At the annual ABM educational conference in Atlanta, exhibitors express what service trends are working for them and where they see the industry going in the year ahead.
Exhibitors at the event displayed their latest products and technologies and offered tips for attendees to make the year more productive for HVAC, energy, and electrical contractors.
To get a sense of the scene, we spoke with a number of exhibitors. Here’s what they had to say:
At the KMC Controls booth, I spoke with two KMC Area VPs as well as technicians from KMC rep, ESS. KMC is an ABM vendor and a leader in developing building automation and energy management technology. ESS works with and implements KMC technology first hand.
With spokespeople on both the corporate side and the field-based side, our conversation turned up many interesting ideas about the future of HVAC controls and what KMC is doing today to stay informed and put the customer first.
The equipment KMC reps install is connected to a 3rd party Tridium server, which monitors and informs service. “It alerts us and ABM if there are inconsistencies,” said Josh Ban, field engineer, ESS. “We’ll go down to the site and find stuff like a broken fan spinning when it’s not supposed to.”
“The concepts of IoT and Cloud are taking things we’ve been doing in the HVAC controls industry, and putting everything under one roof,” said Scott Taylor, KMC VP. “It’s really nothing new except now it’s cheaper, faster, and easier.”
Fellow KMC VP, Doug Miller echoed Taylor: “Technology has allowed us to do things that we’ve done for a long time, but do it faster and cheaper, reducing not just the amount of labor, but the type of labor required.”
Miller emphasized the importance of not just collecting data, but also having a system to analyze it: “Anybody can gather data – sensors are cheap – it’s what you do with the data that matters. How do I make it actionable? Can I make intelligent decisions based on the data I have? That’s where IoT comes in. It all used to be more complex and expensive – now it’s scalable by nature.”
Aggreko is the largest specialty rental company for power, temperature control, and oil free compressed air. During the ABM conference, I spoke with Josh Height, Strategic Account Manager, about how Aggreko approaches servicing equipment and how they’re incorporating new technologies.
Height highlighted mobile as a key differentiator leading to Aggreko’s service success: “We service our own equipment and perform PMs on and off site, which is why mobile has become crucial to what we do. Techs in the field can get service orders onto their devices; they can allocate parts and time, get the customer signature, and ship it off to the operations manager who gets it ready for billing. Mobile has been essential for us and our customers.”
Aggreko is also a leader in remote monitoring. The monitors they install in their generators act as a link through the cloud back to a remote operating center that’s maintained 24/7.
“Remote monitoring, for us, means more than just GPS,” said Height. “It’s complete diagnostics. It can tell you where the equipment is, if it’s running, what amount of fuel is in it, what the load is, and any faults or triggers. This sort of continuous monitoring is saving failures onsite, which ultimately makes the customers happy. It’s been amazing for us.”
Daikin is the largest air conditioning company in the world; they have products ranging from residential equipment to large commercial industrial type equipment. To get a sense for how Daikin is using technology to inform service, I spoke with a Senior Sales Engineer, Mark Wieland.
“To make service as profitable and efficient as possible,” said Wieland, “Daikin technicians use mobile to create, complete, and send work orders from the field to be reviewed before billing.”
“The biggest change Daikin has seen since adopting mobile is being able to get information quicker. Everyone wants information faster, and with a mobile app to streamline the process, techs can focus on providing service, not filling out paperwork.”
To further capitalize on the technology at their disposal, Daikin recently launched Intelligent Equipment, in partnership with Intel: “It works well,” said Wieland. “They know their business (analytics) and we know ours (air conditioning). Intel’s analytics take data from the equipment so we’re able to support our customers with more information.”
For example, equipment can send out alarms to the service company to say its filter is dirty. This allows the service tech to preemptively call the customer and save the customer a service call.
“It’s about being ahead of maintenance instead of reacting to the maintenance.”
When asked what trends he expects to take off in the future for HVAC production and maintenance, Wieland said, “I see everything talking on a more open set up. Owners are becoming more informed about what they have and why they bought it. Service is becoming a key differentiator beyond product and price.
“Owners are actually getting involved in the performance of their systems. Rather than thinking of it as ‘just maintenance’ or ‘just the AC unit’ business owners are taking proactive actions to keep everything running as efficiently as possible.”
Recap & Takeaways for Facilities Maintenance Professionals
After returning from ABM’s educational conference, we noticed some key trends consistent across the building maintenance and facility services businesses we spoke with.
- 1. As the industry becomes increasingly customer centric, service, especially proactive service, will become a key differentiator for many equipment manufacturers and rental companies.
2. Mobile is a crucial tool for service teams to get work orders completed and billed faster.
3. Remote monitoring – through sensors, cloud, and IoT – is taking off as an industry service standard.
Even though, as KMC said, many of these technologies have been around for years, 2016 is the year they become more realistic for building maintenance and facility service businesses of all sizes. As quality, reliable service becomes a must-have for most commercial equipment customers, service providers will need to get creative about how they apply the latest technology to improve product support.
This year’s ABM educational conference in Atlanta was a great place to scope out those service trends and anticipate the future of maintenance for HVAC manufacturers and building maintenance professionals.
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