Effective Site Surveying

Nov. 1, 2005
Manage projects through effective site surveying.

What do you like most about your work? When corporations survey their employees, they are often surprised as to the overwhelming answer regarding this question. Most employees choose job satisfaction over money, perks and benefits.

Further studies find that job satisfaction is directly related to empowerment and challenge. I have had the most satisfaction managing large-scale master key projects.

The scope of my first large-scale project included 200-plus buildings mostly in a few neighboring cities. This project included about 100,000 doors. Another project included the key management of 100-or-so facilities decentralized across America. The total number of doors was less than 20,000, but the challenge was to develop a network and standardize processes and procedures. Still another project regarded the development and ongoing management of multiple projects for many different chain-store accounts. Each account had hundreds or thousands of small stores throughout America. Each store had between three and five locks to control. The challenge was to standardize hardware and manage lock services efficiently.

The Goal of Site Surveying

The goal of site surveying is to document all data regarding doors and door hardware. Primarily, the most critical information relates to: door conditions; what hardware is mounted on the door; how the door serves the building; and how the door serves the occupants. Secondarily, it is good to document how the door is keyed. Remember that keying information is dynamic, changing all the time.

After the data is collected into a database, valuable reports can be generated. These reports can:

  • Establish a preventative maintenance program;
  • Track the history of repairs to doors
  • Determine the appropriate vendors to call-out for repairs; and
  • Provide management with the numbers necessary to allocate more time and money to door issues.

Effective site surveying is all about getting the scope of door operations defined into databases. Here is a real-life example that demonstrates what can be done when door operations are recorded into databases.

A chain-store account was unaware that $100,000 per year was spent repairing the doors that lead into managers' offices. A report was generated of all locations where expenses were incurred relating to manager office doors. The report instigated random inspections where it was discovered that all incidents were attributed to the installation of two-piece adjustable strike plates.

Usually the dead-latch button portion of the latch assembly of a lock will rest on the edge of the strike plate. When the two-piece strike plate fell out of adjustment, both the dead-latch button and the latch portions of the latch assembly dropped into the keeper hole of the strike plate. This action caused the latch assembly to prematurely fail.

The usual remedy was to call out the local locksmith. The locksmith in most cases replaced the entire lock or in some cases replaced out the latch assembly. In almost all cases, the culprit strike plate was not replaced.

The corrective (and cost-effective) solution was to initiate a chain-wide replacement of two-piece adjustable strike plates with single-piece equivalents. (See Figure 1)

Tools of the Trade

Smart employers know how to convert data collections into expense savings. You will need to allocate time to collect the data and resources to make it happen.

You will need a dedicated laptop to perform effective site surveying. The laptop allows you to move to remote locations. Even if all your site surveying is in a few buildings, the laptop is essential to develop a temporary office for inputting gathered information on the fly.

You will need to know how to use a spreadsheet application. Microsoft Excel is preferred as it is the company standard. If you don't know how to use Excel, learn. It is the easiest means to enter data into tables. You will need access to a scanner and printer.

Common office supplies are needed: scissors; clipboards; glue sticks; Smarty markers; red pencils; fastener file folders; printing labels; legal tablets; and copy paper.

You will need measuring tools. A stiff 20-foot measuring tape is needed to measure doors and door hardware and a drafting scale is needed to "pop" measurements from blueprints.

You will need a plain digital camera capable of at least 3.2 mega-pixels.

You will need a USB thumb-drive with at least 512 megabytes of storage capacity. The thumb-drive will be used to transfer your database (in XLS spreadsheet format), to-and-from your laptop to other computers.

Gather company resources

Before starting your site survey, gather as many company resources as possible. Collect lists of building contacts; support vendors; and emergency contacts. Obtain your own scaled copies of blueprints of the floor plan of areas to be surveyed.

These plans will be too large to carry around so you will cut your blueprint up into uniform squares. With a pencil, draw 7-1/2" x 7-1/2" squares onto the floor plan. Carefully cut the grids out. With a glue stick, carefully paste each square onto a sheet of 8-1"x11" copy paper. Position the square so that there is a 1/2" margin on the left, bottom, and right of each sheet. When all squares are mounted to sheets, designate a consecutive number or letter to each sheet. When the glue is dry, scan each sheet. Save each scan into a PDF format.

Compiled as noted above these sheets allow you to carry you blueprint on a clipboard (see Figure 3). Later the compilation will be used like a "Thomas Guide," relating to door locations.

Standardize everything

You will be taking a lot of pictures. Standardize on a uniform format.

After tens-of-thousands of door pictures, I would pass the following hints.

Always shoot at the widest possible setting; and at the highest practical resolution.

Use a minimum of a 3.2 mega-pixel for the 300 dpi resolution you will want to standardize on. Set your camera to a 2048x1536 setting to obtain this. This will deliver a 300dpi image at about a 5"x7" real-world setting. This setting guarantees that images can be easily viewed on monitors and paper alike. It allows for fair amount of zooming in when editing. It creates a file size that is not too big to be attached to E-mails.

Standardize on a photo format. I prefer .JPG as most persons can open this type of image on their computers.

While scanning documents, save to a .PDF format. This is a format that can be read by most persons using a free viewer called Adobe Acrobat.

Before starting, standardize on a set of abbreviations. This will save you a lot of time, keep your data readable, and make searching on key words accurate.

Visit the post office website to obtain nationally accepted abbreviations that pertain to your site surveys. Try this link to get to the abbreviations: www.usps.com/ncsc/lookups/usps_abbreviations.html.

The most important standardization relates to all of your reports. Whatever you generate, be sure to use 8-1/2"x11" standard letter size documents, in portrait mode, in black and white. Use a clear font that is easily read by both human and scanner.

Setting up prior to a survey event

Arrange to get a set of working keys to all areas of the survey. This gets you in and out in a timely manner.

Send out an announcement to all concerned when and where you will be surveying.

Arrange to occupy a lockable conference room or office to stage your "temporary office".

Create a lot of "door tag" labels. Stay away from preprinted labels. Although they can be more durable, especially mylarized plastic labels, they cannot be reprinted if you need to reproduce numbers. I prefer the 1" x 2-5/8" labels on letter size sheets. This makes it easy to carry. (See Figure 4)

If you place the labels where there is grease or dirt, carry a roll of label film. This type of film looks like scotch tape but it is made just for the purpose of protecting paper labels while offering a substantial improvement in adhesion.

The label needs a large consecutive five-digit number. This will give you 100,000 different numbers to work with.

Print four copies of each label. This will speed up your survey as one label will be affixed to the door jamb and the others will be applied to the forms related to the survey point. Print three times the number of labels you estimate you will need.

There will be three forms used to record information by hand. Make stacks of these forms to be used on site during the survey. Create cheat sheets that include abbreviations and lists of numbers and descriptions that represent repetitive data. Make sure and bring extra pens and marking pens. Stash all your survey supplies into a case or bag so that everything is together.

Working without a cart

You don't have to use a cart to perform surveys. I originally used a cart and it is literally a drag. Learn to work smart and carry what you need.

To accomplish this, separate your tasks into stationary and mobile activities. Stationary activities will be performed at your "temporary office." Find a lockable meeting room or unattended office and set up your laptop, your forms, and your survey materials. Always keep your laptop on and your spreadsheet open.

Mobile activities will be performed at a survey point. Carry a clipboard with forms, cheat sheets, and location grids attached. Carry your digital camera and recorder.

Your process should be to record data at survey points then visiting your "temporary office" where you will transfer the data into the database.

Develop your own forms, designed so that you don't forget important bits of information needed to fulfill your survey. They are designed to be scribbled on and used to note the information until it is entered into the spreadsheet.

Start At The Main Entry

A good place to start the process is at the main entry. Once at the main entry, find the location grid that relates to it. You will survey all doors in the location grid so that everything gets covered.

It is not uncommon to find changes in construction from the time the floor plans were created to present. Use your red pencil to note the changes on the location grids.

Open the door and affix a door tag label to middle of the jamb near a hinge. If you would like, cover the label with label film.

Each point of survey will have at least one of the three different types of forms you carry on your clipboard. You should have extra labels with the same tag number that was affixed to the jamb. Affix a label to each of these forms. (See Figure 5)

Form One covers location information; which location grid the door appears on; and the reference numbers of pictures taken relating to the doors and hardware. (See Figure 6)

Form Two covers information specific to the actual door. (See Figure 7)

Form Three covers information specific to the hardware on the door. (See Figure 8)

Use the camera to be your future eyes relating to this door. In the closed position, back off and get a full view of the door so that you can see any signage, outlets, and fire extinguishers, around the door. Open the door and get a shot of the threshold and anything that inhibits the opening of the door. Shoot the middle part of the door to record what type of hardware secures it. Take a shot of the door closer.

After taking you pictures, record digital notes that pictures can't reveal. Start out verbalizing the tag number to associate the voice record to the door. Record the time to establish the order you surveyed in. Verbalize all kinds of details including measurements you take.

Here is an example of what to say: "Time 10:15 a.m. Tag 1-0-0-4-5. This is a hollow metal door, 36 inches wide, 84 inches tall, one-and-three-quarter inches thick, featuring a window lite. The lite is 4 inches wide by 16 inches tall, located 28 inches from the hinge side and 12 inches from the top of the door. The lite face is 1 inch wide. The lite features wire glass. The door closer is leaking and needs to be replaced. The door slams as the closer isn't properly working."

Once the information has been completed, circle it on your location grid so that you know it has been completed. When a location grid is full, you might go back to your temporary office and "download" your observations.

What to do at the "temporary office"

Transfer all information from the three forms into the spreadsheet. At this time, do not download the images or voice recordings.

Remove all the used forms and the completed location grid and place them in a safe place. These will be used as your first backup.

If your camera or recorder is full, download the information to the computer. Confirm the information properly downloaded before reformatting the camera or recorder.

Once completed, proceed to the area of your next location grid.

As a rule of thumb, you will spend a quarter of your time at the temporary office and three-quarters of your time actually performing door surveys.

What to do after all the information has been surveyed

Confirm that everything got into the spreadsheet.

Package your "hard copies," the used forms and location grids. This is your first form of backup.

If your computer has a CD burner, make a copy of the spreadsheet, images, and voice records. Also do the same by making similar copies of all media data onto your USB thumb-drive. A CD or thumb-drive acts as your second form of backup. Store the backups in different locations.

Later edit the voice recordings and save each record in an MP3 format. Rename the MP3 files to refer to the tag number (i.e. 10054.mp3). Rename pictures to refer to the tag number (i.e. 10054a.jpg, 10054b.jpg, 10054c.jpg, etc)

Store all the pertinent files into a single folder.

If you get good at Excel, you will learn that you can retrieve all the images and voice recordings relating to a specific survey point.

Learn how to write a button that will open the pictures and voice files.

It is the trend in all businesses in America to gather as much information as possible. The information you gather will streamline your endeavors and let your company or customer know just how valuable you are.

Knowledge is power. Become knowledgeable.