Did you know that Office 365 includes Microsoft Teams?
Depending on your Office 365 licenses, you likely already have the Microsoft Teams capability. Due to the current Covid-19 climate, working remotely has become a higher priority, even mandatory in many cases. Microsoft Teams can help ease the transition for both employers and employees.
Communicate and Collaborate
Microsoft Teams enables your organization to communicate and collaborate with each other via instant messaging on an individual or group basis. It also offers an efficient way to schedule and record meetings and calls with full Outlook integration. Teams can be used in any internet browser, computer desktop app or mobile device app , which means you are also connected to your field staff.
Our clients that have Microsoft Office through FIELDBOSS, and are on one of the following Office plans, can download and use Microsoft Teams for easy remote working:
Office 365 Business Premium
Office 365 Business Essentials
Office 365 ProPlus
Office 365 E1
Office 365 E3
Office 365 E5
Customers that have any Office plan other than listed above can use the trial version, Microsoft Teams Commercial Cloud, and we can help provision the necessary license.
New Walkie Talkie Feature
Microsoft will soon be adding a new Walkie Talkie feature to Teams. This new push-to-talk experience enables clear, instant, and secure voice communication over the cloud, turning employee- or company-owned smartphones and tablets into a walkie-talkie. The functionality, built natively into Teams, reduces the number of devices employees must carry, and lowers costs for IT. Unlike analog devices with unsecure networks, customers no longer have to worry about crosstalk or eavesdropping from outsiders.
Implementing Teams is easy.
We helped several of our FIELDBOSS clients get up and running with Teams, and the benefits were realized immediately. Together with your FIELDBOSS cloud-based solution, it’s a great way to connect to the field, and to each other.
A new report from the MTA shows transit mechanics ignored repairs on an escalator in Midtown that broke down last February. The top steps of an escalator at the Fifth Avenue-53rd Street subway station were shredded to pieces during rush hour. No one was seriously injured, and a safety mechanism stopped the escalator before passengers were dragged into the pit of twisted metal. However, the escalator was full of commuters at the time and left many feeling they had nearly stepped into the teeth of disaster.
The escalator was ignored for six months by transit mechanics who were supposed to make sure it was safe, said a report released by the MTA inspector general. The audit says the worn parts on the escalator weren’t noticed because of “preventive maintenance visits which NYC Transit either canceled or did not complete.”
The MTA’s Inspector General released a scathing report earlier this month on the Transit Authority’s escalator maintenance program, noting that a lack of work and accountability led to the escalator accident last year. She notes six months had gone by without scheduled maintenance on the escalator at the subway stop and parts just wore out over time until the escalator broke, endangering passengers. Preventive maintenance was scheduled on four separate dates between August 2018 and January 2019, but the maintenance was either canceled or left incomplete each time. According to the superintendent responsible for that station and the maintenance of that escalator, his team was severely understaffed. The MTA at the time vowed to inspect all 231 escalators in its system beginning right after the incident.
Part of the problem, the Inspector General report says, though, is that the MTA keeps no comprehensive records on escalator maintenance. There is no management report that captures an individual escalator’s history of canceled, delayed or incomplete preventative maintenance visits. This means that a manager can’t easily see the impact of a missed maintenance call. To check the maintenance history of any one escalator, management currently has to compile and analyze data from two separate sources, the report says. Subway supervisors also have no way of knowing when maintenance work on escalators is skipped or rescheduled — but MTA officials promised the IG’s office they would quickly put a tracking system in place.
Following last year’s wreck, the MTA has already begun to make some changes. They have hired more mechanics and helpers and have taken significant steps to overhaul their escalator maintenance program, revamping the process when it comes to the frequency of maintenance work. They have also started to roll out mobile devices to record maintenance work in real time. Other steps they’ve taken include a full review of how they compensate difficult-to-find tradespeople, and the development of a special training class to help managers in the field run reports- to improve operations. Additionally, New York City Transit responded to the Office of the Inspector General’s findings and accepted all its recommendations. The have issued a directive describing the circumstances under which preventive maintenance can be cancelled or deferred and established a new protocol so scheduled maintenance cannot be cancelled for an escalator that did not receive its preventive maintenance visit the prior month. New York City Transit says they will implement all the changes recommended by the inspector general by the end of the year.
FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the elevator world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.
More than 400,000 elevator inspections conducted between 2017 and 2019 shows 2,127 instances where elevators were given “satisfactory” or “no violation” ratings by private inspectors — only to attract violations issued by the NYC Department of Buildings in the next 90 days. We know elevator contractors are working hard to keep the elevators in New York City safe, so why is this happening?
Every passenger elevator in New York City undergoes a pair of annual inspections but in thousands of cases, elevators are passing those inspections only to be tagged with city-issued violations in the days and months immediately thereafter. This raises the question, is there something wrong with the system?
Of the 35 million elevator trips that New Yorkers take everyday, most don’t go wrong. But when they do, it can be horrifying. Samuel Waisbren, a 30-year-old resident at the Manhattan Promenade , was crushed to death when the elevator he was exiting malfunctioned. He was crushed against the lift shaft between the lobby and the basement floors and was pronounced dead at the scene. The deadly accident unfolded just three weeks after the elevator passed an inspection conducted by a company called LCD Elevator. The scheduled test conducted by elevator technicians involved an “exhaustive review of all the elevator’s safety systems, including the brakes,” according to the city’s Department of Buildings. The inspectors found no violations or deficiencies and approved the elevator for service.
Another incident that occurred in 2015 was equally as horrifying. Eran Modan was stepping into an elevator when the brake gave way, causing the elevator to fall with the doors still open. In a panic, he turned to jump back up to the quickly disappearing lobby floor, but the car continued its descent and its ceiling landed on him, crushing his head and torso. Residents of the luxury rental building had been wary of the elevator and its unexpected jerks. Despite complaints filed with the city’s Department of Buildings in 2012, the agency’s experts found nothing wrong in follow-up inspections of the unit. P&W Elevators, the company that did maintenance on the lift regularly and conducted annual safety tests, flagged no issues with the agency. Six months after Modan died, an investigator found that the elevator’s brake wasn’t functioning properly.
A SNAPSHOT IN TIME
Some say it’s unfair to hold an inspector accountable for predicting all the problems an elevator might experience in the months after an annual inspection. The idea of an inspection that’s a snapshot in time and that tells you what the condition was on that particular day. Timothy Hogan, the Department of Buildings Deputy Commissioner of Enforcement, said the city’s elevator safety record is “fantastic.” Hogan says, “We have 70,000 plus elevators in this city. They do over a billion trips a year and in the last 3 years we’ve had one fatality, an unfortunate incident. But if you look at the overall number incidents and accidents that we have with our elevators, it’s probably the safest mode of transportation that you have anywhere.”
How can inspectors and elevator contractors make sure these incidents don’t keep happen? It’s hard to find a solution to a problem with an unidentified cause. At this point, we will have to wait for future developments in the elevator world to ensure the safety of all elevator mechanics and passengers going forward.
FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the elevator world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.
When you think about the hazards of the construction industry, physical risks probably top the list- an unprotected fall, an unmarked restricted zone, etc. But what about the dangers you can’t see? Anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts are as dangerous to worker safety as any tangible jobsite threat, but these can’t be mitigated with caution tape.
The frequency of mental health issues within the construction industry is alarming- with one in five construction workers reporting struggles with mental health issues. According to the CDC, the construction and extraction industries have the second-highest rate of suicide – 53.3 per 100,000 workers. As such, it is an industry imperative for contractors, unions, project owners, and industry service providers to address suicide prevention in construction as a safety and health priority. While regulations and monitoring for physical safety have increased dramatically over the years, mental healthcare lags behind.
Working in construction is tough, and there is no denying it. But, is there a direct correlation between working in this industry and mental health issues? The CDC study found that the construction industry exhibits many common risk factors that are associated with feelings of helplessness:
Competitive, high-pressure work environment
High prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse
Physical strain and chronic pain caused by manual labor
Travel which may separate workers from families and friends
All of the above issues are only compounded by a work culture which valorizes “toughness.” As such, many workers feel forced to “deal with it,” not seeking out the help they need. Of course, an undeniable cause of the high suicide rate is the stigma surrounding mental health in the industry, and with men generally. Construction is a male dominated industry, and men have higher rates of suicide. In fact, for men between the ages of 25 and 54, suicide is the second biggest cause of death. A ‘tough guy’ culture is damaging to people’s mental well-being and safety because employees don’t feel comfortable discussing mental health. They may shame themselves for experiencing anxiety, distress, depressive and suicidal feelings because it contradicts the idea ingrained in them that males should not be affected by their emotions.
PRODUCTIVITY AND SAFETY
Every good employer cares about the wellbeing of their employees. It’s hard, however, to justify spending money on benefits packages or offering mental health days just because you care. Did you know that caring for employee mental health is actually better for your business? Employee mental health impacts productivity and workplace safety- two major factors in how much money your business is making.
Missed days is a big way that mental illness and mental health impacts productivity. One study found that employees with depression miss the equivalent of 27 work days a year though time off, lowered productivity, sick and personal days. Other impacts to productivity include social anxiety and depression. Fear of uncomfortable social interactions can stop an employee from reporting any mistakes or problems on site. Lowered communication abilities can impact understanding between an employee and supervisor. The result could be higher rates of miscommunication, incorrectly completed projects, and general confusion on site.
Mental illness can impact a person’s ability to be fully present in the workplace, which results in an increased risk of injury. Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses can lower awareness, cause sleep loss, impact decision making abilities and reaction time. Construction is an industry more prone to accidents as a whole because of the nature of the jobs; working around equipment, at heights, around electricity, and using tools all increase the chance of an accident happening. In 2010 workplace injuries for construction workers which resulted in 6 or more days off work cost the industry over $50 billion. General 2017 workplace injuries cost U.S. companies $161.5 billion in workers comp, medical bills, missed time, and administration efforts allocated to injuries.
By caring about the wellbeing of your employees and striving to create a physically and mentally safe work environment, you can make your business more productive and safe.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
To counteract this long-standing challenge, the mental health of your workforce needs to be prioritized at the same level as wearing safety goggles and tagging out live circuits. The key is to create a supportive environment where people aren’t afraid of being reprimanded or judged.
The best way to help employees who are suffering from a mental illness is to help them get the resources they need. This can be done through benefits programs, education of supervisors for how to speak about mental health, and creating a workplace culture which takes mental health seriously. Listen, show that you care, and make sure your business has the resources to make it easy for them to get the help they need. You can do this by:
Provide mental health days separate from sick days, and encourage employees to take them
Providing employee benefits which cover counselling, medication, and other medical resources
Encourage conversations about mental health and include mental health awareness in safety training
Make sure all employees know that their jobs will be there for them if they take time to seek treatment for mental illness
One of the most powerful tools in your toolbox to fight against mental health issues is education. No progress can be made without a culture change, and every educated worker is a step closer to quashing the stigma that keeps workers from facing their inner demons. Research mental health outreach programs, and make these resources readily available to workers. Something like the Suicide Prevention Hotline is a proven resource that could save a worker’s life.
FIELDBOSS helps you manage your business so that you can reduce the stress and increase the efficiency of your organization. Our focus is to help you get the most out of your labour resources and deliver the information you and your staff need to run your business
We continuously update our FIELDBOSS software introducing new features, bug fixes, and performance enhancements. We also plan major new releases based on feature and technology improvements from our customers as well as to take advantage of new capabilities in the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Platform. Microsoft is now upgrading Dynamics 365 with two major, mandatory releases or “waves” per year.
Our newest release, FIELDBOSS 4.0 is now in development and testing. We anticipate it will be available for previews by March 30 2020. It is a mandatory upgrade for existing clients, to be completed no later than September 28, 2020, which is the date Microsoft has notified customers worldwide that certain features will no longer be supported. For example, the Service Calendar will be replaced by a new Universal Resource Scheduler.
FIELDBOSS VERSION 4.0
Version 4.0 is a substantive upgrade to the underlying Microsoft platform. The new user interface is a more efficient design and the new service calendar is a material improvement over the current one used today. Here are some exciting new features coming to FIELDBOSS 4.0:
Support the new Service Scheduling in D365. This will replace the Service Calendar and provide scheduling/dispatch a substantial improvement in flexibility, ease of use and automation.
New Maintenance Contract Parent Entity and automation for setting up new contracts.
New Safety Testing functionality for quoting and scheduling regulated safety testing.
Convert sub-grid associated views to editable grids.
New Utilities Tool to help automate installations, upgrades and data migration.
FIELDBOSS VERSION 4.5
After we complete the upgrade of our client base, we are planning to release FIELDBOSS 4.5, which will focus on features and functionality. The FIELDBOSS 4.5 release is being planned prioritizing the following features:
Enhanced Job Costing and Estimating for large projects / jobs using a more granular Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
Improvements in Purchasing automation including adding to existing PO’s and the ability to create PO’s in the field.
The ability to handle Truck Stock (inventory in field).
Improvement in Expense Tracking with the ability to manage expenses from the field to the job and and/or use Excel Online D365 feature for inputting expenses.
Improvements to Service Activities and Time Cards including automation, data migration, budgeting, variances, banked time, mileage and Time Card approval.
Enhanced Billing Automation for best practices and to standardize emailing, printing, voiding, deposits and overall document generation.
Review and optimization of Integration with Dynamics GP including vendor integration fields, balance owing for account, building location and project.
Performance improvements for application functionality and workflows.
Many additional features focused on enhanced capability, ease of use and automation.
As a single, integrated system, FIELDBOSS provides you with the tools you need to run your business more efficiently, and leverage the resources you already have. Click here to watch our new videos, and be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with our latest features and functionality.
Ideally, after the global phasedown of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant gases, we would all transition to a refrigerant technology that would never have to be replaced again. Climate hawks often describe hydrofluorocarbons as a kind of white rhino, a rare area of policy that everyone — industry, environmentalists, Democrats, Republicans — can agree on.
After replacing HFCs, some are trying to sell the idea that it is possible come up with a “future-proof” solution that would ensure no further disruptions or further regulations. In reality, it’s unrealistic to think that there is a silver bullet of refrigerants.
According to a new study by the journal Nature Communications, hydrofluorocarbon emissions actually appear to be growing at record values. The study contradicts previous predictions that hydrofluorocarbon emissions would drop by around 90% from 2015 to 2017.
Two years after China and India pledged to reduce HFC emissions in factories that produce the gas, the countries reported that they had almost wholly eliminated HFC-23 emission. However, in 2018, not only did HFC-23 emissions increase, but they reached an all-time high. Why is this? The study finds that it is very likely that China has not been as successful in reducing HFC-23 emissions as reported. Without additional measurements, it is hard to know whether India has been able to implement its abatement programme.
Expectedly, the new findings have a massive implication on the Kigali Amendment. While the Kigali amendment does not yet bind China and India, their reported reduction would have put them on course to be consistent with Kigali. Had the emissions reductions been as large as reported, the researchers estimate that the equivalent of a whole year of Spain’s CO2 emissions could have been avoided between 2015 and 2017. However, it looks like there is still work to do.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were invented in the 1930s, and due to their safety and efficiency, became the standard. In the 1980s, as their negative environmental impact on the ozone layer became known, the industry met the challenge with HFCs, which have no ozone layer impact. Today’s challenge is to address HFCs’ potential climate impact. Once again, the industry is ready to provide safer and more efficient solutions.
The new generation of choices available today all have a reduced impact on climate, but also come with their set of drawbacks. All of them, including those marketed as “natural refrigerants,” are in fact factory-made. Ammonia and HFOs are synthesized in chemical reactors. Hydrocarbons are petrochemicals produced by cracking in oil and gas refineries, and CO2is a purified industrial gas. Ammonia is highly toxic, hydrocarbons are highly explosive, and CO2 requires very high operating pressure, complicated controls, and may not be efficient in all climates. All must also be further refined to meet the purity requirements of today’s equipment. All consume raw materials and energy and produce waste when manufactured. All must be packaged and transported. The user must decide which trade-offs they can accommodate to best meet their needs.
Can any of the above solutions provide us with a future free of disruption? If you have to deal with ammonia leaks, hydrocarbon-related explosions, systems breaking down, or complex systems that are hard for users to adopt or transition to, your business will be disrupted. Although we know the global HVACR industry will continue to improve, it’s impossible to call any solution “future proof”. New scientific advancements, along with progress in the industry will continue to push new innovations forward in order to maximize equipment efficiency, while keeping a focus on safety and the environment.
FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the HVACR world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.
If HVAC contractors found meeting the demands of cannabis growers challenging, wait until they start working in the latest growing field — insect protein. The edible insect industry is projected to be reach $1.336 billion by 2025, and could be worth $8 billion by 2030. Roughly 2 billion people in 130 countries, including Kenya, Thailand and Mexico, already regularly eat insects.
People generally associate the word “insect” with something disgusting. But many insects are incredibly nutritious, and a key, sustainable solution to help us tackle food shortages, global warming, and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The meat industry already takes an enormous toll on the environment, gobbling up huge amounts of land and water. To put it in perspective, to produce one pound of beef, you need around 5,000 gallons of water, whereas to produce one pound of cricket protein, you need less than 5 gallons of water.
For the most part, feed insects need to breed indoors, and this comes with very exact HVAC requirements. In conventional animal farming, heating or cooling is normally provided just to prevent exposure to extreme conditions; in insect farming, it is a requirement to ensure productivity. As these insect protein businesses scale up, HVAC will be one of their main challenges.
HEATING AND COOLING
To keep the temperature at the required level, several elements could be used depending on the requirements of the insect species. Each species of insect comes with its own requirements. For example, crickets need a temperature of 85°F and 30-40 percent humidity. However, in order for insects to become a viable food source for people and animals, they need to grow everywhere. This means replicating the natural conditions in which the insects grow.
There are various devices that can be implemented for insect mass rearing. This includes water heating systems like storage tank water heaters, on demand water heaters, heat pump water heaters, hybrid heat pump water heaters, hot-water supply boilers, and a combination of them. If heating is provided from the floor (eg, through hot water piping), the heat will distribute uniformly in the room by lifting the hot air from the base to the top. But if heat is to be distributed by air, this can be done using hot-water heat exchangers. Construction of this type of system is costly, but when heating requirements are high, this is one of the most commonly used systems.
Air conditioners or heat pumps could be used either to heat or to cool down rooms. Heat pumps are often used in insect mass rearing facilities because, in addition to being energy efficient, they can be used for cooling and heating using one single device and are easy to implement in climate automatization systems. Implementation cost is high but they are very flexible and have a fast reaction to changes. One of the latest innovations in heat pumps is the use of geothermal energy (geothermal heat pumps). They save energy but are more expensive due to ground perforations required for installation of the geothermic heat exchanger.
Right now, the industry consists of a lot of small players, although there are some large U.S. companies, such as Aspire Food Group. As a result, most improvise their HVAC systems using off-the-shelf technology. Although climate control is a must for these companies, it’s also a major investment for a low-margin business. This makes investing in necessarily robust systems a challenge. The low margins also means farm owners have concerns about energy efficiency and other ways to control costs.
Vendors interested in pursuing this industry need to understand these concerns, along with specific requirements of breeding. If they do so, it could mean a lot of potential work for HVAC contractors who aren’t bugged by working with bugs. There is huge potential in this marketplace, and as planet earth warms and the population grows toward 10 billion people by 2050, we will need to rethink our approach to food production. Insects might just be the solution we’ve been looking for.
FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the HVACR world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.
Running any business is challenging, but the uncertainties of contracting make it tougher than most. A limited supply of skilled labor, late payments, online reviews allowing unscrupulous customers to hold you hostage, ever-mounting regulations, rising costs, high customer expectations and more. The pressure hangs heavy like an impending storm while the terror of total business and financial risk are all part of the game. You know what it’s like to be worried not just about your own family, but the families your business supports as well. Even when you’re home, your thoughts are on the business. Your sense of self-worth might be wrapped up in how the business performs and it’s hard to remember that your worth is more than your current net worth.
If this feels familiar, you are not alone. Far from it. A few years ago, a team from the University of California at San Francisco, UC Berkeley, and Stanford University announced research findings that showed entrepreneurs were twice as likely as a control group to be depressed.
At some point, everyone struggles. Every successful contractor fought through the same moments of trial and uncertainty that seem so insurmountable. Before they became successful, most of the leaders in our industry failed — and failed more than once. To make matters worse, hardly anybody talks about it because talking about it is admitting a weakness none of us think we are supposed to have.
Here are 7 ways to stay mentally healthy as a contractor business owner:
Put Your Mental Health Above All Else: To run a successful business, you need to be at your best mentally, physically and emotionally. Mental health issues can have debilitating side effects on your business, not to mention your life: We don’t make good decisions when we’re burnt out or stressed out. Finding at least a small amount of time for yourself every day is an important part of self-care.
Healthy Eating: Eating right helps. Under stress, we eat the wrong foods and consume too much alcohol. Avoid lots of sugar. Avoid alcohol. Do not binge, and do not skip meals. Eat lean. Eat healthy. This will raise your serotonin levels, which helps regulate mood.
Exercising: When the darkness closes in, exercise is the last thing you want, but need the most. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which is your body’s happy drug. Endorphins, which cause “runner’s high,” give you energy and make insurmountable problems solvable.
Gratitude: Make a list of the things you still have in your life, the things that were important before you went into business. Give thanks for them. Gratitude crowds out depression.
Getting Sufficient Sleep: Getting between 7-8 hours of sleep every night is crucial for your brain and body to reset, and will leave you feeling less on edge. Try to find a sleep routine that will promote a good night’s sleep, such as shutting off all your electronics as early as possible.
Be Social: It may feel like the last thing you want to do, but spending time with friends or family is incredibly important for your wellbeing. If you’re comfortable, share your struggles and feelings with those closest to you.
Don’t be afraid of therapy: If the stress of being an entrepreneur becomes overwhelming, get professional help from your family doctor, counselor, psychologist, or other mental help expert as soon as possible. You’ve hired accountants, lawyers, and other professionals for things you can’t tackle on your own, so what makes this any different? Think of it as the most important investment you could make.
Running a business can take its toll, and feelings of anxiousness, depression or stress are signs that you’re neglecting your mental health. Practicing self-care as an business owner is beneficial to your personal well-being and makes good business sense. Remember to follow these steps so that you can run a successful business without worrying about letting your happiness or well-being fall by the wayside.
FIELDBOSS helps you manage your business so that you can reduce your stress and increase your efficiency. Our focus is to help you get the most out of your labour resources and deliver the information you and your staff need to run your business.
Automation may have made elevator operators obsolete, but it’s quite the opposite for those who install and repair elevators. A new analysis of the 2018 federal labor statistics breaks down construction’s top earners by job category. Among construction trades, elevator mechanic tops the median wages list, with half earning over $78,990 a year, and the top 25% making at least $100,720.
Below is the breakdown for the highest-paid field employees by occupation.
Rotary drill operators
Construction and building inspector
Structural iron and steel worker
Sheet metal worker
Reinforcing iron and rebar worker
Elevator mechanics face many challenges
Elevators are complex and becoming even more so. Elevator technology is moving so fast that it’s near impossible for technicians to keep pace. “Smart elevators” use algorithms to shuttle passengers more efficiently, and some technologies adjust the heat and air conditioning of office floors based on where people land. Meanwhile, technicians must also deal with elevators that date back to the 1930s, which can be unpredictable. With multiple cars that sometimes dispatch seemingly at their own will, a mix of old and new technologies that make them stubborn to fix, and new flight speeds of 100 floors per minute, being an elevator technician is a tough job.
Along with the challenge of keeping up with the technology is the challenge of keeping pace with maintenance calls. As property owners try to cut costs, technicians are reporting a dangerous lack of maintenance. As well, with the lack of skilled technicians and the increasing number of elevators to be serviced, some technicians rush through hundreds of maintenance jobs per month, reportedly with time limits as quick as seven minutes per visit. Politicians are pushing new policies, but still, increasing numbers of citizens are either getting stuck inside elevators, are stuck with dangerous ones, or are stuck with the stairs.
Elevator maintenance is a high-paying job, yet there’s still a mismatch of supply and demand. More mechanics need to be trained, if only to ease the demand on those already working in the field. There is obviously a great need for qualified technicians and an abundance of opportunity for a well-paying career.
Business owners want their company to run smoothly, like a well-oiled machine. An organization that works efficiently is one of the primary goals of implementing new software, but often technology improvements don’t yield the intended results. Why is this?
Technology changes are not always done in conjunction with business process enhancements. Technology changes will not bring value if they do not work together with people and process changes, just like parts in a machine.
Where things can go wrong
When organizations move toward modernization and improvement, their main goals are usually to increase automation in an effort to improve efficiency, increase flexibility, cut costs, and keep up with ever-present, ever-changing market and customer demands.
Technology on its own is generally not the magic potion for all these challenges. It requires a concerted effort between technology, process and people. Without a focused effort on these key elements, projects generally fail to achieve the expected results.
“We just need software that is really easy for everyone to use.” When it comes to software, there is no such thing. The only way to make software simple to use is to take away features, preferences, and choices. Simple software is inflexible and weak. That’s the secret to making software easy to use. Most companies don’t follow any kind of established business model. The way they do things is a hybrid of the company they once worked for, their own ideas, and the ideas of the various employees that have worked there over the years. That means you need flexible software that offers a wide array of options, methods, and possibilities. Flexible software is going to take more time to learn than it would “simple” software that forces you to do things their way.
Process and Procedure Management
Process and Procedure Management is the hardest part and is the cornerstone to user adoption success. Organizational leaders who can explain, motivate and continually drive standardized processes will ensure staff buy in and project success. Organizations who back away will find that the staff may return to their old ways of working – negating any system replacement objectives.
Begin by getting buy-in from a small group of experienced employees in each user role—planners, dispatchers, technicians, and supervisors. Having been in field service for a while, they know the business and have experienced the pains more than anybody. They might even be more willing than newer employees to accept changes if they understand how the new technology will make their jobs easier. Make sure this group has good communication and networking skills. These influencers can become ‘power users’ who will be the software experts. They will come to know the product inside-out and be the go-to people for anyone in your company who has questions about it.
FIELDBOSS is a flexible and configurable platform that allows you to work the way you want to work, now and in the future. Our focus is to help you get the most out of your labour resources and deliver the information you and your staff need to run your business more efficiently, profitably, and with lower risk. If you are considering implementing field service management software, working with a knowledgeable experienced partner like FIELDBOSS can help ensure a successful transition and user adoption. Contact us for more information.
The US and China signed a phase-one trade agreement on January 15th to ease the ongoing trade war tensions, paving the way for another stage of trade negotiations. But it is only the start of negotiations to defuse a broader economic standoff between the two sides. The truce lowered rates on a portion of Chinese tariffs but left them on $360 billion worth of Chinese products. Under the phase-one deal, China agreed to purchase more American products and adjust the way its economy is managed. However, the agreement does not appear to affect the 25% tariffs applied to Chinese steel and aluminum early in the conflict.
At first, the tariffs were an instant bonanza for domestic steel producers. With much fanfare, some announced ambitious expansion plans. Today, the steel industry tells a different story. Steelmakers that once supported Trump’s steel tariffs have had a change of heart, and steel production has consecutively declined, resulting in several layoffs and cutbacks. A tariff is a tax, and if you tax an item the price of that item goes up, resulting in purchasers buying less of that item. And that’s
what’s happening to the domestic steel industry today. U.S. manufacturing, which along with the construction sector is the principle consumer of American steel, is currently in recession.
For the HVAC industry, the trade war’s effect depends on which part of the industry is being asked. However, three statements earn broad agreement:
Overall, the industry views the tariffs as bad for business and would like to see them disappear.
The added cost of the steel and aluminum tariffs most relevant to HVAC pricing is being passed on to the consumer.
American consumers, over the last several months, do not seem to be feeling this impact in a way that affects their purchasing decisions.
Air Conditioning Heating & Refrigeration Institute’s (AHRI) member survey indicated that 70 percent of its manufacturers have been affected by the pertinent tariffs. Customers are absorbing the brunt of these tariffs and contractors should mitigate damage to customer relations by communicating with customers about tariff realities, building quotes that reflect current realities, and considering force majeure clauses in contracts.
Luckily, the residential HVAC industry and their customers may have some inherent insulation from tariffs: infrequent nature of purchasing heating and/or air conditioning systems. Tariffs may make a new heating system 14 percent more expensive today than it was in 2017. That still might not affect the way a potential customer looks at pricing if they haven’t bought a unit since 2003. People in that situation know that the fix is relatively expensive but rare.
While that may help contractors on the residential side, commercial HVAC contractors and their clients have had no such luck. Commercial work often means more lead time and more of a delay between a successful bid and the work itself. That increases the chances for an interim price hike due to tariff-induced increases in the cost of steel and other materials. The resulting spike in project cost can make for a displeased customer and an uncomfortable conversation.
With no relief from steel or aluminum tariffs visible in the near future, this may be a good time for a quick review of force majeure, which includes events such as acts of God, strikes, war or acts of the government, as something contractors’ contracts should include. Force majeure commonly comes up in relation to natural disasters, but it can represent some protection if the clause is included in a contract before a given tariff. If the problem is an existing tariff, then the best solutions may be pricing the tariff in originally and/or creating windows of pricing with some shared burden in the case of unexpected costs.
China isn’t the only international trade and tariff hotspot with HVAC relevance these days. On December 19, 2019, the United States House of Representatives passed the USMCA with bipartisan support by a vote of 385–41. On January 16, 2020, the United States Senate passed the trade agreement by a vote of 89–10. The bill is now awaiting President Trump’s signature. Once Trump signs the USMCA implementation bill it will officially cancel NAFTA but not the 1989 Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, so in case parties fail to extend or renew it in 6 years, FTA would become the law. Once Donald Trump signs the USMCA implementation bill into law, NAFTA is officially cancelled but 1989’s Canada-US FTA would only be ‘suspended’
As details on the ‘Phase 1’ trade deal come rolling in, disappointment from the steel industry is apparent. Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which includes manufacturers and the United Steelworkers union, said in a tweet, “All those ‘forgotten men and women’ in U.S. factories have, once again, been forgotten.” The administration has said it will address some of these changes in Phase 2 of the negotiations and is keeping tariffs in place in part to maintain leverage for the next round of talks. Mr. Trump said he would remove all tariffs if the two sides reach agreement on the next phase. The last chapter of the trade deal states that Washington and Beijing will agree on the timing of new negotiations — although no timeline is given. While fresh trade negotiations are expected to begin soon, Trump has said he would prefer to wait until after the November election to finalize another agreement.
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When it comes to growing marijuana, a controlled environment is pretty much everything. From heat and humidity to ventilation and air quality, the HVAC industry goes hand in hand with cannabis growing facilities. The cannabis industry shows potential for massive growth as an in-demand product becomes accessible to millions of consumers, but it also faces the uncertainty common to any growing segment. Yet despite facing many challenges, contractors remain optimistic about the marijuana grow industry.
Temperature and Humidity – When growing cannabis, you can’t underestimate the importance of an HVAC system. A good HVAC system regulates temperature, humidity and air quality. An HVAC system also regulates airflow, provides ventilation and can increase technology in grow rooms, depending on how sophisticated the system. An HVAC system for a cultivation facility isn’t like other HVAC systems. Cultivators have specific needs, and building and running a proper system catered to cannabis isn’t that simple. Too little or too much humidity will spoil the crop. They’re some of the most demanding environments to try to condition. HVAC contractors need to get the systems right because of the money at stake if it fails and the crops suffer.
Energy Consumption – Grow rooms are also extremely energy intensive. In addition to needing powerful HVAC systems to keep temperature and humidity within range, they also require an incredible amount of energy for specialized lighting. The lights are often on 24-hours a day.
Odor Management – With a high concentration of marijuana plants, grow rooms are notorious for producing an overwhelming aroma within a small space. One of the biggest municipal issues contractors face is odor control. Cannabis emits an extremely pungent smell, and this arises as the biggest objection among neighbors during the vetting of a proposal. HVAC contractors must assure their clients they can control the smell.
Cash Crops – All this equipment and service comes at a cost, but access to banking has been a major issue for the cannabis industry. As the cannabis industry grows, the shortage of financial services for cannabis companies has become more of a headache. It’s not as simple as walking into a bank and opening an account. At first, banks were unwilling to work with growers and sellers because while sales may have been legal in the state, the proceeds remained illegal at the federal level. More banks today serve the industry. But growers still have limited options. Those banks only have a select number of accounts and often charge high fees for those services.
The banking situation, however, does show signs of improvement. Congress is considering bills to expand bank access for the industry. The Treasury Department already eased restrictions for banks, allowing them to work with cannabis companies as long as they produce enhanced transaction reports. More growth funding today comes from traditional investors, such as private equity firms, that pay out of existing funds rather than cash from sales. However, until legislation like the SAFE Banking Act, which is currently in the House of Representatives, shifts the headwinds, cannabis companies will continue to have limited access to financial products most businesses take for granted.
Levels of Regulation – Where is marijuana legal in the U.S.? With every state but three legalizing marijuana in at least some form, the US is a little bit greener than a few years ago. Now there are numerous different state laws on the legalization of recreational marijuana. Legal states like California and Colorado offer widely available dispensaries, while in places like Alabama and Georgia, which are technically medical marijuana states, possession still may lead to felonies.
States making the transition to allowing recreational use, rather than just medical use, are still struggling with implementation. For example, Michigan decriminalized marijuana in 2018 and started allowing recreational sales on Dec. 1, but a majority of cities, including Detroit, have banned recreational dispensaries.Many expected a building boom when California’s recreational regulations went into place. That didn’t happen. Instead, shops opened without any cultivators licensed to supply them. This caused issues with HVAC contractors being paid, since the customers found themselves without cash flow.
Many operators in the cannabis business started out when the entire field was illegal. Contractors now need to insist on following every rule to the letter. There are still plenty of unlicensed operations. Contractors must check to make sure their clients have proper licensing from both the state and the local municipality. Most states maintain an accessible database, but verifying the local license often proves more challenging.
Challenges aside, once a grower finds a contractor they trust to take care of them, they are likely to be quite loyal. Growers will have very high-tech equipment and they will pay a premium to maintain it.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed the long awaited Elevator Safety Act, which requires anyone who designs, builds, inspects, maintains and/or repairs elevators to be licensed by the state. The legislation also creates a nine member New York State Elevator Safety & Standards Advisory Board to help establish recommendations for elevator inspections, examinations to satisfy licensing requirements, and enforcement to ensure compliance and promote public safety. The DOB must also start maintaining a list of licensed mechanics, contractors and inspectors. The list will be made available on the agency’s website.
Gov. Cuomo approved the new bill reinforcing elevator safety in the aftermath of a gruesome Manhattan accident that killed a man. However, in a compromise to win Cuomo’s signature, lawmakers agreed to amend the bill and have state government delay implementation of the “Elevator Safety Act” from June until January 2022.
The measure will require the state Labor Department to license mechanics and others who oversee the maintenance of 70,000 elevators in the city buildings and require more extensive education and training, bringing the state in line with standards required in the rest of the U.S.
Under the new law, workers can obtain a license through a few different methods, including taking a written test on national, state, and local codes (with at least four years of experience) or completing a union apprenticeship/other approved training program.
A January 2019 report by The Real Deal showed how elevator-related injuries and fatalities in recent years underscored lapses in the enforcement of city safety standards and a lack of consistency in training of elevator contractors. Between 2010 and 2018, at least 22 people were killed in passenger elevators or shafts in the city, according to the Department of Buildings. Twelve of the fatalities were mechanics.
The law is backed by the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 1, which has long sought licensing rules to toughen elevator safety in New York by setting minimum education and training standards for elevator mechanics.
“After a decade of hard work, New York is finally taking an important first step forward in elevator safety,” said IUEC Local 1 business manager Lenny Legotte..
But Legotte suggested more work needs to be done.
“As we work towards implementation, we remain committed to building on this progress and to one day making New York a national leader in elevator safety,” he said.
Other than New York, 36 states and the District of Columbia require elevator mechanics to be licensed.