The management or administration of “user equipment” is often more involved than it appears at first glance. To help identify what needs to be done I suggest examining the life cycle phases of the equipment and identifying specific responsibilities associated with each phase.
I will focus this discussion on radio user equipment, but the principles would apply to any type of equipment used by your end customers. Radio user equipment includes portable and mobile radios, and related accessories like batteries, battery chargers, cases and antennas. If you have ultimate accountability for this equipment, your job is to ensure that all of the following activities are covered-off. These things could be done in-house or contracted out, but they must be done!
Keep in mind that while a particular piece of equipment will go through these phases sequentially, you are likely to have inventory at all of these phases at the same time and so you must be capable of providing all of these services, all of the time
- Technical Consulting – before you buy equipment you will need to make an informed technical decision. To do so you will need a certain degree of in-house expertise to know what capability and features are available for equipment in the marketplace, and you will need to determine the needs of the end users in order to make a good decision.
- Procurement – your organization probably has defined steps in the procurement process. Perhaps, first a business case must be made and a budget allocated. Then there may be a competitive procurement process like an RFP.
- Inventorying – once equipment has been ordered and received, the first step should always be inventorying each piece of equipment by recording a serial or inventory number into some sort of database.
- License procurement – each radio will require a license that must applied for and secured before the device is put into service.
- Programming – before a modern radio can be used it must be programmed with frequencies, talk-groups and perhaps encryption keys.
- Installation – mobile radios will need to be installed in vehicles (a non-trivial process and expense).
- Support Planning – early in the procurement process, perhaps even as part of the equipment acquisition process, you should determine how you are going to support the equipment during its operations phases. The fundamental question is whether you will handle it all in-house or contract-out some or all of it.
- Maintenance – regular maintenance can head-off issues with equipment before a sudden failure affects the user. This might include things like regular checks of the specs (power, frequency) of a radio or regular evaluation of battery capacity.
- Repair- radios (and accessories will break or wear out). You need a strategy for repairing what can be fixed and an ongoing budget to buy replacements for what cannot be returned to service.
- Licensing – radio license fees are payable each year so a process and budget is required to ensure that your entire fleet of radios are legally entitled to operate.
- Lifecycle Planning – this is an ongoing process of monitoring and assessing the condition of the user equipment so that plans can be made to replace the equipment at an appropriate, non-critical time. Related to this is identifying and securing adequate resources (budget and perhaps staff) to implement a replacement.
When radio equipment is no longer useful it must be properly disposed of. Just tossing it in the trash is not acceptable for a number of reasons:
- security – you don’t want a radio, programmed with your operational frequency/talkgroups, to fall into the wrong hands, so a first step in disposal should be to de-program/erase any such information.
- residual value – the equipment in some cases may no longer meet your needs but still be functional and have some value to some other organization. In that case it may be sold (after being secured), according to your organizations policies and processes.
- accounting / asset management – Just as the first step in bringing new equipment into your organization i to enter it into an inventory system, the last step should be to note its retirement in your inventory system. Again consult your organizations standard processes.