Back around 2002, I came up with this idea based on a perceived need to have commissioning software available for me to write functional performance test (FPT) documents. At that time (and I still feel this way today), I believed the cornerstone to commissioning was the FPT. If you try and find HVAC software to write the FPTs, you probably won’t find one because there isn’t one that electronically works with you to draft the individual sequence of operation modes, with action-reaction capabilities per device in the specific HVAC system. Unfortunately, there is no industry standard for writing an FPT, so what I’ve found online was a wide range of written FPT approaches to the problem varying in pages and content.
Faced with this challenge, and with no skills to write the computer program, I set out to find a software developer to take my ideas and create a program. The results were really good and so I used this Cx-3 program in the years to come. Unfortunately, my Cx-3 program was built using Microsoft’s Visio software as the platform, and so when Microsoft decided to upgrade their software, I had to go back to the development consultant to update my software. This cost me a lot of money each time Microsoft had the financial urge to upgrade.
I stopped keeping pace with Microsoft when I made the decision to reduce my hours of consulting. The program is outdated, but I still like the idea of partnering with a software development consultant when you have the idea to automate an HVAC industry task or process.
Today, we are clearly in the computer age. A couple of generations of men and women now in our industry have no idea how we designed, built, commissioned, operated, and maintained HVAC equipment and systems in the dark ages (i.e., pre-1970) of manual labor, with the emphasis on designing using mechanical pencils, tee squares, and plastic templates for drawing symbols (e.g., duct elbow, valve, etc.).
While I’m not interested in having a new HVAC process computerized, I still believe I did the right thing by reaching out to find a software developer to transform my idea for a standardized FPT into a software program that eventually would be a re-commissioning FPT document. With today’s business mindset that smaller is better, I reached out to a software program developer to discuss lessons learned from my experience with Cx-3 and my arch-enemy Microsoft. I talked to Joe Tamburro, the president of Rye Development (www.ryedev.com), about how I got this HVAC idea and saw it made into a software program and how I got to realize the benefits. We also discussed the quality control benefit of the program when used by other commissioning engineers. My approach just happens to match his tag line, “small batch development for your growing ideas.”
I have had other HVAC ideas such as “combining sales with education” (December 2008) and “can someone design a mobile manager software program” (May 2013), but I never pursued either, still smarting from my Cx-3 experience. Still, I believe the HVAC business can continue to improve if we think of what else can be programmed that will simplify the task, make it more cost-effective, increase productivity with the process, and improve quality control through individual ideas.
I know the mega-software companies aren’t interested in our little HVAC challenges, but the small development consultants with skilled, classroom-trained programmers are a relatively untapped resource to produce that one idea you have at a reasonable cost while avoiding the hidden trap I fell into when having the Cx-3 program built.
Just think about it. If I can have an idea and find someone to develop the software that made my commissioning business better, more cost-effective, provided me with quality control, and most importantly differentiate me from the competition, why wouldn’t they seek out a software developer. The return on investment for me was less than a year. What would the ROI be on your HVAC idea?