All About Storage
It's hardly possible to overstate the importance of storage in the engineering shop. It's all organization: knowing where to look for things in an emergency or just a plain old urgent situation. I moved a radio station (way back in 1998 - last century) and one of the ideas we took from the old place to the new place was the use of Vidmar cabinets from Stanley Storage Systems. You've probably seen them before: cabinets with slide-out drawers of varying height. When you pull the drawers out you see that they are compartmentalized so that it might have 24 or 48 sections (dimensions like 6" x 6" x 3", for example). These compartments are ideal for storing audio connectors, RF connectors, Ethernet connectors, and more.
Like anything that is built well and meant to last, they're not cheap though. You may want to consider "rolling your own" - at least in terms of the overall concept. The photo is a nice array of storage built by the engineering department at Entercom in Kansas City. These storage cabinets also store stuff in a horizontal fashion, with compartments inside. (A tool used to put on a connector that is stored in this case is also stored in the same case.) One definite advantage these have over the Vidmar units is that you can take the entire case with you. The holders themselves are just 2 x 4s with press-board shelves; you could put the whole thing together in an afternoon.
To the cable
While connector adaptors are always vital to have around (for example BNC to N or TNC to BNC), cables that have very specific purposes often are made up during the shakedown phase of a new studio or transmitter build. Perhaps I hold on to too much stuff, but I make a point of keeping cables like that. No sense in making them again later, right? You do need to keep track of them though. Middle Atlantic makes what it calls the claw for hanging cables on the wall. This allows you to keep them out of the way, but still you can identify them easily enough.
Aside from storing parts and connectors and whatnot, cable storage is always an issue, whether they're in a finished form or raw material form. Often, especially after a construction project, all manner of loose spools of cable are all over the place. A wire-reel caddy could be the answer in this case. I found one that looks good from Grainger.
So when you clean up after a big project, as I mentioned earlier, you often end up with spools of cable standing around taking up valuable space. If the spool doesn't have that much cable left over on it, clearly you'll take the remainder off, tossing the empty spool afterward. You're then left with a collection of coils of cable waiting around for the day they're needed. Storing these in some sort of translucent container works well so you can see what they are later on after you've forgotten the details. Here I'm suggesting something like stacking drawers from The Container Store that are held on to a wall, kind of like shelving. (By the way, The Container Store is a great resource for all kinds of storage goods.)
These are held on to the wall in the same way shelves are.
Engineering offices and shop spaces are often not that large and luxurious, and keeping items you need well organized is important not only so that you can find them when the need arises, but also so you can just walk through the place.
Irwin is transmission systems supervisor for Clear Channel NYC and chief engineer of WKTU, New York. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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