January 2021
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Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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Data Driven Outcomes with Workflow Automation


 Tim Cramer, Director of Solution Consulting, Key2Act

EMAIL INTERVIEWTim Cramer, Director of Solution Consulting, Key2Act & Ken Sinclair



            

Data Driven Outcomes with Workflow Automation

Act on the building analytics outcomes with automated service request management.

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Control Solutions, Inc

timTim Cramer Director of Solution Consulting Key2Act


10+ years in HVAC/BAS as a Property Manager (22 buildings), and BAS Service Operations Manager (over 1,500 buildings – commercial, retail, residential)  Currently leading pre-sales consulting for a new smart building ecosystem SaaS offering

Sinclair: Tell me about the Building Optimization Broker (BOB) vision.

Cramer: The BOB platform is based around a concept of “Mastering the Smart Building Ecosystem”.  We are focused on utilizing the data available from building automation systems and interconnecting that with the service workflow to drive service actions.  The key differentiator for Key2Act is that we’re a service first company, not an analytics first company.  We have been delivering service management tools with our Signature field service offerings for decades, and we have approached the problem from that angle.  Everything we do is framed by the question “How does this best facilitate action for a service business?”

Sinclair: What is a Smart Building Ecosystem?

Cramer: Data analytics are certainly a part of what we call “The Smart Building Ecosystem”, but it’s not the complete picture.  The Smart Building Ecosystem, as we have defined it, is a combination of the many people, processes, and technologies that support a smart building.  This ecosystem includes the facility staff and automation systems embedded in the facility, as well as the service teams, and service and business management tools that service companies rely on to appropriately maintain those facilities.  In most buildings, this becomes a tangled mess, where access to automation systems is either limited or fragmented. Additionally, facility and service teams try to exchange information manually through tickets, emails, and phone calls, often missing key details that can slow down or derail the service process and prevent appropriate or timely resolutions to maintenance issues. Once issues are resolved, it can be difficult to close the loop and communicate or meaningfully demonstrate how the issues were properly resolved.  There’s often a “wait and see” approach to the issue resolution. We hope the issue was truly resolved, until it recurs, and we go through the process all over again.

Data analytics has also earned a bit of a bad reputation in the industry with many seeing it as an unfulfilled promise.  The main problem with many data analytics systems today is that it they can be too focused on compiling the building data and information, and not focused enough on using the data to drive action.  To really drive service from the data in a more meaningful way, we must go beyond just data analytics into true data driven maintenance.

Sinclair: So how does BOB go beyond data analytics into Data Driven Maintenance?

Cramer: A big challenge in the industry today is that we have these analytical tools that mine for opportunities, but then the opportunities end up siloed within those tools.  A user typically must manually evaluate those opportunities, and then physically copy them into some kind of service management and dispatching software.  And it is in those manual gaps where things break down and fall through the cracks.  Information isn’t always transferred or transferred accurately, issues are overlooked, and although the data analytics tool is performing well, the service delivery falters. 

With Key2Act’s Building Optimization Broker (BOB) platform, we have both the analytical tools to identify the key problems that our clients want to be aware of, as well as an open API and built-in integration to our Signature field service platform to automatically kick off service requests that contain the information generated by the analytics.  The service workflow can then be executed in a more seamless way, always linked back to the data and insights that generated the service request.  This gives our clients an unprecedented continuous workflow from data ingest and analysis all the way through to the boots on the ground service delivery.  And it saves teams time having to copy and paste information from one location to another to keep disparate systems in sync.  The other advantage is that by unifying the service workflow in this way, a user can see all the relevant data from a single dashboard that helps them truly understand what all is happening in the service business at any given time. 

Anyone who has worked with a fault detection system has encountered the situation where a fault is generated for a problem that already has a service call, or a technician is already on site to address.  And time is wasted switching between systems to connect the dots and realize the redundancy.  But when the systems talk to each other intelligently and the user can see all of these data points together, less time is wasted, and corrective actions can be made more efficiently.

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Sinclair: How does the Building Optimization Broker (BOB) handle the disparity of data sources and tie them all together in a unified way?

Cramer: The biggest challenges in integration often comes down to the extraction of building data from the building automation systems (BAS).  As you know, automation systems come in many different protocols both open and closed.  BOB focuses on BACnet IP and oBIX protocols for integration, with both being widely available and compatible.  Once we’ve connected to the automation systems, we then allow users to take an inventory of the data and decide what they want to capture.  At this point, its all still raw BAS data which can be highly fragmented in its form.  So, we give users the ability to model the data using the power of our Architect capabilities to normalize the BAS sensor data using an intuitive semantic model.  Instead of trying to get users to adopt complicated tagging systems, we allow them to select from a prefilled list of “types” that correspond with the real world meaning behind the BAS devices and objects.  This approach allows users to model data in a way that is familiar to them and the way they talk internally. Once modeled, the rules and reports are all built around those types, making it easy to quickly scale in adding new buildings based on reusable rules and reports that are built upon the normalized data.

Sinclair: How does the mastering the smart building vision differ from other businesses?

Cramer: Our primary differentiator is the integrated, service first focus we bring to our products.  We know that there are many solutions out there that do a tremendous job of any one aspect of this Smart Building Ecosystem.  What’s missing is the ability to pull them all together and view them in a user-friendly way.  It’s like in team sports: the team that has the best players doesn’t always win, it’s the team that works together the best that achieves the most success.  We look at technology the same way.  You can have the best service management system, the best analytics system, the best BAS, but if those things can’t work together, you can still fail.   Our team is powered by many highly experienced domain experts in field service and building optimization are very familiar with all the pain points inherent in that space.  With BOB, our focus is not just the technology, but rather the user experience that makes the utilization of that technology simpler and more unified. BOB masters the smart building ecosystem by empowering your building teams to do more and fight with technology less.

 

Sinclair: How can I learn more about the Building Optimization Broker (BOB)?

Cramer: Discover how BOB can help you master your smart building ecosystem in some fun and entertaining Meet BOB videos that are less than 2 mins. You’ll experience everything from how we integrate BAS data, normalize the data, apply reusable rules and reporting along with taking service action by visiting our website at www.k2a.com/bob. Or, if you want a deeper dive schedule a demo to Meet BOB.





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