David A. Bateman
Now that we are entering the third year of the pandemic mess we seem to have found ourselves in, and we keep hearing “things are getting better” vs “Omicron 3.14159265” is now on the horizon (not really), the question we AV technology designers, engineers, and even consumers are trying to answer is “when is it all going to be over??”
Unfortunately, we don’t have the answer to that question. So why should I keep reading, you ask? As consultants, designers, engineers, and consumers, we really cannot do anything about making Dante chips appear on [favorite manufacturer name here]’s loading dock. Rather than talking about what we can’t do about supply chain issues, let’s focus on the things we can do to help us get through these challenges.
It is our responsibility to communicate with our clients what we are hearing from the AV and telecommunications industry. We need to have frank conversations about which systems they can expect to have up and running when their building opens vs potential delays. We can help them prioritize which rooms need to be open on day one, and which rooms can wait a few months. We communicate with our manufacturers and understand what they can deliver and when. Instead of needing all 400 ceiling speakers at once, perhaps the project could actually support delivery in phases. Having open conversations with the entire project team to let them know we are aware of their schedule and are trying to find solutions is much better than sitting in a room full of folks, all facing the same challenges, and being another “No” at the table.
The other opportunity for a solution in this situation is considering substitutions. We certainly understand that campus standards are standards for a reason. Standards provide for easier and more efficient training of support staff and it makes faculty feel comfortable with the technology in their classrooms. But perhaps there needs to be a bigger picture. If the campus standard is full of products that are not going to be anywhere near deliverable until 2023, and the rooms need to come online by fall 2022, perhaps consideration should be given to other products that can provide the same user experience. Priority may need to be given to the end user’s experience over what products are actually in the rack providing that experience.
Look, we all know there are a dozen audio DSPs in our technology universe that quite frankly all provide very similar (if not identical) audio signal processing.We have all grown fond of specific ones because we like the user interface, or the configuration tools are slicker, and perhaps brand “Awesome” has a great AEC module that sounds really good. But, truth be told, many of them can do what we need them to do. I am not saying change from what you like using, but perhaps there is another solution that happens to be available to meet your project schedule. And who knows, perhaps you might find another product that works just as well as your go-to standard.
Finally, flexibility. All signs are pointing to the AV industry’s supply chain issues not resolving until Q2-2023 at the earliest. Communication, consideration, and collaboration are the basis for this flexibility that we need to bring to our projects, so that everyone on the team understands these challenges. During this ongoing supply chain storm, let us be the voice of reason, hope, and solutions. I am not saying we have only just reached the eye of this Covid hurricane, but perhaps these ideas of transparency, and Solution Making might be the path forward for all of us.
“An unbending tree is easily broken.” – Lao Tzu