A successful business doesn’t manage people, it empowers and equips people to deliver the promises of that business to the customers that keep that business alive!
That’s a great idea and a worthy philosophy to embrace, but let’s be honest for a moment. People are people. And people are broken and imperfect. Which means that when you empower and equip people to a do a job, there is a very real chance that, despite best intentions, they might screw it up.
And so along with empowerment and equipment, businesses invest millions each year in training, policy writing, and, yes, even managers to help the people doing the job do a good job.
However, even the best companies in the world can miss some of the hidden costs of their greatest asset! That’s where our good friend technology can help in ways you might not have thought about as a business leader! Here are five ways technology can help lower the cost of people for a business without anybody knowing it!
Technology As A Peacekeeper
The difference in temperature on the surface of the moon between sunlight and darkness is a difference of about 400 degrees. At least that’s what I learned from Tom Hanks in the movie Apollo 13.
There is only one other place where we see that type of temperature variation in the known galaxy— And that’s the temperature difference between Betty’s cubicle and Susan’s cubicle.
We’ve all been there and done it–or at least seen it. We’ve gotten to work and for whatever reason be it proximity to the window, our biology, or just our spite–we disagree with our co-workers on what temperature the thermostat should be set at.
And so, we discretely get up from our desk and go bump it down (or up) and keep one eye on it to see who our enemies are.
The result for the business, aside from the risk for inner-office guerrilla warfare, is increased costs associated with HVAC. These costs can show up in increased electric bills, or in increased maintenance demands due to erratic or irregular use.
Technology can solve this problem in one of several ways.
A) Simple Control: An automated building system can simply take control away from the local user and can put it squarely in the hands of the people that maintain the systems and pay the bills to run them. Set points can be managed and locked down and only updated by certain people or in certain circumstances.
B) Intelligent Control: A more sophisticated approach than just simple control is intelligent control. This is where a smart building system can take control away from humans altogether and can make decisions about set points and HVAC operations based on outside temperature, sunlight levels, or even occupancy levels! With intelligent control, the computer makes all the choices and the computer’s only agenda is to run the system as efficiently as possible.
C) Advanced Intelligent Control: This is a step up from Intelligent control and involves taking multiple control systems such as lighting, HVAC, and water control and combines all of these systems to make automated decisions for each system based on consumption goals and environmental conditions.
In all three cases, the building is managing the HVAC and keeping punchy fingers away from thermostats and focused on doing what they are supposed to be doing!
Technology As A Babysitter
It’s one of the first phrases you learn as a dad “Turn off the lights!” Yet, for some reason, it’s one of the hardest concepts for us, as a human species, to really grasp.
People are always leaving the lights on, and employees are the worst at it. Technology offers employers the ability to turn the lights off even when their employees don’t.
Lighting controls aren’t a new concept. Motion sensors, daylight harvesting, and occupancy sensors have been around for years. What is new, or at least newer, is the idea that the lighting controls can work together with other systems like the point-of-sale system in a retail environment, or access control systems in an office environment to light a facility only as much as it needs to be lit.
For example, in a retail environment, data from the POS system could be gathered and calculated to determine peak times of business and slow times. Lighting could be adjusted so the store is its brightest during the rush hours and a bit dimmer during the off-peak hours. Even a 10% reduction in lighting is enough to save the business money, but not so much that the business seems dark!
In the office environment, the access control system can communicate to the lighting system where people are working and only light those portions of the building.
Technology as A Narc!
One of the biggest energy hogs in an office environment is rouge electric devices! These can be small space heaters under desks or even fans that run 24/7! A lot of businesses have policies against these types of devices, but they still make it into the office on a regular basis.
Technology can help businesses find these energy offenders and help rectify the reasons the employees feel the need to have these devices.
For example, a call center at a bank may use more power in their cubicles than the HR department on the next floor. A quick audit of power consumption combined with a survey of the employees might reveal that the employees in the call center are colder than the employees in HR and therefore are bringing their space heaters. An easy fix would be to change the set points on the thermostat! Sounds simple, but the truth is that coming to those conclusions isn’t nearly as simple if you don’t have the data sitting in front of you!
Technology As An Ally
For many businesses, government regulation and oversight is just a part of doing business. Especially when it comes to the safety of the public.
In the food service industry, food safety is a good example of government regulation that benefits both the business and the consumer. However, the truth is that most of the people preparing food in a restaurant are working really hard at a really fast pace to make lots of food for a lot of people. The details can easily be overlooked in favor of efficiency.
This production method has been used for years in the food service business with good, well-functioning equipment being the cornerstone that makes its possible. As long as the ovens, griddles, and microwaves are doing what they are supposed to be doing, the people working in the kitchen can keep doing what they are supposed to be doing. However, imagine the repercussions if one of those pieces of equipment is out of spec and the people, in their haste to produce, don’t catch it and send an undercooked meal out to a customer? For a restaurant, this could be a disaster.
Technology, in this example, could help the restaurant catch issues that their people, as well-intentioned as they might be, might miss before they become big problems!
On the other hand, imagine everything in that same restaurant kitchen is working just fine, and yet a customer still got sick. Imagine the customer tries to say the restaurant was negligent. Now imagine the restaurant has data from all of its equipment on the night the customer got sick and is able to show the insurance company that the restaurant was doing everything it could to provide a safe, quality dining experience!
In both scenarios, we can see how Technology can be the ally of the restaurant and helps the kitchen staff do a better job!
Technology As The Enemy
Despite a businesses best efforts, bad apples make it through the hiring process and end up on the sales floor, or in a cubicle. Sometimes these bad apples just stir up drama, however, sometimes they do greater damage for a business.
For years, technology has been used to help employers keep an eye on employees and their performance. For the most part, that technology has involved security cameras and access control systems. Beyond that, there wasn’t much, as an employer, that you could do to make sure your teams are doing what they are supposed to be doing when they said they were doing it.
However, technology today offers employers so much more than just cameras and card readers.
In a production environment, sensors can be put on machinery to alert management to machinery being operated in ways that it shouldn’t be. In an office environment, wireless sensors can be put on chairs to determine how many hours a day an employee is actually at their desk!
In a retail environment, sensors can be put in the break room to identify someone who has been sitting there a bit longer than they should have been. It all sounds like Big Brother, 1984 type of stuff, but the truth is that lots of money is lost in business each year from people doing silly things at work that cameras and card readers alone aren’t always going to catch!
The truth is that most employees are hard workers who are going to do the job. However, the ones that aren’t are always going blame someone else for their demise, and if it happens to be technology that exposes their downfall, well, then I guess technology is the enemy!
Bonus! Technology As A Lifesaver!
So that last one is just kind of a bummer, so why don’t we end this on a positive note.
What if Smart Building Technology could save lives?
It’s no secret that mass manufacturing is one of the more dangerous industries to work in. Whether it’s cars or chocolate, the truth is that the fast pace and large machines in these mass manufacturing facilities pose hazards to employees every day.
Imagine technology being used to identify unforeseen dangers, and even help prevent injuries and deaths in these environments.
In one situation, a simple sensing technology could shut down a press if it senses that the resistance tolerances are exceeded because someone got a hand or arm stuck in the press– the odds of injury are still there, but if the press were to release, the likelihood of surviving the injury is greatly increased.
Or imagine a convenience store clerk working alone in the middle of the night. What if a motion sensor in the store was dedicated to just sending someone a text message or calling the police if motion wasn’t detected in the store for more than five minutes? What if that employee had fallen and was hurt– think of how that technology could help that employee in that situation!
When you start to really write out all the ways smart building technology can help employers and employees alike, you start to realize that smart technology isn’t just about control, it’s about compassion too! It’s about helping people be the best at their jobs so they can be the best for the business!
FSG Energy has been helping businesses find smarter solutions to their facility and overall operational challenges for more than 10 years. Combined with FSG’s more than 35 years of experience in the lighting and electrical industry, FSG brings smarter solutions to bigger problems so business can do more for their customers!