Unlocking the Question: Why is My Controls System Not Working?

Posted on February 20, 2019

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An Interview with Bob Masland, Business Development Manager of Controls Solutions, Fairbanks Energy Services

Why is a controls system not working right? While we can’t immediately answer that due to the complexity and variables of controls implementations, this is the question that gets Bob Masland excited to go to work every day. Bob recently joined the Fairbanks Energy Services team as our Business Development Manager of Controls Solutions.

We sat down with Bob to pick his brain about controls, why they matter, how prospective customers can think about implementing controls to save energy and the best way to relax after a day on the job (in Vermont, specifically!).

Have additional questions for Bob about the controls in your facility? Just reach out.

 

What does “Business Development Manager of Controls Solutions” mean?

It means I’m going to sites and examining existing controls systems. I discuss with customers what works or (often) what doesn’t work and try to determine whether there’s an upgrade or integration that can be implemented. The goal is to give that customer a “single pane of glass” through which to see entire HVAC system at work.

Fairbanks Energy is doing an excellent job working on lighting and mechanical upgrades, and importantly during these projects, bringing all those systems together. That’s the one piece we need to make sure we always exam: the controls.

No matter how good your HVAC and controls are, if you can’t control everything or aren’t efficiently running a portion of your HVAC, you’re missing out on savings. My job, working in controls solutions, is like the last piece of the puzzle.

 

How did you come to join Fairbanks Energy? Have you always worked in controls?

I’ve actually known about Fairbanks Energy since the inception of the company. I’ve worked with Ken Rackowski and the controls team for the last 6+ years, often day-to-day. We talked a lot about parts selection and the logistics of getting products into hands, and then to installation.

Because of this background I’ve seen hundreds (if not thousands) of systems. I really know how pretty much anybody’s system works and I can understand its problems – even ones a prospective customer may not yet be aware of, in terms of getting the most use out of a system or leveraging controls to gain the most efficiencies.

I was at Control Consultants Inc. for 6 years previously and learned about everything from temperature sensors to complex programs and graphics on the supervisor side of things. It’s like understanding everything from nuts and bolts to getting the whole car running.

And speaking of cars, prior to CCI I mostly worked in sales and started in the automotive industry.

 
"Connecting the right people into the right controls system can make the difference between thousands, even millions of dollars made – or lost."
 

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What are you most excited to share with your prospective customers?

I’m excited to share my background and extensive knowledge of all the systems I’ve seen over the years. It’s also important to me to share with prospective customers that they’re not “stuck.” There are integrations possible and they’re (typically) not handcuffed to a single service provider or solution.

Assuming whoever they like has a workbench license to work on systems, our customers can choose whoever they want to work with. Though they may feel locked into a certain service provider, I’m excited to help offer them open solutions, giving them the freedom to choose the best combination of elements for their space, budget, and needs.

 

What’s the most motivating aspect of your job as you work with customers and their controls?

We go in and provide a solution to a problem that originally seems too complex and overwhelming to tackle alone. There are a lot of customers that don’t understand controls – and I get it. Most of us don’t go to school for controls and it’s a confusing industry, a naturally complex solution to understand.

It’s motivating to apply my knowledge for people to start solving problems, to start “taking control of their controls.”

Controls systems are only as good as their actual use and implementation. A big part of efficiency is both implementing controls right and then using them right. You can put $2 million of controls in (or alternatively, the cheapest option presented to you) but either solution isn’t worth it if you don’t know how to use the system, tune it and pay attention to what’s going on in order to save energy.

 

What would you tell yourself when you first started your career?

No question is too dumb, no job is too small and if you don’t learn from the bottom up by asking those stupid questions and by working on those small projects, you’ll never learn how the whole system works. For example, it’s important to understand that one java update can knock out an entire campus.

I once did a project for a defense contractor who was building chips for missiles. At the facility, the day before they needed to start making those chips, an 8-inch cooling valve stopped working. If that valve – just 8 inches of it – wasn’t running, millions of dollars would be lost because there wouldn’t be enough cooling in the facility to properly make the chips.

Connecting the right people into the right controls system can make the difference between thousands, even millions of dollars made – or lost. Getting to know the details and intricacies of an industry, early, can make all the difference later.

 

What’s the best place you’ve ever traveled for work as an expert in controls solutions?

I’m mostly New England based and one of my projects sent me into the mountains of Vermont – specifically, to Mount Snow! At the end of the day, we got to get on the mountain and take a few runs in a fresh foot of powder. Since I’m a snowboarder, that was definitely a highlight.

 

Where does your ideal “out-of-the-office” pitch take place?

I am in the prospective customer’s building, standing in front of the blinking box that’s expensive, complicated and currently isn’t getting touched. At this point, I explain that I’m just taking information from the existing controls system (or lack of one) to make it work for them. I pull whatever information I can to figure out what’s going on and find the right solution.

“Out of the office” to me means I’m standing right in front of my customer and starting to find solutions to their challenges with controls.

 

Topics: Controls, Interview, Energy Efficiency