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  1. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by acjourneyman View Post
    Why not service techs, I have been a tech for 20 years and was a controls installer before that. I have seen plenty of different controls techs who know how to program(vaguely) but don't have a clue what they are programming.As a result, I have also seen equipment destroyed because of some 10.00 an hour programmer who is clueless on the mechanical side. I would take a seasoned service guy and train him over a grad school programming whiz anyday.
    But of course you would.

  2. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by acjourneyman View Post
    Why not service techs, I have been a tech for 20 years and was a controls installer before that. I have seen plenty of different controls techs who know how to program(vaguely) but don't have a clue what they are programming.As a result, I have also seen equipment destroyed because of some 10.00 an hour programmer who is clueless on the mechanical side. I would take a seasoned service guy and train him over a grad school programming whiz anyday.
    who ever put that 10 dollar an hour download boy in that position should be shot.
    and as a equal side note....how many "computer" problems are freon jocks ...not knowing how to troubleshoot their own stuff? Do they automatically become dumb as soon as they see a DDC controller in a unit?
    or do they do that all the time?

  3. #16
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    Controls Guys

    Some of the larger controls companys are finding its easier to teach us "freon jocks" the digital controls end of the business,than to teach the computer jocks HVAC.We actually know why things do what they do not what the book says.
    Freddie don't dis the "freon jocks" you would look funny with a 18" pipe wrench stuck in your forehead.

  4. #17
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    My Instrumentation Instructor/mentor complained about the college's hiring practice of hiring the degree not the man. Basically he said that a person can pick up the skills needed, the passion is something that they had to have already.

    I love how things work, like mechanical stuff, electronics, like making processes work. I was not the most polished of presenters but my students learned what I taught them in spite of my faults because I loved the stuff. Also I could relate tuning a process to tuning an electronic circuit, to tuning bass reflex speakers, to hot rodding cars. Much of what I taught is basic physics and it translates across disciplines.

    The reason I am bringing up students again is I got to see a lot of them and what makes some stand out. First off for the kind of work we do I like farm boys and auto mechanic types. Farm boys have a can do attitude, you learn that by not having someone to run to and fix your tractor's hydraulics or weld up your implement. Had one university student once that did not know how to adjust a crescent wrench when I asked him to tighten a nut. He could tell me all about who was going to win the hockey game on Saturday night though.

    Car guys who can take things apart and put them back together were great, but now car guys take the form of chip programmers, the one's that can swing a wrench are worth looking at.

    One problem that our local power company had was they would hire the brightest guys that went through our courses and found they did not stick around that long. They then started hiring guys with a lower GPA and found that they had a higher retention. Don't hire with stellar qualifications if you have nowhere for them to move up.

    Mainly you need someone with an inquisitive mind, someone that wants to know how things work.

  5. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by dodger454 View Post
    Some of the larger controls companys are finding its easier to teach us "freon jocks" the digital controls end of the business,than to teach the computer jocks HVAC.We actually know why things do what they do not what the book says.
    Freddie don't dis the "freon jocks" you would look funny with a 18" pipe wrench stuck in your forehead.
    Absolutely the better control techs come from the HVAC field. I have stated that many times. All I am saying is for every idiot/lazy control tech..there is a idiot/lazy phosgene sniffer.

    Yes I know JCI is one of those companies that has/is experimented with that idea, and is not fairing so well. Exceptions here and there, but for the most part a utter failure.

    as for the pipe wrench...if some loud mouth was disn' me and broke one out... they would soon find it up one of their familiar orifices.

  6. #19
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    I agree Freddy, there is some very stupid people in both aspects of the field. I am biased but work for Trane so had alot of chilled water and air side experience before moving into controls.If you are talking taking a guy from ma and pa refrigeration and making him a control guy than the journey might be a little longer.

  7. #20
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    I agree that no matter which side Control techs come from there are scrubs on both sides.I am bias to the mechanical side because a good HVAC mechanic knows why things operate they way they do because we had to repair the frozen coils,stuck dampers,and broken linkages,Generally the Controls only techs do not. This is not ment to dis anyone just my opinion.
    Yes the JCI thing did not work real well,I think they didn't fully decide what to do if a mechanical guy did pick up the controls end,and the UA really didn't push the issue down to the locals.Once you let the genie out of the bottle it's hard to put it back in,the bottle never opened up enough.

    Freddie nothing personel just a safety warning to steer clear of fitters on ladders

  8. #21
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    It really depends on what exactly you expect of your control technicians/engineers. With the current trend moving towards unified facility automation the skill set required is ever broadening. Many systems are not just HVAC controls anymore, they incorporate access control, security, life safety, and sophisticated interfaces with traditional enterprise systems (billing, auditing, etc..). I know this is hvac-talk.com but I see many of the contractors that routinely bid and work at our location also moving to provide these solutions.

    Does the individual only need to be able to do control work or do they need to be able to install/program the controls and set up a SOAP client to query a particular set of data for analysis? Just an example but my point is: I think at some point in the future a strong understanding of both fields will be necessary. Someone who has worked years as an HVAC technician is normally going to possess a greater understanding of HVAC than someone who's worked exclusively in the IT/CS field but I'd argue the reverse is also true.

  9. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by printer2 View Post
    Basically industrial versions of our DDC systems, measuring pressure, temperature, flow, controlling flow, speed drives, motor control, loop tuning, calibration, designing HMI interfaces...

    http://me.rrc.mb.ca/catalogue/Course...RegionCode=WPG

    Maybe you have similar programs in the US.
    Yes, there are similar programs in the U.S. Under varying names since there seems to be no consensus among the educational institutions as to what to call them. In addition, from program to program (school to school) there tends to be some variation in emphasis as to exactly what part of the general industrial controls field the student is focusing upon.

    However, in general, all pretty much teach the same basics. Basic machine technology (gears, levers, fluid flow, heat transfer, etc), pneumatics, hydraulics, the core science of how various mechanical equipment and process control systems work, sensors and actuators of all types, the basic gas laws, electrical power and control systems, analog and digital electronics, how programmable logic controllers work and how to program them, basic control networking, usually some form of generic computer programming such as C++, how to use basic office software such as the various parts of MS Office, so forth and so on.

    Is it HVAC specific? Nope, not usually. But is it any great leap for a fellow to take to go from an industrial controls education and experience into HVAC control ... nope. Not really. All the basic knowledge is there, the new learning is just a matter of details.

    For instance I came from a non-HVAC background originally. Was a steam power specialist, working on a ship. Formally schooled for that. Boilers, turbines, pumps, compressors, valves, heat exchangers, etc of almost every type and description one could name. And the power and control systems for such.

    Then one day I was talking to a fellow who ran the ship's HVACR shop, and he was hard up for manpower. Shorthanded and needed some occasional help. I was willing, and arrangements were made for me to spend part of my time helping him out.

    With my previous background and education, it was nothing for me to understand the basic refrigeration cycle. And the differences in exact equipment design and materials ... and why there were such ... took no particular effort for me to learn and understand. I already knew the basic science and principles involved. At first I bird dogged him as a helper, for a couple weeks. He explained stuff as we worked. After that I was mostly on my own, and could handle 90% of the trouble calls I got. And knew when I didn't know enough and needed to ask for help. Within a year, keeping in mind I only spent approx half my working time helping out the HVACR shop, I was the lead in charge of overhauling a 150 ton centrifugal unit, including a change out and modification of its controls.

    Later I applied for and was accepted into the Navy's AC&R school and completed it. Didn't actually need that school. Didn't learn much I didn't already know by that time. But, I wanted to have that diploma to hang on my wall, along with the others. It impresses other folks.

    My only point is, the basics are the basics. If one has adequate skills in the needed math; an understanding of the basic gas laws, thermodynamics, fluid flow, etc; a knowledge of the various types, design considerations (plus why), and application of pumps, valves, heat exchangers, compressors, etc; plus adequate knowledge of electrical power and control systems; and so forth ... it isn't gonna be any great leap or difficulty in one learning HVAC specific stuff.

    Computer skills, an understanding of the basic principles of programming, and the basics of control networks and protocols are part of most Instrumentation/Industrial Controls programs these days.

    So, Yeah, a lot of graduates of said courses wouldn't have any difficulty in quickly learning BAS specific knowledge, or reading through Honeywell's Gray Manual and understanding what they're reading, or reading through a HVAC manufacturer's tech manual and understanding what's said in there. Would they have to learn some things new to them? Yep, but not a lot, and they'd likely have the educational background to understand the material.

    As I mentioned in another post, we used to have a guy we hired as a controls tech right after he graduated an industrial controls course. He had learning to do, but it was no problem, he picked things up VERY quickly as he had the educational background to understand what he was being told or was reading. Now, would I have sent him out to hands on repair a chiller? Nope, no way. He didn't have the field experience and the kinds of knowledge and skills one only learns by hands on doing to be trusted with that. But he had no problem reading through a manufacturer's manual and not only understanding the warnings, cautions, and required sequences but also the "Why's", and could read and understand the electrical schematics as well as anyone.

    Amongst our customers are a number of businesses which employ industrial/process technicians (or Instrumentation types). And I often find them very knowledgeable about the in-house HVAC equipment. And what they don't know, they tend to pick up very rapidly when you explain it.

    Chuckle, with one customer in particular I was having trouble explaining to upper management just exactly why we were setting up things to operate a certain way, as versus EXACTLY how they wanted it to work. A manufacturing place, with mostly automated machinery. The differences we had about exactly how the control sequence was to go were small, but a real sticking point as the management guys were quite set in there minds about it. Finally, the senior fellow, who runs the company, called for his lead industrial controls tech and said I should explain my reasoning to him. So we went off and had a chat. Which went well as this guy actually understood machinery, heat transfer, etc. After our talk he went back and told that management team that I was correct and my way was the better choice.

    They didn't even bother to quiz him much. After all, he was one of their own, and their best tech, so they simply accepted him at his word.

    My general impression and experience is that industrial controls types (and industrial instrumentation types) would make very good candidates for becoming BAS controls techs.

    I'm not even going to get into the debate about HVAC service types or HVAC mechanics getting into controls as versus some other profession getting into controls.

    To me, it depends upon the person, his past experiences, his aptitude for dealing with the specific sorts of knowledge and requirements a BAS controls tech has to face, and so forth.

    Dealing with BAS controls is a never ending learning process. There is no such thing as some school or trade course which will teach you everything you need to know. And often times what they taught you yesterday, is obsolete before you wear out those brand new Red Wing work boots you bought the day you graduated that course.
    A site where I stash some stuff that might be interesting to some folks.
    http://cid-0554c074ec47c396.office.l...e.aspx/.Public

  10. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by D1G View Post
    Does the individual only need to be able to do control work or do they need to be able to install/program the controls and set up a SOAP client to query a particular set of data for analysis? Just an example but my point is: I think at some point in the future a strong understanding of both fields will be necessary. Someone who has worked years as an HVAC technician is normally going to possess a greater understanding of HVAC than someone who's worked exclusively in the IT/CS field but I'd argue the reverse is also true.
    True enough.

    Chuckle, I got quizzed by a fellow worker not long ago about "What the heck is an SQL query?". He was reading through the specs of a job. I gave him a brief explanation, but also told him not to worry about it as that part of the job would be done by someone else.

    Personally, I don't know of anyone within the BAS controls field that knows everything one might need to know to fulfill all customer requirements and expectations.

    I do know some folks who THINK they know it all. But they're mistaken.

    Where I work, most of the controls techs adequately know and understand most of the stuff they'll have to deal with. But one of the reasons we try to have a diversity of backgrounds amongst our staff (techs and engineers) is to be able to deal with the kinds of things of which you speak.

    We make an effort to ensure that everyone is aware of the different backgrounds and specialties held. And everyone is encouraged to use that knowledge. That is, when you're in over your head, yah call the guy who is most likely to know, and let him deal with that aspect of the job.

    One tries to learn the essentials about everything, but its not really possible to be expert in everything.

    One of our controls engineers, at least that's what we call him, is an ex-IT guy. Complete with a computer science degree and years of experience in that field. He's also learned HVAC systems, and can handle such as long as things don't get too darn technical. When a project he designed and laid out gets installed and tested, its quite common for the controls tech to find an Oops, or something he missed, or some control sequence that's simply not gonna work given the equipment present, and so forth. No big deal. Controls tech simply makes the changes needed in the field.

    But when it comes to advanced knowledge of networks, setting up complex databases and reports, and so forth ... he's our Goto guy. He's forgotten more about such subjects than most of us will ever know.

    Same goes for one of our controls techs who used to be one of those Cat5 guys some fellow mentioned in another post. Ditto, another controls tech who used to be a fire, security, and access control specialist.

    I am myself called upon regularly to assist others. Some of our HVAC service types turned controls techs know more about some aspects of HVAC systems that I'm not just all that strong in; specifically large chillers, cooling towers, and ice farms. But, OTOH, given my background if they're having an issue that is electronic in nature ... or might be, or deals with specialized sensors such as the various hazardous gas sensors, interfacing with PLCs or some proprietary custom control system, or some piece of equipment they're simply not familiar with (fume hoods are a recent case, but I'm also experienced with card access systems, fire panels, etc), I get a call for assistance. I'm also more experienced and have a past background in general computer programming, data networks, configuring OS stuff on desktops and laptops, and troubleshooting desktops and laptops.

    Likewise, we have a guy whose primary specialty is programming. Used to be a programmer by trade. Got into HVAC and BAS field way back when, worked for one of the BAS controls manufacturers back when all this stuff was being developed.

    All of us can do programming. But if its a particularly difficult problem, it gets handed off to this guy. If he can't figure it out, I don't know who would. We have one equipment manufacturer we deal with who has him on their speed dial, and they often quiz him for answers they've not been able to figure out.

    Chuckle, we deal in Niagara based devices, as well as other systems. Both under the Tridium name and others. I'm not myself certified, probably never will be as its unlikely the company will pay the expense of sending me to the required course. Which is okay. In what I do, I'm unlikely to ever be required to do an initial install, licensing, configuration, etc. All I really need to be able to do is be able to make adjustments, changes, an occasional addition, etc. And most of that I've been able to figure out on my own. With an occasional call made for help. But not often, the basics aren't just all that hard to figure out.

    Now we have some certified and experienced types on those systems. But even so, they routinely run into some problem or requirement they need help with. And I know that they have another fellow on their speed dial. That fellow is an employee of one of our customers. An IT type by profession. We did the original install of said device on their premises. But since then he's gotten into it and started learning it. And trust me, this guy is sharp. In short order he surpassed anything the manufacturer's classes teach, and passed beyond what anyone else we've ever run across knows. Nowadays, our Niagara specialists give this a guy a call before they bother with checking other sources.

    Yep, we've tried to hire him away. But he likes it where he's at.
    A site where I stash some stuff that might be interesting to some folks.
    http://cid-0554c074ec47c396.office.l...e.aspx/.Public

  11. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by viceman View Post
    a lot of techs want to get into controls. they think it would be great to just sit in front of the computer. i give them the grey manual on cd and tell them to read it and then we'll talk. i usually don't hear from them again.
    I totally agree. Gave a basic class last year to our service techs, so they could diagnose a little easier whether or not the problem is controls or mechanical. I until then got teased a quite a bit about how all we do is point and click and its so easy. Gave the class and the grey manual on disk as a handout, I have not heard 1 word of how easy my job is since.
    "It's always controls"

  12. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by freddy-b View Post
    Absolutely the better control techs come from the HVAC field.
    YEP

    I was a helper going to school for computer programming (called IT with programming in c++at that time), after many classes and certifications and years working in hvac I stayed in the hvac service field as an hvac service tech and moved into controls. I could not imagine trying to set up hvac systems without hvac knowledge nor would I want to program without programming knowledge, the beauty of hvac controls is that it is both.
    "It's always controls"

  13. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by skwsproul View Post
    I totally agree. Gave a basic class last year to our service techs, so they could diagnose a little easier whether or not the problem is controls or mechanical. I until then got teased a quite a bit about how all we do is point and click and its so easy. Gave the class and the grey manual on disk as a handout, I have not heard 1 word of how easy my job is since.
    LOL .... I've seen it both ways.

    Giving a bit of training to mechanical types. In one case in particular it was very amusing because the training session included a fellow I'd worked with on some projects who had a habit of commenting, "Must be nice, just sitting or standing there typing on a keyboard, and collecting a fat paycheck for it." Or similar phrases to the same effect. Repeatedly, and often.

    Where I work, occasionally if they have an interested mechanical type they'll send him out into the field with me as a helper, so he can get a feel for what I really do, and to start learning the basics. Then if things work out, he shows aptitude AND is still interested, they'll give him a shot at turning into a controls tech.

    In this fellow's case, no doubt in my mind that he was bright enough. Very sharp guy. But by the end of a week of bird dogging me, having me explain things, trying to read through some literature I sent home with him, etc ... he'd had it. Told me all the stuff he was trying to absorb was making his head hurt. I think the final straw, the one that broke the camel's back, was the day I had a problem with one piece of equipment. First had to determine if it was a hardware or software problem. It was the sort of problem that meant that particular chore took a couple hours to verify beyond any doubt. It was software. A custom program pre-written back in the shop by someone else. I had the source code. And with him looking over my shoulder, and my explaining things as I did them, I first ascertained exactly what the program author was trying to do and how. And then started bug hunting. I was explaining the code, what each section was doing, as I did my thing. Took much of the rest of the day to find out what was wrong. A pretty simple and easy to make Oops. A one minute fix after I found, and recognized, the error. Just took a while to find it.

    But, no big deal. One of those routine things. Same guy had made precisely the same logical error in numerous other similar programs for that job. The others would take merely moments to correct now that I knew what the error was. Heck, I'd made the same sort of error myself, a time or a hundred.

    But my helper looked like he wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else, than with me at that moment, trying to understand both the error and my fix. The error was nothing more than a data type mismatch. Which caused a formula to operate upon a value that was SUPPOSED to be something like "72.0", as if it were "7.2".

    After I found and fixed the problem, we stepped out to have a cup of coffee, as I'd skipped lunch while focused on my bug hunt. My partner looked at me and commented, "Yah know, I think I could probably learn this stuff ... but I don't know that I want to. You just spent hours looking through what looked to me like total gibberish, looking for what turned out to be a tiny, tiny little error. I got a headache and my eyes crossed just looking over your shoulder. Does that sort of thing happen often?"

    I told him that it wasn't OFTEN, the guy who did the program was very good, better than I. But everyone makes mistakes, and it was a routine part of the job. And it was pretty common for me, and others who did the same job, to spend hours at home after work debugging some code. Or creating a piece of new code to fulfill a one of a kind unique requirement. Or pouring through manuals, cutsheets, specs, and whatnot to figure out either why this or that wasn't working as it should, or how to implement a required sequence, or whatever.

    The following week he decided to call it quits and went back to his regular job.

    Have had the same experience with other trade types. The folks for whom I work also do regular electrical, fire systems, door access control, security systems, etc. A few times I've been assigned a low voltage type; fire system guy, security system type, or combo type. Who thought he wanted to get into the BAS controls world. All of whom had some programming and computer experience. But the nature of their work is such that program sequences are mostly Boolean/digital in nature. That is, On-Off, True-False. Etc. Were usually all hepped up ready to jump in with both feet. Until their relay logic minds got introduced to an analog, modulating world.

    Add, I'd give em a copy of the Honeywell Gray Book and tell em to read through, lightly and briefly, it just to get the idea of some of the things we'd be doing, and why.

    Most didn't last but a few days before they changed their minds and decided to go back to their original specialty.

    Regardless of past trade; HVAC, electrical, IT, or whatever; it takes a person with a particular mindset to get into and stick with BAS controls long enough to become reasonably proficient. You can't really be the type who has to have his/her hand held, who is disinclined to to burn some midnight oil on your own dime, who needs everything laid out in black and write as to how to do this or that or what you may or may not do. You really need both patience and shear persistence. Be able to pay a lot of attention to seemingly insignificant details. Understand and be able to live with the fact that this sort of job is a constant learning experience, and if you don't keep learning you're gonna be obsolete REAL QUICK. And you've got to have an inquisitive mind. Because to be effective you're gonna need to learn some essential basic principles of what are normally considered several different trades or career fields.
    A site where I stash some stuff that might be interesting to some folks.
    http://cid-0554c074ec47c396.office.l...e.aspx/.Public

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