On a mild January afternoon, two technicians for Millennium Smart Homes, North Kansas City, Mo., were drilling holes and pulling wire for a 2,100-square-foot home in Smithville, Mo.
Brad Hall and Darren Britt started their day on the job site at 10:30 a.m. By 3 p.m., they were preparing to bundle the wires with Zip ties and punch the wires through the floor to a structured wiring service panel (similar to an electrician's breaker panel) in the basement.
Marketing Director Russ Mullholland said Millennium's technicians all start out on the rough-in side drilling holes and pulling wire.
“They do their learning in that arena, but we have another team of guys who will come back and put in the speakers, TV set and the controller for the audio system,” he said. “Everyone starts out pulling wire. Then they go from being a wire puller to being a supervisor. Then they'll trim.”
Brad Hall, who has been with Millennium for eight months, learned how to pull wire through on-the-job training, a beginner and advanced class from OnQ Technologies and weekly educational classes at the office.
“We learned to be very gentle with Cat. 5. We only pull with 25 pounds of pressure and watch the bend radius,” he said.
Kaye said he conducted one-hour internal training sessions every week for about six months.
“Every week, we would cover a little something as simple and basic as the bend radius of Cat. 5 to installing an elaborate video distribution,” Kaye said. “We found out who wanted to go to the next level and who wanted to keep pulling wire.”
Stacy said Millennium had up to 10 installers, but now has six, who work on the prewire or the finish side of the installation.
“It's interesting, because you'll find people who are good workers, but they really don't want to move beyond what they're doing,” he said. “It's not a bad thing, because we'll always need people to pull wire. If someone is the best wire puller in the world, that's great. I'm more than happy to keep them doing it.”
Stacy said Millennium tried to hire an electrical contractor to pull the structured wiring, but the company's work did not meet up to the specifications. Since an electrician is already in the house drilling the holes and pulling the wires, it would make sense to outsource the wiring to them, Stacy said.
“If there was an electrical contractor who could get all that done to our standards, I'd be more than happy to have them pull the wire,” Stacy said.
Electrical contractors with a firm knowledge of structured wiring are in short supply in Kansas City, but Stacy said more electricians are starting to catch on to the new technology.
“I think what you'll see over time is that electricians will realize that what we do is very closely related to what they do up to a certain point,” he said. “What you may see is bigger electrical contractors either start divisions or acquire companies that already do what we do so they can be more of a total solution to their customer.”