Finally! - An accredited installer scheme that delivers

for Netcomms Europe by Mike Gilmore, Standards Director

The “IT” world has repeatedly tried to develop an effective Approved Installer scheme. It would appear that the Fibreoptic Industry Association has finally managed to create a scheme which has attracted a substantial percentage of its members to register as Accredited Installers, has obtained supply chain endorsement and is now being referenced in contract documentation. This article summarises the requirements of the scheme and the opportunities offered by it – following the first anniversary of its operation in June 2014.

For as long as I can remember, trade associations have initiated, advertised and funded schemes that have “withered on the vine”. The Fibreoptic Industry Association had produced at least two versions of their Approved Installer Scheme which failed to attain critical mass and therefore were of no value to clients with the result that most Approved Installers failed to renew their approval in subsequent years.

By comparison, the FIA Accredited Installer Scheme – initiated in early 2013 and fully operational by June of that year – has been incredibly successful. Almost 25% of the 103 FIA members who quote “Installation” as their primary activity are now registered under the scheme. Equally importantly, all those registered for the first year have retained their accreditation for the second year and the number of Accredited Installers continues to grow on a monthly basis.

So what has introduced this different level of impetus to this scheme where so many others have failed? It is true that supply chain endorsement has helped. Alan Bullen, the responsible FIA Director, has worked hard to obtain that endorsement and the recognition of the scheme in client’s contract documentation is also very much a reflection of his hard work. That being said, there is a huge amount of chicken-and-egg involved i.e. installers are not going to join a scheme that clients don’t recognise and client aren’t going to recognise a scheme with only a small number of accredited companies.

So there has to be something else that encouraged the initial uptake of the scheme ….. and that has been the demand for low cost “continuing professional development” as part of the obligation of Accredited Installers to commit to regular attendance at quarterly seminars provided at low cost, essentially free-of-charge, by the FIA.

Each quarter, the FIA provides two seminars addressing different aspects of installation quality assurance and technical expertise. By attending these seminars, Accredited Installers obtain a drip-feed of good practice, they learn to navigate around the FIA web-site to obtain the correct technical documentation related to specific aspects of installation and… most importantly, they have a direct interaction with FIA Directors in installation, technical and standard development roles. That interaction empowers the installers to ask questions and highlight areas which may require further explanation in the form of FIA White Papers and similar documents. Accredited Installers have their own private area of the FIA web-site where any documents created in response to their needs are stored.

In the coming year the FIA Installation Directorate is developing its external installations content including its all- important inter-relationship with the “civils” world. This will extend the type of information we can provide at the AIS seminars.

The AIS is part of the FIA Risk Reduction Programme umbrella under which the FIA believes that reduction of risk is the prime quality assurance driver for installations of cabling – minimising the probability of complaints and litigation – because if installers minimise the levels of risk to themselves then they also minimise the risk to their customers and vice versa. The obligated commitment of the Accredited Installer to increase their skill-sets and quality assurance controls should be reflected in a reduction in risk to their clients.

In response, the FIA Arbitration Scheme is offered to Accredited Installers and their clients free of charge and without prejudice in situations where one or the other is unhappy with an installation outcome. This offers both parties a cost-effective way of obtaining a resolution without the need to “get legal” with all the costs that such a process involves.

The FIA AIS provides a good model for “non-fibre” installations but unfortunately there is no effective industry association addressing that part of the market. As a result, and in recognition of the fact that most installers undertake IT installations of both copper and optical media, the FIA attempts to provide information that is general in scope, particular in relation to installation quality assurance. So being an Accredited Installer under the FIA scheme is also a good predictor of their commitment to installation skills and procedures in other technology areas.

If you want to know more go to www.fia-online.co.uk/eais01.htm and learn about the scheme both from the installers viewpoint and also that of the client. A current list of Accredited Installer is available at www.fia-online.co.uk/eais01-05.htm.