How many engineers does it take to optimize a lightbulb?

By Switch Automation • August 28, 2019

While smart building platforms tend to make the work of facilities managers (FM) and property managers easier, faster and more cost effective, little is discussed about the digital engineering these connected buildings require behind the scenes.

Not every smart building platform is the same – one industry leading solution requires approximately one building engineer for every five buildings, for example.

In some cases, the vast number of engineers attending to one portfolio create additional operational inefficiency while making direct communication between the customer and account manager more difficult. For platforms like this, it seems as if smart building technology risks replacing FM work with potentially more costly digital engineering work.

Do smart building platforms reduce an organization’s overall workload or simply complicate things, outsourcing responsibility from FM teams to expensive digital engineering teams? In this post, we explore the day-to-day routines of three Switch building performance engineers to demonstrate the scalability of their work, and how they create optimization opportunities that aren’t possible with a legacy FM approach.

Engineer profile #1: Jorde

Switch Project Analyst Jorde Ranum currently manages 60 retail stores on behalf of an internationally-renowned global tech company.

One of his key responsibilities is to deploy and manage logic and scheduling; and analyze alerts and equipment operation for all 60 stores’ HVAC and lighting. Whereas some traditional methods require complex software development to build rules and adjustments to manually create exceptions, site-by-site, Jorde can adjust lighting schedules to account for holiday operating hours across several stores all at once.

Use Switch Control to adjust heating, lighting and security systems settings for one building or across your entire portfolio directly from the Switch Platform.

The Switch Global Analytics Library enables Jorde and the customer team to deploy logic and scheduling at scale across a portfolio, or even share logic from one portfolio to another. Other smart building platforms require that analytics from other sites are manually copied and pasted to each new site. Furthermore, changes made to other sites require users to re-copy and paste to every site. The Switch Platform streamlines this process, allowing users to share logic and scheduling to a whole portfolio in one step.

Furthermore, when he discovers an optimization opportunity for one site, he can deploy the same system operational change across the entire portfolio, exponentially multiplying savings across the portfolio.

The simple ability to apply portfolio-wide schedule adjustments with the click of a button means that Jorde can do the work of many local FMs in an extremely efficient manner.

Engineer profile #2: Katie

Switch Building Performance Engineer Katie McGee works with Oxford Properties to facilitate continuous commissioning of 10 complex sites—each of which contain between 5,000 and 20,000 sensors across HVAC, lighting and energy metering.

When Katie identifies an opportunity at one or more site, she uses the Switch Events tool to denote her specific recommendations on how to optimize the performance of the systems and equipment to improve operating costs and energy efficiency. During her regular meetings with the onsite facilities team, she can reference the same rich data (via direct links) to review and update the details, such as photos of onsite equipment, via the Switch mobile app, or equipment specifications and sequence of operations. This real-time snapshot helps inform strategic next steps.

View and manage your team’s priorities with Switch Events.

Katie uncovers valuable opportunities, often across multiple sites simultaneously, for significant cost savings. This simply wouldn’t be possible for a traditional FM team and without visibility into building data.

Engineer profile #3: Tyler

Digital Engineer Tyler Benz handles the greatest volume of buildings—he analyzes utility, metering, and other data from 1,100 retail banking sites, 500 supermarkets and 650 co-working offices. His primary goal is to integrate, configure and tag large volumes of new sites and varied data sets for reporting, as quickly as possible. This enables our customers to clearly see comprehensive and accurate insight into the portfolio’s overall performance, highlighting which sites most urgently require maintenance and which are outperforming the others.

Tyler uses the Switch Platform to seamlessly integrate a huge variety of data sources, allowing for utility and work order data aggregation and analysis that requires significantly less work compared to traditional methods. This digital method represents the traditional work of hundreds of FMs, who historically had to submit reports for manual aggregation with substantial Excel files – all before they could even begin to analyze the data.

Access all your building and equipment data in one central, easy-to-use dashboard.

The Platform allows Tyler to sidestep this labor-intensive and slow process by making accurate and timely building performance data readily visible on the Platform.

Staying focused on Platform scalability and efficiency

The number of buildings that each Switch engineer can manage is, of course, contingent upon their role, project goals and the complexity of the sites. However, whether controlling 60 retail stores, managing ongoing commissioning for 10 commercial buildings, or analyzing general efficiency for 1,100 various buildings across portfolios, Switch engineers leverage data, batch-work and automation to scale their efforts every day.

The Switch Platform creates unique and valuable opportunities for monitoring, analysis, optimization and reporting not possible with a legacy FM methodology. Because the Platform tends to require far fewer engineers than other smart building solutions, customers tend to enjoy far greater autonomy and efficiency.

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