By Shrinivas Chebbi, President ,Building Business, Schneider Electric
Without a doubt, managing energy costs while driving sustainability and efficiency is one of the biggest power management challenges that facility professionals face today. While advances in technology are making building power management and electrical maintenance more efficient, there are new obstacles that come along with these improvements.
For example, one of the biggest trends impacting power management in a facility is the growth of complex electrical networks that include distributed generation like solar, battery storage and backup generation, and voltage disturbances from harmonic emitting sources like variable frequency drives and LED lighting. In the past, every building was more or less designed in the same way from an electrical perspective with the main source of power coming directly from the electrical utility. Now, we have much more complex buildings that have different needs in terms of where they consume energy and also how they manage the different sources from where that energy is being distributed. This adds a layer of complexity for facility managers, because now they are not just a consumer of energy, but also a producer of energy, and have to manage those two different sources in parallel.
Additionally, the face of the facility manager is changing. Traditionally, a facility manager was someone who was an engineer and in many cases had been stationed in the same building for years. Now, we are seeing a shift in that profile as older workers retire and a new generation of facility managers emerge who may not know the ins and outs of a particular facility, but bring unique backgrounds and skill sets.
It’s also important to consider that a growing number of facilities are viewing electricity as a critical resource. Hospitals, for example, have always considered electricity as mission critical as the loss of power becomes a life safety issue, but now even facilities like shopping malls are viewing it with the same magnitude. If the building loses power and stores have to close, that outage can drive customers to competitor stores and significantly impact the bottom line.
Facility managers are continuously being challenged with how to address these forces of change and run their buildings more efficiently. To do this, they are increasingly relying on system integrators and support teams to help optimize electrical equipment and energy performance, improve electrical system reliability and manage energy costs. This means that systems integrators now need to be fully up to speed and knowledgeable on the latest electrical and energy system technology to deliver the best service for their clients. This can be a challenge for integrators who have spent years learning one set of products and technologies, and now need to quickly change direction.
To ensure they are up for the task, system integrators should focus on the following key tactics:
- Training. Conduct regular, specialized training on the most critical challenges facing building owners and facility managers and the solutions that can solve them. This will help system integrators broaden their expertise to offer their clients a greater range of products and solutions and help them stand out from the competition.
- Networking. Seek out an open network of fellow system integrators that promotes idea sharing and best practices implementation. With a built-in network of partners to work with, system integrators can more easily take on collaborative projects that might otherwise be beyond their reach and open up new opportunities for growth.
- Technology. Gain access to the industry-leading technology solutions that will drive the future of intelligent buildings – and the highly skilled people needed to design, install and support those solutions.
These days, facility managers need a full range of technologies and an army of experts to optimize operational efficiency and management of energy and electrical systems. Nobody can go it alone anymore. By partnering with a system integrator that’s constantly expanding their expertise and has the right partnership ecosystem in place, it will make the challenge at hand much easier for facility managers to tackle.