Evolving Power Management: A new breed of facility manager

By Kas Mohammed, BMS Business Manager at Schneider Electric

Technology is changing the face of building power management. Facility professionals now find themselves in an entirely new landscape: one that introduces greater efficiency, but also new and problematic obstacles. An optimised, efficient and well-maintained power management system is the ultimate goal.

Yet, in order to achieve this, the role of the facility professional is being forced to adjust. Managing energy costs while driving sustainability and efficiency has become the greatest power management challenge facility professionals face today.

A fresh challenge: the modern building

One of the biggest trends impacting power management in a facility is the expansion of complex electrical networks which include battery storage, solar and backup generation.

Not long ago, every building was more or less designed in the same way, with a predictable structure from an electrical perspective, as the main source of power would come directly from the electrical utility. By contrast, today’s modern buildings are far more complex and, therefore, have hugely different energy consumption and energy management and re-distribution needs.

It’s clear that today’s buildings cannot be managed in the same way. This adds a layer of complexity for facility managers, as buildings are no longer only energy consumers, but energy producers as well. The modern facility manager must handle these two very different tasks in parallel.

The evolving facility manager

Causing even more disruption to building power management is the new breed of facility manager. Engineers traditionally filled the position, and, in many cases, had been stationed in the same building for years. As this older generation retires, the modern facility manager is taking over. These new managers may not yet know the ins-and-outs of a particular facility, but they will bring unique backgrounds and skill sets.

Yet another change is that an increasing variety of facilities are viewing electricity as a critical resource. Facilities such as hospitals have always considered electricity as mission critical, as the loss of power can become a life-safety issue in these buildings. Now, however, even facilities like shopping malls are viewing electricity 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. In today’s highly competitive landscape, a setback like this can be ruinous and must be avoided by any means.

These forces of change are causing facility managers to continuously  reassess how they run their buildings and processes to ensure they are running as efficiently as possible. As a result, they are increasingly reliant on system integrators and support teams to help optimise electrical equipment and energy performance, improve electrical system reliability, and manage energy costs. This also has a knock-on effect on the role of systems integrators, who now need to be fully briefed on the latest electrical and energy system technology in to deliver the best service. This can be a challenge for integrators who have spent years building their knowledge around a particular set of products and technologies. They must now quickly change direction and evolve to meet the needs of this new landscape.

Optimising the systems integrator

In order to evolve to meet these new requirements, systems integrators should focus on the following key tactics.

First of all, training is obviously integral. Systems integrators should conduct regular, specialised training on the most critical challenges facing building owners and facility managers and the solutions that can solve them. This will help to broaden their expertise, meaning they can offer their clients a greater range of products and solutions and help them stand out from the competition. Regular training also means that they will be able to keep up-to-date with ever-changing technology and processes.

Networking should be another key focus for systems integrators. They should try to seek out an open network of fellow systems integrators to promote idea sharing and best practices implementation. With a built-in network of partners to work with, systems integrators can more easily take on collaborative projects that might otherwise be beyond their reach and open up new opportunities for growth.

Finally, it is important that systems integrators gain access to the industry-leading technologies that will drive the future of intelligent buildings. It is also necessary to network with the highly-skilled people who can design, install, and support those solutions, to ensure this new technology is being implemented and used correctly.

This new landscape means that no one can go it alone. In today’s modern buildings, the new facility manager needs a full range of technologies and a network of experts to optimise operational efficiency and the management of energy and electrical systems. It is now important for the facility manager to partner with a systems integrator, to constantly expand and share expertise. This will create the perfect partner ecosystem to tackle this challenging environment and overcome the obstacles presented by modern, intelligent buildings.