Smart Equipment Efficiencies a Game Changer in Facing HVAC Challenges
With greater energy efficiency topping the wish list of facility and energy management executives globally, four cross-industry tech trends are having a transformative impact on building systems: visualisation, Machine2Machine (M2M) communication, mobility tools, and analytics.
They add up to smart systems that give facility managers greater control and efficiency, taking them a step closer to their objectives by enabling them to drive dynamic improvements in building performance.
The prospect of smart equipment preventing problems and addressing the chronic issues that plague building operators has caught the attention of building owners and facility managers. In a recent Johnson Controls survey ‘Where Can Smart Equipment Technology Reduce the Headaches?’, 70 percent of respondents rated the ability to predict and diagnose problems and provide or propose solutions as a game changer.
Visualisation, M2M communication, mobility tools and analytics enable connected buildings to work seamlessly with how facilities are managed today.
Visualisation tools – like graphical dashboards that automatically aggregate and update data – drives insight and, consequently, improvements in building performance.
M2M communication enhances facilities professionals’ ability to manage, while mobility tools help facility managers stay connected and analytics turn building data into actionable information. These advances are captured and leveraged in a new generation of building automation systems, smart equipment, and cloud-based technologies.
Today, advanced BAS serve as the command and control centre for facilities, incorporating not only controls for HVAC equipment from a variety of manufacturers, but connecting to the lighting, security, fire and other systems.
In essence, it’s allowing building managers to manage their facilities rather than the individual systems. This power comes from the advancements within individual complex systems, as much as their ability to now share data and ‘talk’ to one another.
The ability of new systems to predict and diagnose problems, and provide or propose solutions addresses a number of pain points common during installation, commissioning and operation of this equipment – specifically in terms of managing performance over time and maintenance over the lifecycle of the equipment.
Unplanned maintenance and technicians’ inability to isolate issues are high-impact issues, as is the lack of equipment knowledge among service personnel, the difficulty of maintaining optimised operation, and control through the building’s lifecycle.
So how can smart equipment alleviate these challenges? The following features are game changers:
· The ability to predict and diagnose problems, and provide or propose solutions
· Self-optimisation of systems
· Ability to report performance and efficiency
· Automatic location, identification and integration with components within the same subsystem
· Ability to self-configure
Tracking optimal performance against actual performance, ensuring quicker repairs and parts replacements, integrating quickly and easily with existing equipment and alerting operators to potential issue or downtime are all capabilities that can be highly beneficial.
Performance and integration issues are being addressed by manufacturers as it is key to the competitiveness of their offerings. Many of these capabilities are now being offered as part of service offerings or as features built into the equipment.
For example, Panoptix, Johnson Controls’ facility management platform monitors performance of equipment in near real time, benchmarks it against similar industry installations and alerts users if anomalies are detected, or if performance indicates need for preventative maintenance.
In addition, the software and user interface on Johnson Controls’ HVAC equipment is tailored for ease of use, with graphic depiction of performance for ease of comprehension by facility administrators. Its systems are built on open systems and optimised for integration with common and legacy building automation systems.
HVAC equipment is typically a long term purchase which impacts the business in many ways. It affects the quality of the work environment, impacting productivity and efficiencies, but may also be vital in manufacturing, industrial and retail setting to operations, and the preservation or creation of products. As such, it can present considerable risk – or advantage.
To leverage new opportunities to lower costs and optimise operations, select the right partner and ensure your equipment has a smart technology roadmap.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”