CE Pro Europe catches up with Nick Pidgeon from Visualization, a rack building instructor for CEDIA, who offers some important advice for installers on the art of rack building.

Why do installers need a rack? Why not just stack all the equipment in a cupboard? 

We’ve all been there. Necessity frequently dictates that our equipment needs to be on-site earlier than is ideal, meaning that, more often than not, you’re building racks in a dark, dusty and dirty site environment.

Once that’s complete and all other peripherals are installed, you can only then begin the testing and fault finding procedure. It’s a recipe for disaster that can cost plenty of time and money.

So, the why is really based around the critically important benefit of pre-planning.

A rack is not just the component that houses the kit; specifying a rack allows for pre-planning, pre-building and pre-testing so that it can then be delivered when the site is finished and ready for our element of the project.

At this stage, I would hope you have been convinced that a rack is the best way forward.

My next question is always, where is the rack going to be positioned within the property?

Are you being forced to fit it within a small cupboard/plant room or are you specifying the requirements that are really needed – a spacious, well ventilated, serviceable area?

Thinking about the space early is really important.

One of our first questions when requested to build any of our clients’ racks is, how do you plan on connecting the rack to the site system?

You will be amazed how many people think this is an irrelevant question at first. But it matters.

Do you plan to put a wall mounted termination box locally and connect with tails? Do you plan to have your rack terminated to rear panels so that you can neatly loom your cables from the wall. Or are you going to hard wire it?

If your answer is to hard wire, then think again.

Pre-building and pre-testing are really important. If 50% of the build still needs to be achieved on site, then your project risk is significantly increasing. I now come back to ventilation.

Is your intention to ensure your rack is as small and compact as possible, keeping space required to a minimum? Or are you giving thought to a well-planned elevation which takes into consideration equipment weight, client interaction, ventilation and serviceability?

Now, we have a plan, we can move on to the execution and the real nitty gritty of the rack build.

Cable tray and lacing bars are among the basics to ensure the best chance of a presentable and serviceable rack.

Consideration to placement of both of these items is imperative.

A clearly defined numbering system that is implemented will ensure a more fluent build and future serviceability.

At Visualization, we like to standardise different colours to denote different signal paths.

Particular attention should be given to service loops allowing for re-termination, if needed (none of us are perfect, we’re only human and mistakes happen!)

Conscious effort should also be taken to ensure cable laying is neat and presentable. 

Having taken all of the above into consideration you should have managed to pre-plan and pre-build a well-presented, ventilated and serviceable rack off site.

At this stage, you can consider pre-programming and pre-testing prior to delivery to site. Needless to say this reduces travel, commissioning and other installation difficulties.

So, think about the rack. Out of sight is not out of mind. Getting it right can make a massive difference to your business. Getting it wrong could be a disaster.

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