Cloud Architecture Lends Helping Hand to Advancement in the Construction Industry
MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions makes buildings work better. The Seattle-based contractor not only designs and builds energy-efficient buildings, but it also ensures that they stay that way through post-build optimization services by shaking up the tradition-bound construction industry. Using Internet of Things and data analytics technologies, MacDonald-Miller helps customers build energy-efficient buildings and keep them operating at peak efficiency.
When one looks across the construction landscape, there really hasn’t been a lot of change for 50 years. Even with most smart buildings, all their different moving parts—heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, security systems, lighting, room scheduling, and on and on—still function separately. They are rarely connected with each other or to the building’s maintenance system.
As a result, facilities management as a service has remained very reactive . For instance, a building manager receives an alert from one system, creates a work order in a second system, and sends the field service team to hunt around for manuals and parts in a third or fourth system. The amount of wasted time and savings is inefficient, and ultimately burdens the building owner with higher energy and maintenance costs.
To begin solving for this opportunity in a different way, we have partnered with Microsoft to take building maintenance into the twenty-first century. We first concentrated on getting all our data in one place—the Microsoft Cloud. Specifically, we are using Microsoft Dynamics and Microsoft Azure which together, provide us with a single source of truth across sales, field service, inventory, accounting, and other parts of our business. And we use ICONICS software running in Azure, in addition to Smart thermostats, and any other device that is communicating the health of the equipment in that building, together with various Azure Internet of Things (IoT) services and Microsoft Power BI, to analyze building data and gives our employees visual insights into that data, in a way that makes sense for their different job roles.
We’re working with Microsoft to innovate and improve our ability to fix the right thing at the right time, with the right people, and continuously drive down energy and maintenance costs
Once installed by MacDonald-Miller, a building’s IoT sensors feed data into Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service when they detect a problem. For example, on the new Microsoft campus that we are currently engaged in, if an HVAC unit generates an alert that a part is overheating, this alert is passed to Dynamics 365, which automatically creates a trouble ticket for our service department. Our technician shows up at the customer site knowing what the problem is, having a complete repair history in front of him/her, and bringing the right parts and tools so s/he can be much more efficient and effective, making a first-time fix.
With the IoT data and automatic alerts, we’re able to catch and fix a potential problem before the customer even knows it exists.
Not only are our technicians more efficient, but we also get more visibility into problems in the field now. It makes us more efficient as a company for service technicians to be able to see all the work that we have done for a customer before they undertake a regularly scheduled service procedure.
We’re working with Microsoft to innovate and improve our ability to fix the right thing at the right time, with the right people, and continuously drive down energy and maintenance costs. With the Microsoft Cloud, we achieve faster time-to-market and lower our costs with new solutions.
We continue to invest heavily in Microsoft Cloud offerings, providing data visualization and analytics, including equipment analytics, to our customers as a service. We have fully embraced Microsoft PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, and Office 365 to help our employees work closely together and be effective from anywhere.
MacDonald-Miller has fully embraced the capabilities of the wearable technology that we have integrated both with ICONICS and Dynamics 365 to give frontline workers the ability to see real-time equipment operating metrics and the details in the work-order tickets. We’ll continue to invest in creating visual artifacts for “seeing” the performance of equipment in real time, which assists in decision making and historical reference. Building owners and property managers must trust their maintenance provider is actually doing the work they claim. Most building owners will never see the work being done on their properties, but they will receive a list of recommendations for changes and a bill. It’s a relationship built on trust. Through our partnership with Microsoft, our wearable technology worn by our service technicians adds a level of transparency and customer experience where we are able to show in real-time what is happening on roofs and in mechanical rooms by embedding the audio and video content into each summary report, providing customers with the peace of mind that comes with unbridled transparency.
We’re also investing heavily in cloud-based, geo-specific user experiences that give customers the opportunity to virtually see behind the walls of their buildings. We recently launched the MLAB, computer-aided virtual environment (CAVE), which will provide architects, general contractors, and our customers with a virtual experience that enables them to see and experience their building in virtual reality before it’s built, including Microsoft. This data lives in the Microsoft cloud and has presented us with the amazing opportunity to interact with, make changes and realize the costs of those proposed changes before a shovel goes into the ground.
The future is now, and MacDonald-Miller is excited to be a thought leader in the confluence of technology and construction through our partnership with Microsoft.
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