May 2022

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The New Professional Service for Buildings...

MSIs lead building digital systems design, they tear apart every computerized control component utilized and help make project decisions.

 Scott Cochrane, President & CEO,

 Cochrane Supply & Engineering

 Contributing Editor


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When you build a building there are educated, degreed, certified, professional services required, like a lawyer to put together the contracts or an architect who designs the building. Each requires specific knowledge of important aspects within construction and maintenance industries. As a professional service they spend large amounts of their time consulting, getting to know their clients and becoming a part of the team is important to their success. The deliverables they bring to the project can range from contracts, drawings, or specifications, but a good chunk of their time is dedicated to consultation and DECISION MAKING.

And along comes the Master Systems Integrator (MSI). The MSI is a contractor! They integrate everything. They are a Temp Control company on steroids. Are we sure?

Recently I had the opportunity to interview MSIs at both AHR education sessions in Las Vegas, NV (view here) and at the Niagara Summit in Charlotte, NC and the discussions have me really rethinking what an MSI is. Of course, they provide the software platform, graphics, data, analytics as a deliverable with incredible interfaces that optimize everything from energy to operations, to tenant experience, to new ideas every day, BUT that’s not all they do. Their deliverables come as a result of their relationship with the building owner and how together they accomplish the project/owners digital building control goals.

MSIs lead building digital systems design, they tear apart every computerized control component utilized and help make project decisions. Keep that, drop those, add this protocol to that system, we will integrate all of it. An MSI has expert knowledge and experience integrating mechanical and electrical control systems. They have mastered the technology needed and can help save huge avoidance costs by managing what other contractors are putting in by getting rid of unneeded controls, gateways, software, not to mention computers that are not needed in the system but provided in typical designs. These direct savings can add up quick and indirect savings in having consistent direction for technology choices. Not having to shop for every system's software and combined use of networks, the savings keep piling on.

MSIs coordinate & collaborate between all the stake holders to ensure the digital results they are hired to provide. As MSI Sid Blomberg of K & S Ventures described at the Niagara Summit, “It’s like herding cats!” A key function for the MSI is coordination, usually through education between owners' maintenance, construction and IT teams answering questions, explaining technology choices, and developing cyber security plans for maintenance in collaboration with IT. The MSI can be the intermediate between departments within the owners’ business and can help each group to understand each other and how to accomplish their joint goals. I have even heard of MSIs forcing change in business IT policy to accommodate the ever-growing IP connected device acceptance and how owners’ networks need to evolve if they plan to put them on their managed networks. The value to the owner is exponential when it’s a good relationship with success usually means the MSI continues to service the building owner for years.

Often, owners ask for ROI from an MSI for their services and while that’s like asking a consulting engineer the same question. The real return comes from the consultation resulting in huge avoidance costs with better technology collaboration that lowers the large direct costs and time commitment required to stand up 10 software platforms instead of one. Savings, YES! We have MSIs who have documented millions in savings on a large-scale integration. Justifiable – Absolutely! Owners know it and MSIs are in huge demand because of the financial successes from this new method.

There are no direct degrees or certifications for people and companies that do MSI work. As the industry develops and we look at the successful MSIs there are many unique skills, degrees, and certifications from multiple fields that make them great. For instance, having Mechanical Electrical Engineers working with Full Stack educated computer science majors is pretty common in these companies. It’s the combination of skills and experience that really creates the magic an MSI can bring to a project.

When I asked the panel of MSIs at the Niagara Summit “How much of your time is consulting vs. delivered software platform development?” The answer was interesting. MSI Jerry Gray from Enterprise Controls mentioned, “80% of our total time on some projects is used for consulting and educating the owners.” Jerry, Sid and all the MSIs I’ve interviewed agreed that consultation and partnership with the owner is a huge key to a successful MSI business just like every other professional service within the building industry.



The conversation continues at the upcoming IBCON Conference during the not to be missed “PRECON: Smart Building Integrators Summit” on June 14 at the Orange County Convention Center located in Orlando, FL. More discussions on the MSI and other industry related topics will be taking place all day. The main expo will take place June 15-16 where Cochrane Supply& Engineering will be exhibiting and taking part in multiple sessions throughout the conference. Don’t miss your chance to become a part of the MSI evolution. Registered to attend IBCON here:





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