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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Where it's dark & damp
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    I'm a little curious how different controls companies are set up. In our area we are the only company that the guy in the feild that does the jobs handles all programming and set up of jobs. All the other competitors in the area have people in the office that do all programing and may actully never visit the job. They have start up "Techs" that drop the programs in and may do a little tuning. How do your offices handle jobs? Also the about 1/2 of are people in the BAS side are HVAC mechanics and may handle all the mechanical as well as control service in a building we have contracts for. What back ground do your BAS people come from and do your companies handle mechanical service as well? About 75% of the other controls contractors in our area are just that and do no mechanical service at all and may actually be a division of an elecrical contractor.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    We start with salesman getting the job first,

    Then it goes to the engineering dept the head engineer lays out the equipment controllers, valves, actuators and etc. for each application, then seperates the programming into supervisor and device level then appoints the people to write the programs and do graphics, control start-up techs dump the programs in on site. Check them against the prints (wiring and logic) and start them up,tweek and troubleshoot whichever comes first.

    The start-up techs are able to correct errors in programming and graphics, and rarely does an engineer need to visit the job.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    Our engineering dept. writes the sequence of operations and I program the hardware, start-up the eqipment with the mechanical contractor and/or start-up company, get the bugs out, tune the loops and provide the warranty service. I feel it makes myself a valuable piece of the puzzle by having the ability to write the software and perform the above mentioned duties, as well.
    Watch it, your company may soon start trying to save more money by farming out the programming to India!!!!!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    Since we are a mechanical contractor,we have a control guy that works with our estimating group to bid work and put together submitals. If we engineer the project either the controls project manager or the programmers will lay it out. We have guys who rough everything in and perform startup on the mechanical equipment, and a controls programmer to perform job setup. All of our controls guys have extensive mechanical backgrounds. It seems to help us to have the technical background first.

    Most of the companies in our area seem to have mechanical backgrounds, there are always a few exceptions. Not that its a bad thing.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by willf650
    I'm a little curious how different controls companies are set up. [QUOTE]

    Depends on the job.

    Smaller jobs, just a simple air handler or two, might well be engineered, planned, documents and schematics drawn up, programmed, tested and commissioned by a tech.

    Larger or more complex projects go to our engineering department. Who design the control scheme, do layouts, plan parts and materials. Create points sheets for each controller, draw up schematics, and make the initial draft copy of the programs.

    The time factor determines whether controllers actually get programs dumped into them at the shop, or on site. When possible (time being a factor) we like the engineering department to create that draft copy of the programs in the shop. And if it's something new and different (and a lot of the specs we get for new projects are different that what we've done before)pre-test it on the shop test bench. Where we have test controllers, assorted sensors and actuators, patch cord hookups, etc. Where one might simulate actual installation quickly and test sequence of operation to see if the "plan" will work.

    I like it when they have the time to do it. As in the field we get a more bug free program and wiring scheme. But they don't always have the time.

    Initial sets of graphics for the front end are done by our "graphics person". She's very good, very-very fast. A CAD and engineering graphics specialist. With specific training in the art. That is, she understands graphic arts, what color combinations are easy on the eyes, appealing, how to design a screen that maximizes information without being cluttered, how to make the most important things stand out without being obvious about it or making it distracting. And so forth.

    I've talked to our customers, they're very pleased with the screens. Clean, neat, and logical layout, easy to look at, immediately understandable, and consistant. Command and control buttons of like functions look alike, terminology for labeling is consistant. And there are little touches they like. Such as you can flip from screen to screeen fast and things like the "Next Screen" button are in exactly, to the pixel, same location and identical in font, color, and style. Little touches like that and attention to detail simply make the screens look more professional. Customers notice.

    We avoid fancy graphic screens and dazzling animations and special effects. Just takes up machine resources, slows things down, and only amuses the customer for the first week. For WORK purposes, they all seem to prefer neat, clean, simple, and professional. If they want to be impressed by fancy graphics, they switch to IE and browse the web for amusement.

    Parts and materials are shipped to the site and we have installers install the stuff. In our case, always electricians. Except for items where one meeds a pipefitter, in which case we send a pipefitter. We try to work with the same electricians as installers as often as possible. We have an "A" list. Electricians who've specialized in controls installations. And those guys know their stuff. But if we're really busy and have to use someone else, we'll have a tech go on site often and regularly to instruct them, show them the things they don't know, etc.

    Once enough items are ready, we send in an automation tech. In our case, about half are pipefitters, other half being electricians or electronics types who've had formal HVAC systems training and experience.

    Tech does a point by point, every last one of em, end to end test and check of all imputs and outputs. He does not ever assume that the wires hooked to the DAT input of a controller are IN FACT the wires going to the DAT sensor on the unit. He'll go to the sensor and disconnect wires, apply heat or cooling, or whatever the case may be so that he sees a change in values of the proper input on the controller. He also checks and calibrates or adjusts anything that requires calibration or adjustment. From mechanical linkages to CO2 sensors. Verifies power off, default positioning of valves and dampers. Observes them move thru full modulation, ensures the do full travel with no binding or other problems. Not just looking at screen of his laptop, he'll go to item moving and watch.

    This may sound time consuming. And it is, tho perhaps not so much as it might seem as the guys get pretty good at this and move right along.

    Then they inspect inital setup of controllers, min-max values, scaling, alarming setpoints, PID loop values, and so forth. Dump program into controller if it's not already been programmed.

    Then stands back, closes eyes tightly, grits teeth and pushes the Go-Go button.

    <G> Not really. He'll inspect motors and such make sure shipping bolts are out, belts on, etc. If we did not by the actual equipment being controlled he'll have someone from the mechanical contractor do first checkout and rollover. Otherwise he bumps motor, checks rotation, etc. Then hits the go-go button. (If VFD's are used and we bought em, he'll do start up checks and tests on those. We've got inhouse people certified by manufacturers for that, so they'll honor the warranty.)

    We have a mechanical department. If we installed mechanicals, mechanical department does normal and expected checkout and startup procedures of the mechanical side. Otherwise we wait til other mechanical company gets that done. Our controls department does controls for contracts our mechanical department gets the mechanical bid on. But we're also subbed by other mechanical companies who don't have their own automation people. Or sometimes bids go out written so there are separate contracts for the mechanical as versus automation work.

    Tech can and will tweak, adjust or sometimes even rewrite those pre-made programs. <Shrug> S*it Happens. A typo, brain fart, programmer in engineering didn't really understand how system was supposed to work, or the equipment put in wasn't what we expected and planned for. ie There are last minute changes.

    Tech runs program and machines thru their paces. Going down the line, line by line, guided by sequence of operation. Which he has a copy of. And verifies everything works as sequence (and good practice) calls for. Introduces faults and failures, fast load changes, sees how things respond and recover. Etc.

    Usually, but not always, somebody from engineering sets up front end computer, link to customer's network or whatever customer wants, installs software, creates points database, and installs graphics made up by our graphics gal. Makes sure everything seems to work okay.

    But after automation tech finishes equipment checkout, he then does same sort of checkout of that front end. Proper comms? Does he see all points? Points database accurate? Screens look okay? All navigation buttons work as they should? Are all points that are supposed to be on screen, on the screen? With valid values. Then point by point on screen after screen he verifies values look good, and that equipments turns on and off, opens and shuts, responds to setpoint changes, and that it appears all is well. To be sure of this, he of course needs to understand HVAC principles. It's his job to notice discrepencies. Values for air flows shown for RA, EA, OA, and SA all add up right? Temp changes seem reasonable and plausible? Whoa ! What do yah mean I've got 1300 ppm in the RA from that area? There is no one in that area and no equipment to produce such readings. Etc.

    That's why he's there, at that point. He'll see things a desk bound engineer won't. And see things the graphic gal wouldn't likely notice. Flaws in mechanical equipment itself, or in controls setpoints or sequences, etc. Or something like the other day when I was visiting a site. Customer complaining a room was too cold, but looking at screen everything seemed okay. Warm air coming from reheat box, in sufficient CFM. ???? Of course, I've BTDT before. I scanned other rooms and found a too cool one. Guy in there wasn't complaining. When I went to room it was hot, but guy liked hot. Ah HAH ! Not a wiring error. Graphics gal typo. When she'd linked point to graphic screen. Linked wrong points to wrong room.

    <Shrug> Stuff happens. New install,testing and commissioning tech hadn't yet got to checking front end screens. So I just made the changes myself.

    When tech in charge of a project is done. Last thing he does is make a backup of EVERYTHING. Front end stuff, and innards of all controllers. Which we archive at the office. That way we have an accurate copy of working system, after any changes he made. Almost always he has to make changes. Engineering tries hard, but they make mistakes. <Shrug> Who doesn't?

    Back at the office he archives the digital data. And then sits and updates drawings and schematics. Using marked up paper copies he had along on the job. Correcting those to make sure "As Builts" ... really are.

    After that, he notifies engineering. Who look on network drive to find tech's backups of system, and changed drawings and schematics. they bundle all up, make everything look nice, throw in autorun and menu proggie, add PDFs of all our documents and papers, cutsheets and data sheets for everything we put in, down to simple relays, and add PDF copies of tech manuals for controllers, copies of all software, copies of all graphics, etc. Burn to CDs. Which are given to the cutomer. Also an office gal actually prints em a few paper copies of an O&M manual.

    That's the way we do it.

    The general idea is to keep the automation tech in the field. And to do anything for him one can, to reduce the amount of time he spends on other stuff besides spending time making sure things work right, are adjusted right, and so forth. We feel his time is better spent finding that wiring fault, making sure motor is mounted correctly on large chiller water valve and moves in right direction with no binding, watching system fluctuations and tuning a PID loop or readjusting a reset value, and finally ... watching whole system in operation and looking for faults.

    Troubleshooting bugs and screwups, as versus doing a lot of what are really routine things that don't necessarily require his technical skills and knowledge.

    Geez, ever done 300 plus graphic screens for a project? I have. A pain. Can be fun for a bit, then gets boring as hell. Our graphics person likes that stuff. Hey, she can have it. Plus she can type and move a mouse faster than the eye can follow.

    And while our engineers are good at what they do. They aren't techs. I've seen many a time that they've looked at real operating equipment and not spotted a problem any experienced tech would notice in a moment. Heck I remember one occassion when we had one of the back office engineers on a site, he wanting to see what his plans looked like in person. So we were doing a tour. Most things up and operating. Then as we entered a machinery room the tech with us and myself perked up like old hound dogs sniffing the air. Engineer was puzzled when we stopped talking to him. And started to nose around. "You check that unit, I'll check this one..." and away we went. We found problem and fixed it. Engineer was puzzled. So were we, couldn't believe he couldn't hear what we'd heard. The continuous wind up and wind down of a motor. Which shouldn't be. Our only puzzle was identifying which one as room had over a dozen in it. But we both heard it plain and clear right away and instantly knew "That's not right."

    And that's my point. We try to use each person in an area that best fits their skills and knowledge.

    A little harder to do for a smaller company, of course. So it's quite understandable that another outfit may need to take a one man does it all approach.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    Similar sitch for my company, although I suspect that Osiyo, like me, works with single-source BAS vendor. Nothing wrong with it, as it allows for more defined job descriptions and less do-it-all types. My field startup/commissioning techs many times know more than the engineer or programmer, and to me are the most important people we have. We try to hire BSME or HVAC techs for startup, or promote an electrician/installer who has or wants to learn HVAC. We sub out most of the installs to 1 or 2 electrical co. that specialize in controls (important!), and have a few electricians and s/c techs that do the smaller jobs (ahus, boiler, HPs, etc). Have a few project managers that attend all the job meetings and keep engineer, programmer, tech informed. They manage most of the paperwork so our technical people can do what they do best. Has worked for us so far!

    [Edited by ps on 02-25-2005 at 02:09 PM]

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