optic connector that can be terminated in five seconds. (Normally I’d say they claim the connector can be terminated in five seconds. But I actually tried it. And if I can do it in five seconds, believe me, anyone can.)

Both of these new products are available at what their respective manufacturers describe as “competitive” pricing with other available technologies. In other words, there is no significant premium for the purchaser.

Meanwhile, conversations I’ve had with several contractors bring up a recurring theme. While it’s not true across the board, a great many contractors are carrying out projects with no margin for themselves. Their revenue keeps the proverbial lights on and keeps a crew busy, but they are not making profits on these projects. Some other contractors have enough recurring business from loyal customers that they choose not to enter bidding wars that result in these no-profit projects. But not all contractors have such a solid base of business.

Master of the Obvious says: It certainly is a buyer’s market.

Then I ran into a project-management organization I have been familiar with for quite some time. I asked the usual ice-breaker question, “How was business in 2009?” and cringed as I awaited the answer. To my surprise, the response was, “It was our best year yet.” Now this is an established, successful organization—not some fledgling company that managed to put together a few more dollars last year than it had the year before.

Perhaps I should not have been surprised at the answer. This company was founded on the idea of identifying and addressing vexing issues that have perpetuated in the cabling industry for years. If I could way oversimplify what the company does, I’d say it’s a problem-solver. It serves end-user organizations that have grown frustrated with trying to constantly assemble and re-assemble the puzzle that is large-scale cabling projects.

While those who study the cabling industry’s economics are projecting an essentially flat North American market this year, 2010 is likely to shape up as another year in which the winners will be individuals and companies who provide their customers with hard-to-find solutions to nagging problems.

PATRICK McLAUGHLIN
Chief Editor
patrick@pennwell.com

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