Training For Engaged Owners
You’ve committed to O&M training, but how do you get the most out of your efforts?
Last month, this column addressed the sad fact that many building owners’ O&M organizations either do not have the resources or lack the motivation to take advantage of the O&M training, planning, delivery, and verification process offered in most commissioning plans. This month, I want to be more hopeful and offer three suggestions for owners who do want to improve their O&M training experience.
Participate in the Design-Phase Training Planning Process
The commissioning professional should facilitate at least one design phase meeting with representatives of the O&M trainees, preferably including some future trainees themselves. The purpose of this meeting is to customize a training plan which can be incorporated into the project’s contract documents. There are two reasons this is important:
It will result in a training program that matches the owner’s O&M staff training needs for the new equipment and systems.
It will result in enforceable training specifications for the contractors.
We cannot customize and right-size the training plan unless we have input from the trainees and the trainees’ management who are familiar with current staff capabilities and experience with each new component designed into the project. Training customization also depends on how the organization intends to deal with each piece of new equipment, as follows.
Run to failure
Take full responsibility for all O&M activities
Clearly, the training level of rigor will increase as the level of in-house responsibility increases.
Even if all O&M activities are to be outsourced, there will be someone on the owner’s staff responsible for procuring, managing, and paying service contractors to perform the work. This owner’s representative, even if non-technical, should be trained at the following bare minimum level of rigor:
O&M manual contents (equipment lists, suppliers’ contact information, warranty paperwork, etc.).
Walkthrough tour to locate and identify all equipment.
Systems training to convey a basic understanding of how things should work and how to identify when there is a problem to be addressed by the service contractor.
Commit Resources to Training Sessions
When the time comes for the contractors to conduct training sessions, the enlightened owner will make the appropriate staff available to participate. Sometimes that means scheduling overtime for some staff to cover day-to-day activities and crises while other staff receive training. Sometimes it means performing all training off hours when the chances of interruptions are minimized. For large organizations with 24/7 operations, this often means scheduling multiple training sessions in order to train staff assigned to different shifts.
Owner Support of Training Enforcement
Even if a clear, comprehensive, and customized training plan is included in the contract documents, contractors may choose to ignore or forget it as construction progresses. It is the commissioning professional’s responsibility to keep O&M training planning and delivery on the project team’s radar and to help facilitate its scheduling. However, only the owner can really motivate the contractors to engage in the process and provide meaningful training that complies with the customized training plan requirements.
The owner’s project manager needs to participate in the construction phase training planning and scheduling meetings along with the owner’s O&M trainee representatives. The project manager also needs to verbally support and enforce the training specification requirements and back up the commissioning professional as required to move the process forward. If necessary, the project manager needs to withhold payments (the ultimate motivator) to contractors who are not meeting their contractual training obligations.
The entire owner’s facilities team will benefit from a customized, right-sized training program delivered by well-prepared and qualified trainers. Most contractors have or can obtain knowledgeable trainers for the equipment they install. The commissioning professional can include facilitation of training planning and delivery in their scope of services. However, only the owner can make this aspect of commissioning truly successful by committing time to the planning, being enthusiastic and demanding about the results, and participating wholeheartedly in the O&M training program.