Here’s a manufacturer’s competitive advantage waiting to happen.

At the winter ASHRAE conference, I was talking with an equipment manufacturer’s representative, discussing the need for commissioning documents to be furnished with the HVAC terminal equipment. For years now, equipment manufacturers have been providing O&M manuals, parts and material, and troubleshooting and equipment startup checklists to their customers. My question to the equipment rep was, “Why not provide the functional performance test (FPT) narrative for each of your pieces of equipment?” He didn’t have an answer, and worse than that, I got this “deer in the headlight” look, so I knew I had lost him in the conversation. I think he believed the startup sheets were the commissioning sheets.

Consequently, here is some advice regarding the commissioning sequence of operation (I am using a fancoil unit as an example) for terminal equipment manufacturers: 
  •   Sequences of operation are not so numerous that the manufacturer couldn’t have the FPTs already completed just like they have standard sequences of operation already documented. Maybe four standard sequences exist for two-pipe systems and another six standard sequences exist for four-pipe systems. If I were writing the FPT, it would take me no more than two hours. For 10 standard sequences, the manufacturer would have invested 20 hours (less than three days). Sure, there will be a few hybrid sequences, but I’d venture a guess that 90% of all fancoil unit sequences of operation are standardized.

  •   Equipment representatives currently provide custom fancoil unit equipment selections at various design conditions (e.g., HVAC performance and acoustic performance) at no cost to the engineer, so why not offer to provide that special FPT for the engineer? Just because it is not a standard sequence doesn’t mean it will require more than two hours to create, and it then can be added to the FPT library.

  •   Whenever antiquated fancoil units are removed and new, high-efficiency units are being installed, the trained service technician doing the replacement can complete the startup sheet and commissioning FPT together. With handheld computers or other handy, smaller devices, the tech can document the results as she goes about starting up and commissioning the units one unit at a time. When finished, the technician can e-mail the owner (as well as her service department to file these project closeout documents).

  •   While performing commissioning tasks, the service tech can provide system training to the facility person. Can’t see the full FPT on the handheld device when providing training? Just plug it into a monitor to show the entire FPT as well as the written sequence of operation and fancoil unit flow diagram.
To complete the commissioning the maintenance process for a fancoil unit, I advise the following:
  • “Commissioning of maintenance” is a phrase I use to define the process of having the fancoil unit PM workorder formatted and ready to use prior to the facility person taking ownership of the installation. Here again, the initiative will take no more than two hours to create the first standard PM workorder, noting parts, material, lubricants, safety instructions, tasking, and frequency. So how much time will that take to create a master PM workorder for 10 different kinds of fancoil units? Maybe a day’s time? The manufacturer can even include the estimated time to complete a PM workorder. I know all of this PM info exists buried somewhere in the O&M manual for the equipment, but why not pull all of this together onto a single electronic PM workorder?
So let’s recap: 
  • Development of 10 FPTs for 10 standard fancoil unit arrangements, which equates to 20 hours

  •   Development of 10 PM workorders for 10 standard fancoil units, which equates to eight hours
If you throw in some preparation time and discussions with the person developing the FPTs and PM workorders, maybe you are up to 40 hours of labor which, at $150 per hour equates to a $6,000 investment. If the fancoil unit manufacturer goes back into the sales volume for 2010, what is the total revenue? A $6,000 investment equates to even less than “peanuts.”

From a selling point of view, don’t equipment manufacturers want to be out ahead of the curve when competing for erminal equipment sales? If the service person is going to complete the FPT of terminal equipment and submit this commissioning documentation, then the building owner is going to save on commissioning costs by purchasing it from the equipment manufacturer. I think you could say this would tilt the playing field for the smart manufacturers in the commodity/product business. And maybe the marketing phrase could be, “We have apps” for your startup, commissioning, and PM of terminal equipment! ES