Learnings from exhibiting and attending ASHE Conference 2017 in Indianapolis.
By: Allan Evora
Although we’ve worked with hospitals and Certified Healthcare Facilities Managers (CHFMs) for many years, this year was our first time attending the ASHE Conference (American Society for Healthcare Engineering Annual Conference). The questions and challenges we heard from attendees underlined some of the same topics our customers ask us to solve.
From the perspective of energy management, here are CHFM’s biggest obstacles...and how we can help facility owners and managers solve them.
1. An all-encompassing energy management system
We saw a very targeted interest in energy management, especially when it came to understanding how energy is used within a facility, under a single pane of glass system.
Some CHFMs are still using utility bills to manage their energy. One attendee asked me, “When we see the electric bill is higher than normal, I don’t know why. Did we leave a piece of equipment in override? Did someone make a change? I don’t have the capability to answer those questions.”
What these CHFMs are looking for is a comprehensive power management system. Among other features, this tool provides the ability to drill down to the cause of abnormal power bills. With the ability to examine and trend specific components within a healthcare facility, you can see what contributed to higher-than-normal usage.
2. More information about power quality
At this year’s ASHE conference, there was a lot of interest in power quality, especially how to understand why and how disturbances occur. With an aging electrical infrastructure, an influx in distributed generation, and differing types of loads within facilities potentially creating power quality problems, this doesn’t surprise me.
The root cause of sags, swells, and transients either come externally from poor utility power, or from equipment within the facility. CHFMs are extremely interested in installing meters at the service entrance that provide the basic information necessary to help determine if they need to take a closer look at how they operate their equipment…or whether they need to open a dialogue with the electric utility.
3. Automating fault detection and diagnostics
CHFMs want to know how to use automation for fault detection and diagnostics (FDD). The notion of FDD is not new, but it’s not heavily used in central energy plants.
FDD allows owners and operators to define the rules or conditions under which their facility should run. It injects smarts into the system that allows managers to detect abnormalities within the sequence of operation, instrument calibration, or instrument/sensor malfunctions.
Take this scenario as a perfect example of something FDD could detect:
- A/C system supply temperature = >75°
- Cooling coil valve = open
- Heating/cooling valve = closed
- Chilled water temperature = 45°
Obviously, there is a fault with this scenario. If I’m blowing air over 45° cooling water, it can’t be producing supplied A/C of 75°.
Several leading SCADA solutions have FDD capabilities that allow owners and operators to define the rules under which their facilities or equipment should operate. If rules are violated, it triggers an event that can then be used to initiate an action; for example, send an alert via text or email message, generate a report comparing settings to the previous day, or create a work order.
4. System justification
One recurring message from many healthcare facility managers is the challenge of justifying and getting the budget to implement solutions often viewed as "nice-to-have" vs. a necessity.
Facilities managers are often faced with a host of priorities necessary just to keep the facility running: equipment upgrades, training, overdue maintenance, etc. Power and energy management should not be considered a "nice to have". It’s the feedback mechanism that tells you whether a change you implemented is moving you in the right direction. Without it, you are running blind as far as power quality and energy management are concerned.
I attended a presentation where one owner expanded the scope of an ER expansion project to include a controls upgrade that provided tools his team had long been waiting for. While piggy-backing on a capital project is one way to go, I recommend the eating-the-elephant-one-bite-at-a-time approach.
Developing a plan that consists of several smaller plans minimizes the amount of initial investment needed to get started with an overall plan. It also allows you to demonstrate success to management, which sets the stage for even greater support in the future.
When it comes to your power quality and energy strategy, don’t be short sighted. For example, when installing a meter on the utility service, consider adding transient and sag/swell detection along with disturbance direction. Not only will you have a tool that allows you to view your interval data and shadow bill your utility, you’ll be able to identify the source and potential impact of electrical disturbances.
Lastly, remember to regularly review your plan. Circumstances, priorities, and costs change. You never know when an opportunity may come along, so be ready. A new capital project or unspent monies at year’s-end may allow you to present all or part of your power and energy plan and possibly get it funded. The early bird gets the worm.
5. Assistance addressing energy initiatives
When a healthcare CEO makes a bold energy initiative statement like, “We are going to reduce energy costs across the organization by 10% by 2020”, no one in the organization really knows what that means. Action plans on how to break that down into manageable pieces are rarely implemented. It’s not clear to most facility managers and operators what they need to do to meet that overall goal.
Maybe it means you'll negotiate a better electric rate (if that is even a possibility). Perhaps, you will try to drive your KW/ton on your chilled water system from 1 to 0.8. It may require behavioral changes in the organization or the introduction of renewable energy.
If you choose a way to accomplish the goal, you’re going to need a way to determine at all levels in the organization if you are moving the needle in the right direction. EPMS can be that gauge. EPMS software can measure metrics at all levels within an organization and help definitively determine if you’ll achieve the goals.
Allan D. Evora is a leading expert in control systems integration and president of Affinity Energy with over 20 years of industry experience working in every capacity of the power automation project life cycle. With a background at Boeing Company and General Electric, Allan made the decision to establish Affinity Energy in 2002. Allan is an alumnus of Syracuse University with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, graduate of the NC State Energy Management program, and qualified as a Certified Measurement & Verification Professional (CMVP).
Throughout his career, Allan has demonstrated his passion for providing solutions. In 1990, he developed FIRST (Fast InfraRed Signature Technique), a preliminary design software tool used to rapidly assess rotary craft infrared signatures. In 2008, Allan was the driving force behind the development of Affinity Energy's Utilitrend; a commercially available, cloud-based utility resource trending, tracking, and reporting software.
Allan has been instrumental on large scale integration projects for utilities, universities, airports, financial institutions, medical campus utility plants, and manufacturing corporations, and has worked with SCADA systems since the early ‘90s. A passion for data acquisition, specialty networks, and custom software drives him to incorporate openness, simplicity, and integrity into every design in which he is involved.