The Building Technology Machine CrunchPosted by December 17th, 2015
Article featured in Building Blocks Magazine – December 2015 Issue
Technology is bringing big changes to your building mechanical systems. Computer chips are now controlling entire units and without a laptop some units can’t be properly installed and maintained. How do mechanical service companies keep abreast of these changes and how do you, as a building owner, manager, or staff member, keep track of all these important changes?
As a business we believe in education and training. In 2015 we started the Cynergy Scholarship Education Program to provide ongoing education to our employees. We are also involved as a corporation in PAC, Program Advisory Committees, in the Techniques & Trades at Colleges. This helps us understand the Programs available to technicians and how we can assist in ensuring these courses are relevant and produce well equipped graduates. Our feedback, along with other trades in the GTA, gives our Colleges an understanding of what your buildings are looking like in 2015 and what skills are required to service your equipment – now and in the future. One thing is certain, laptops will become a tool of the trade. An important one that will sit alongside our more traditional tools, like a snake for a drain, or a drill.
Each month we do workforce planning. We look ahead and see what our customers have for existing equipment, what new equipment can save them money, and also save them in serviceability over the lifetime of the installation – this means we need to look at what tech support will be required. Some equipment, for example chillers, have an interface that insists a tool of the trade IS a laptop. With sophisticated software, BAS integration, and very sensitive controls, we saw the future and sent our top refrigeration lead to a course in Texas to immerse himself in the technology. He came back, not with books, but with a tiny stick that had all the books on it, and a terminal computer program for diagnostics. His first comment when he was back at the shop? “I’ve seen the past, and now I’ve been to the future!” Technology will not only apply to chillers, which have had frontend computer interfaces for a while. It now applies to simple rooftop systems where new products have operating spec’s onboard and to properly understand operation will require plugging in to the unit with a computer and downloading the running information so a technician can accurately diagnose, fix, and maintain the unit. MUA’s, RTU’s, and the like are now coming equipped with programs that track operation and diagnostics. For some RTU’s the only way you are able to change operation of some key components, like heating, is with a computer hookup. There is no other way to change these specs on the machine. The tool IS a computer. My favorite line from an RTU manual with one of these chips is, “…the system may take action not expected by the tech.” Unless they are properly trained! That will be the challenge and at Cynergy we are rising to that challenge.
As Chair of one of the PAC boards I can tell you that the education will almost certainly lag slightly against what is available from a technology standpoint in market. So as a business we fill that gap by searching constantly for the latest in education, hence our technician’s trip to Texas. And while our colleges do a good job with preparing and equipping their graduates with the latest in trade techniques I see an easy fit in integrating computer technology courses alongside welding or mechanical methods courses. Our colleges are smart, and these PAC committee’s will provide the real world application feedback to ensure this training happens. Infield experience requires the standard, time honored trade skills, and businesses will be challenged to fill in the skills gap by searching for additional education options. Our Cynergy Scholarship program fits the bill.
Bottom line is if you have a replacement requirement make sure you call in the professionals before sending out an equipment spec list. We are here to assist you in determining what you really need now, and what you might need down the road. Uber technology isn’t always the best route depending on a multitude of building factors. In my last PAC committee meeting a plumber told us about his first toilet that had a controller in it! They needed a laptop to program it.
If you have a question about your equipment options, maintenance options, or other technology questions give us a call at 416-749-2200 and visit our website at www.cynergymechanical.ca. You can also sign up for our newsletter by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.