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FCC’s $10M tech installation overcomes COVID delays thanks to C3EL

TAMPA, Fla. Command and Control Communications Engineering & Logistics, LLC (C3EL) is a Veteran-owned Small Business specializing in building command centers worldwide. The company’s core capabilities are providing AV/VTC design-build and O&M services to Department of Defense (DoD) clients in support of global operations. C3EL comprises industry veteran engineers and logisticians who develop project plans and designs, procure and ship equipment and materials, and deploy to build and install projects all over the globe. Its senior staff consists of prior military technicians and engineers, and its technical personnel all hold DoD security clearances to work in the most secure environments. The company also performs SCIF construction (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) and all the system requirements that assist government with that process.

With qualifications like that, it’s no surprise C3EL was chosen to perform turnkey services for the new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Headquarters facility at 45 L St., NW Washington, D.C. The FCC was looking for a detailed design validation, project management, procurement, engineering, installation, programming, and commissioning of the new facility’s 292 rooms. The spec included AV equipment, facility-wide IPTV, sound-masking, and paging systems. Although this was a government project, C3EL worked alongside and collaborated with the commercial general contractor that constructed the ten-story building.

“It was late August 2019 when we were approached by our prime contractor as one of many companies that were to bid on the project. The design was done by a consultant for the government. They gave us the high-level design, the list of materials, and scope of work, and asked us if we could bid on supporting the project from a full turnkey standpoint, including design validation, engineering programming, installation, integration, as well as commissioning and training,” says Lavar McDowell, Vice President, Business Development/Sales, C3EL. Lavar serves as a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer in the US Army Reserves.

McDowell explains how C3EL won the bid. “Our company was in the process of moving offices when word came to us that the FCC needed services and had a short suspense timeline of fewer than two weeks in which they had to put a bid in to the government. We hunkered down, also dealing with Hurricane Dorian over Labor Day weekend, and produced this proposal to be able to submit through our prime contractor for submission to the government. In five days, we turned around what would normally take several weeks, if not months, putting together a thorough quote and providing all the answers they needed.”

C3EL overcomes COVID challenges on FCC installation

The scramble to produce a thorough bid worked out for C3EL, putting them at the head of the pack. “They were impressed by our competitive bidding process and communication,” said McDowell.

After winning the job and several iterations of reviews, McDowell and his team discovered the initial documentation wasn’t fully complete, forcing them to make modifications to the proposal. At that point, they received an award and went into the design validation period, which took 45 days to complete. With the design now two years old from when the building was first designed, C3EL had to ensure the equipment was still available and up to date, which meant changing some materials to meet the FCC’s requirements. C3EL then did the design validation in December 2019 through January 2020

“We took a unique approach to system design. We created a lab environment in our warehouse, preconfiguring the racks and testing them in the lab, then building custom crates and shipping the racks up to D.C.,” says McDowell. “The construction was not done at that time, so this approach allowed us to work remotely on our scope of the project without interrupting or waiting for the general contractor to finish their portion of the project. This expedited our progress on-site. When we got there, we just had to do the layer-one cabling and installation of room peripherals. The rest was a plug-and-play installation, testing, configuration adjustments for the room environments, sound-reinforcing improvements, and commissioning.”

In March of 2020, the term “work remotely” took on a new meaning as COVID-19 hit America. Because C3EL had carefully planned the project, their work was minimally disrupted.

“In February, we had no clue COVID was even a thing. We were already working remotely and were on a tight timeline.” says McDowell. “We had to really press into our suppliers and reach out to other suppliers to procure some of those materials that were affected,” says McDowell. “COVID was a layer that affected the entire world, but we were still able to keep the project scheduled and keep everyone employed and healthy. C3EL was able to trudge onward, adjusting for the schedule of materials, while getting used to wearing masks and social distancing across ten stories and hundreds of thousands of square feet.”

A big piece of the puzzle that allowed C3EL to be so successful on the project was its use of D-Tools System Integrator software. “We outgrew the solution we were using prior to this opportunity and were in the midst of transferring over to the D-Tools platform. For a very large project like this, it’s frustrating for our design and sales staff to have to price out materials and wait for a PDF to print with 2,000 line items,” says McDowell. “We needed a software solution geared toward AV, and we fell in love with the concept of D-Tools.” McDowell noted that having his sales team, design team, and operations teams from the same system maximized efficiency.

“Now, when we are working on a proposal, we can import pricing from different vendors or go off pricing pre-built into D-Tools software versus going back to an Excel spreadsheet,” says McDowell.

“COVID has actually propelled our business forward, and we had to hire like crazy to keep up with the work that is coming in,” says McDowell. He notes that D-Tools online training has also been a boon to his business in this respect, because he requires every employee to go through the training.

Not only did C3EL win the project install and integration, but they also were awarded as a sub-contractor to provide the AV Support Services at FCC with several members now officially on-site. “Our past performance when doing the install and having the continuity was very attractive to them. After all, who better to maintain the systems than the team who designed and installed them?”

McDowell is considering using D-Tools software as part of the Service Level Agreement (SLA) and warranty support. The team will be developing all the FCC training materials, systems operations guides, quick-reference sheets, and will provide training to fifteen FCC resources.  As part of the AV installation project, C3EL will be the contractor that manages all warranty actions and return merchandise authorizations (RMA) on behalf of the FCC during the first 12 months of systems operations.

From the completing the bid in record time, through to innovative project pre-configuration and implementation during a time of crisis, C3EL expertly executed on the FCC’s new building, proving the company is, as McDowell says, “a small company doing big work.”

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