The essential extra
Investing in benefitting from the services of a maintenance bureau can quickly bring significant rewards, says Marc Harrison of BG Energy Solutions.
It’s well documented that performing ad-hoc maintenance can lead to unexpected costs, while poorly-functioning equipment can drive up energy bills and CO2 emissions. This is why increasing numbers of commercial operations of all sizes are turning to bureau services as a cost effective way of leveraging maximum gain from their BMS installations. In short, putting in place an expertly-managed BMS maintenance programme eliminates unforeseen costs and ensures peace of mind.
A correctly and regularly maintained BMS can minimise running costs, energy consumption and the pollution associated with energy use. It can also ensure the ongoing comfort of building users and limit excessive wear and tear on building systems and plant.
A well-structured maintenance provider should be able to offer contracts and remote bureau subscriptions that are tailored to customer requirements, as the Vue Multiplex chain of cinemas can testify.
At Vue, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning form a vital part of delivering a comfortable and enjoyable environment for visitors. The maintenance bureau of BG Energy Solutions is enabling more than 80 Vue cinemas to be remotely managed and maintained by the company’s trained engineers. This means that Vue benefits from proactive supervision, hotline advice and technical expertise, without the need for costly engineer call-outs or on-site disruption.
From a communications perspective, the Vue sites operate using an integrated system, which is based on the open protocol, native BACnet technology. A typical set-up sees a master controller connect each on-site system to multiple sub-controllers within the screens and public areas. By deploying BACnet protocols over a corporate wide-area network (WAN) on standard IT equipment, each Vue site can be remotely monitored from the central bureau.
Driving efficiencies even further, each venue can send an occupancy report which the bureau inputs automatically and downloads into the control system at each site. This enables technicians to program the building controls for every auditorium and public area. As a result, energy is only used when necessary and not wasted on unoccupied space.
Cinema/theatre clients typically receive a financial return of two to four times their annual investment with the bureau, which is above and beyond a simple automated solution.
Of course, service plans are flexible and can include site visits if required, as can be seen at Leek-based Adams Foods, one of the UK’s largest suppliers of pre-packed hard cheese. The company is using bureau services from BG Energy Solutions to support its Trend BMS.
‘Our plan embraces an emergency call-out service that spans 364 days a year and a service maintenance contract covering 16 annual visits,’ explains Keith Wilson, facilities manager at Adams Foods. ‘The visits equate to one every month, leaving four “spare” days which can be allocated to fit our project requirements as they change throughout the year.’
Service plans can include a number of different options to best suit business requirements. For instance, a reputable maintenance provider should be able to offer these key services.
• Prompt call-outs from experienced engineers, along with telephone/IP support.
• Pre-planned maintenance dates with early diagnosis of potential points of failure.
• Preferential hourly rates and discounted spare parts.
• Proactive visits to identify potential for energy savings and advantageous upgrades.
• Comprehensive engineer’s reports.
When selecting a maintenance bureau service, businesses should always check a few basics. For instance, ensure the service covers seven days a week, not five, and that the rate of remote fault/issue resolution is high (no one likes call-out charges). It’s also worth finding out which BMS front ends are supported — a wide range indicates good industry expertise and protects against future changes of BMS.
There’s little doubt that outside expertise can be the key to maximising previously unrealised maintenance and energy savings from a BMS. Importantly, this support is not just about having a service contract and receiving routine maintenance, it’s about sharing knowledge (typically through training days) and helping bureau users better understand their BMS, particularly regarding usage and maintenance.
A bureau service can also be of enormous assistance to on-site engineers.
A case in point is where heating or cooling valve actuators fail to operate in accordance with BMS instructions. Stuck valves can be problematic as a temperature difference of just 1 K out of synch with the BMS can result in 10% excess energy use. Such a fault may be difficult to isolate on site but would show up on remote diagnosis.
Other common faults involve engineers manually over-riding switches to turn on heaters for example. These are easily forgotten and are frequently left on for extended periods. A bureau can set up alarms to monitor and address such situations.
At sites not monitored by a bureau, 75% of maintenance-related issues will result in calling out the mechanical contractor. A bureau not only negates this cost through engineer call-out prevention, but can also submit weekly reports to all associated maintenance subcontractors and site regional managers. This ensures ongoing communication and efficiency between all parties and the smooth operation of every site.
Using a bureau overwhelmingly pays for itself. Problems can be remedied swiftly and issues identified before they become failures. Over 98% of those using a bureau service for the first time renew year-on-year — a statistic that speaks for itself.
Marc Harrison is bureau manager at BG Energy Solutions