In my August 2019 article, I began to unpack three approaches that can be utilized to create reoccurring lines of revenue within your engineering and consulting business. This month we will begin to look at the second approach: continuous commissioning.
For as long as I’ve been in this field, continuous commissioning has existed; however, the technology is now gaining traction due to a set of technologies that have lowered the overall cost of implementation.
Why Continuous Commissioning?
If you ask people, why should I do continuous commissioning (for brevity we will use the term CC to describe continuous commissioning from this point forward), you will often get quoted the 30% reduction in energy consumption figure from the Texas A&M CC study.
But the reality is that, right now, energy is cheap, at least in the majority of U.S. So, what is the compelling factor for CC?
Two words: labor efficiencies. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the massive skilled labor shortages our industry is facing. Depending on whose research you believe, there will be a point within five to 10 years at which we are simply unable to effectively operate some buildings due to a lack of skilled labor.
In a future article, I will discuss remote operations, but before we get there, we need to ensure buildings are operating efficiently so that the existing operations staff is not overwhelmed.
Enter, modernized CC.
Today’s approach to CC is much different than it was in the past. The days of manually logging and validating every single functional test are largely disappearing. By utilizing analytical solutions on the market, consulting engineers can analyze existing sequencing and run mass-scale functional tests across entire campuses with relative ease.
Sure, there will still be the legacy control or pneumatics system that must be manually validated, but those are quickly becoming exceptions to the rule.
The question then becomes, how do you utilize CC? Here is a five-step plan that you can use to implement a CC practice within your business.
Step 1: Develop a Team
Prior to anything else, you need a team that can execute CC services. At a minimum, you need someone who has experience with CC (even if it’s the old pen-and-paper method). You also need people who can run the tests using the CC software (usually people with computer science or mechanical engineering backgrounds work well here).
Step 2: Design and Test an Approach
Next, you need to develop your approach. How will you implement your CC approach? Do not worry about the technology yet, that will come soon enough. Right now, you need to decide how will you gather information, who will gather it, and who will validate it? These are all questions you should be able to answer prior to ever even considering a technology solution.
Once your approach to CC and all associated processes are developed, you need to test these processes manually on a small job. The purpose behind this is to ensure that your organization is skilled enough and has bought into the processes prior to optimizing your approach.
Step 3: Select a Technology
I assume that now you are completely clear on your approach. If so, it’s time to pick two to three technologies to test your approach with. It’s imperative that you first develop your approach to CC and all associated processes. Only once this is done can you begin to consider technology. Remember, technology exists to speed up a good approach, not to make a bad approach good.
Step 4: Test Your Approach with Technology
Now that you’ve selected a technology or a couple of technologies, you need to test how these technologies work with your approach. Do you find yourself able to execute your CC approach more efficiently? Do you need to increase your team’s skillset in any specific area? Does the technology provide results that are at least monetarily equal to the cost of the technology?
Step 5: Sell the Service
Here you will finalize your CC solution by taking it to market. I recommend you focus on a vertical market segment that aligns with the tacit knowledge possessed by your practice. This will enable you to sell and deliver to a market segment you are known to and that you understand. This is one of the biggest areas I see companies fail at.
There you have it, a high-level look at how to implement a continuous commissioning practice. In next month’s article, I’ll look at how to implement a remote operations service. As always, if you have any questions do not hesitate to reach out to me.