Contractors are quickly discovering that end users have become educated in fiber optics and will typically request final reports for each project. These final reports will provide end users with in depth data regarding the fibers tested, which can be referenced for future analysis. Generating and customizing such reports has never been easier as manufacturers are moving towards Excel based reporting software.
Report generation software is nothing new to the industry and any manufacturer looking to have a chance at winning business in the contractor market must have a software package. In years past many manufacturers kept their software development focused on specific report structuring and data criteria which has left many contractors asking for a more simplified and customizable solution. In recent years a few manufacturers have responded to that request with reporting software that is Microsoft Excel based. A common program that many technicians and project managers are familiar with.
Switching to an Excel based platform has allowed manufacturers to support the customer by allowing custom templates to be developed with significantly less effort required. The transition to Excel seems almost questionable without consideration as to why. When we get past the face value image of an Excel spreadsheet we discover a powerful program which has many capabilities and functionality that most will never use to the fullest potential. It is this fullest potential that software engineers have recognized and implemented with great success.
If we consider the average user’s experience with Excel we will find only the simplest functions being used. But in this simplicity we must recognize that Excel is capable of working with data, calculating formulas, creating tables or charts and containing images. However, the capabilities of Excel do not stop there as Conditional Formatting can be used to indicate pass/fail thresholds for multiple pieces of data. This allows the user to quickly identify fibers that have failed the test based on specific thresholds. Let us also not forget the vast amount of customization that can take place with an Excel document. In our experience documents created in Excel not only have highly organized data but also look good!
These capabilities have led manufacturers to identify a wealth of functionality that remained unharnessed and is now readily available to the end users. Today we see test equipment such as Kingfisher International being able to simplify data transfer and report generation through Excel spreadsheets. The Kingfisher solution provides a standardized template populated with the test data for technicians to quickly review and edit. Since the program uses Excel based functions, criteria and data organization can be easily modified to fit a customer’s specific needs.
Other manufacturers have taken the Excel idea in a different direction allowing the contractor to completely build their own template using specific code to pull data from test results. These templates can be made from scratch however the work associated in creating a template may not be worth the time. Understanding where and how the code must be used in order to get the desired end product may require some trial and error. But, since these programs are based in Excel, the user has the opportunity to modify the basic templates available from the manufacturer. Generally speaking manufacturers can provide support for users who need assistance modifying report templates.
In the coming years we expect to see additional reporting software using the Excel based functions to provide the user with a more simplistic approach to report generation. Documented fiber optic testing is here to stay. So be sure that whenever you purchase test equipment to ask about software packages. Understanding the capabilities of a software package before you purchase is essential for a smooth transition. Learning a new reporting software can be not only be time consuming but also frustrating if unprepared. Our advice is do your homework and read up before you try to learn a new program. With a little practice and prior experience with Excel you will be well on your way to generating final reports in no time.