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Elevator Mechanics: Is Automation Coming for Your Job?

Technology has made major strides over the past few decades. Devices that were once just a plot in science fiction movies are now commonplace in the real world, introducing faster and more efficient ways to work. Technology is changing at an increasing pace, and it seems that new technologies are designed to disrupt, which in some cases means to replace human labour with machines. What does the future hold for elevator mechanics? Is automation coming for your job?

Older mechanics will remember using a giant board where all the places that needed to be serviced and inspected were written out. When the list was full, it was wiped off and started all over again. Those same technicians might have used pagers where several long beeps meant a regular job while short beeps meant that there were people stuck in an elevator and the techs needed to call the office, get the address and rush to the location.

Today, AI and automated systems are already working hand in hand to protect elevator passengers from disruptive malfunctions and relieve the stress on service technicians. Predictive maintenance is here today, in a city near you – not in a galaxy far, far away.

There are two different predictions on how advances in automation will affect job prospects for humans. Optimists see machines freeing human workers to do higher-value, more creative work. Pessimists predict massive unemployment, or a world in which humans exist to serve the robot overlords. What people need to understand is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Humans and automation can evolve and work together. By combining human emotion and instinct, with digital solutions, AI and virtual reality, technicians can optimize the way they prepare and run their elevator service, resulting in faster turnaround times and less downtime.

These technologies are a real revolution for elevator maintenance! While only a small percentage of the elevator technician’s tasks are replaceable by the machine, the rest remains at the heart of the mechanic’s professional expertise. Far from replacing it, these technologies will help experienced technicians identify and solve problems more efficiently, enhance their knowledge and simplify their training. Nothing can really replace human instinct, and when it comes to the intricate work, some things will always need hands-on attention.

Contact FIELDBOSS for a free demo and learn how FIELDBOSS can empower your elevator mechanics to always deliver the highest value to your customers. 

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Washington & Vermont Latest States to Regulate HFCs

US State leadership is keeping the HFC transition on track, and keeping the U.S. in sync with the global phase-down now underway under the Kigali Amendment. This past month, Washington State’s HFC phase down passed the legislature and Governor Jay Inslee signed bill HB 1112. Meanwhile, Vermont has announced that they are intending to phase down HFC refrigerants as well through their new bill ‘S. 30.’ The bill passed the legislature and is expected to have a signature from the governor soon. This adds to the ever growing list of states that have chosen to regulate HFCs.

So far all of these state planned phase downs have been modeled after the original Environmental Protection Agency’s SNAP Rule 20 and 21 from 2015. Vermont and Washington, along with twenty-three other states, are part of what’s known as the United States Climate Alliance. This alliance was formed when the Trump Administration pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. The goal of the alliance is to create a coalition of states that work together to fight Climate Change and Global Warming. If the Federal Government isn’t going to do anything then the states will get it done and regulate HFCs themselves. The other states in the Climate Alliance are all expected to follow suit in the coming years.

The Federal Government’s positions on regulating HFCs has been confusing for the industry. The EPA’s SNAP Rule was thrown out by the courts. The Kigali Amendment went into effect at the beginning of this year but the United States never ratified the treaty. As more states join the phase down, manufacturing companies are going to be forced to move away from HFCs even without a Federal mandate. If enough states choose to regulate HFCs then manufacturers will either have to produce two different models,one for HFC states and one for non-HFC states, or the they will have to do a complete transition to lower GWP refrigerants.

The bottom line is that HFCs are going to be replaced by either natural refrigerants, hydrocarbons, or HFOs. If the U.S. government doesn’t ratify the Kigali amendment and/or the EPA doesn’t take charge of HFC’s, the U.S. may end up with a haphazard set of rules varying from state to state leading to even more refrigerant confusion.

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.

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Employee Spotlight: Azair Sheikh

The Rimrock Corporation team is made up of many hard working, talented individuals with interesting stories to tell. In our Employee Spotlight series, you’ll meet some of these people, learn what they do, and how they keep Rimrock exciting and fun.

This month we shine the light on Azair Sheikh, our Client Services and Operations Manager. Azair was born in Saudi Arabia but his background is Pakistani. He first visited Canada at the age of 5 and travelled to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

A few years later his family returned and settled in Kitchener, Ontario. Azair came to Toronto 8 years later, and has been an unsatisfied sports fan ever since (unless the Raptors win it this year!).  Prior to working at Rimrock, Azair worked at another ERP Consulting firm as well as in the accounting industry as a Financial Analyst.

In his free time, Azair likes working out, spending time with family, reading, writing, playing guitar, and gaming.

Read on to learn more about Azair.  

What do you love most about working at Rimrock & how long have you been here? I love the culture that Jonathan has created here, as well as the autonomy and trust to get a task done without micromanagement. In my career, I have always treated the company I’ve worked for as my own – which has not always played out well. Feathers can be ruffled, and toes can be stepped on. However, Rimrock has been the only firm that has fully embraced that. Jonathan has empowered me and all of the Rimrock staff to feel like owners of the business.

What is your favorite place that you have visited and where is your next dream vacation spot? I unfortunately have not traveled much for leisure – but am hoping to change that in the coming years. My favourite place that I have visited so far would have to be Muree, Pakistan. It’s a mountain resort town that is surrounded by incredible natural beauty.

My dream vacation would be having a guided expedition of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil. A close second is an all-inclusive resort anywhere in the Caribbean where I can lay around and revert back to habits I had as a five-year-old in Nova Scotia.

If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be? I would want to be a stand-up comedian or a professional fighter. Less risk in the former than the latter but both require a lot of courage!

What TV shows/music/apps/Podcasts are you currently obsessed with right now? There are too many to list, but here are a few:

Podcasts: The Tim Ferris Show, The Mindvalley Podcast, Kwik Brain, Consulting Success Podcast, Managing Up, Microsoft Business Applications Podcasts

Apps: Amazon Kindle, RedFlagDeals, Tasker, Microsoft Flow, Duolingo, Headspace, Aware, SkiptheDish and Uber Eats

TV Shows: Arrested Development, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Kings and American Gods – new season was disappointing.

If you could have a drink with anyone (fictional, alive, dead, famous, non-famous) who would it be and why? I would have a drink with Roger Bannister – first athlete/Olympian to run a sub 4-minute mile, which was considered impossible. After he broke that record, it was broken 46 days later and a sub 4-minute mile is now common among athletes. He is a fantastic example of achieving the “impossible” and how a shift in perspective can completely change your limitations. He was also a very accomplished neurologist and performed tests on Anthony Burgess – the writer of the Clockwork Orange.

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HVACR Contractors Finding Success in Indoor Grow Market

marijuana legalization

Marijuana is legal in 10 states, plus Washington, D.C., for recreational use, and 33 states for medical use. In Canada, it is legal across the country for both medicinal and recreational use. The legalization of marijuana has created a growing demand for HVACR contractors who can design quality and controlled climates suited to specific plants. Not confined to cannabis, however, indoor farming includes other applications such as hydroponics, vertical farming, and local urban agriculture. These sectors and others have created a new market for HVAC contractors — the indoor grow market.

When it comes to indoor farming, cannabis has dominated the conversation, as its legalization has led to a huge increase in the number of facilities that grow these plants. However, indoor farming encompasses more than just cannabis and includes all kinds of agricultural products, including produce and livestock.

All of these types of facilities require extensive HVAC systems to ensure the products being grown and housed have the correct amount of heating, cooling, ventilation, and humidity. By using the right equipment to strictly control the indoor climate, HVAC contractors play an important roll in helping growers improve the health of their crops and boost their yields. 

According to a recent report by the research firm MarketsandMarkets, the indoor farming technology market is projected to reach $40.25 billion by 2022, up from $25.40 billion in 2017. While some of this growth can be attributed to the increasing demand for fresh foods that can be grown year-round, much of it will likely come from the cannabis market.

That’s because the cannabis industry is booming right now. It is a big opportunity for HVAC contractors, who will be required to address the many aspects of climate and environmental control for grow and agriculture facilities. This type of specialized knowledge may require additional training, as contractors will increasingly be asked to design HVAC systems that maintain a precise indoor environment in order to maximize crop yield and reduce energy usage. Growers may even need someone on staff or at the very least, have someone on call every day, 365 days a year, to maintain the contract because if equipment fails, that can cost a company a lot of money.

Ongoing maintenance contracts will be a significant aspect of the future of marijuana and other grow facilities. Taking on these projects and maintenance contracts can be financially lucrative. The marijuana industry is unique in that customers are not going to the phonebook or Google to find contractors — it’s all word of mouth. And 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. A wide variety of systems have been introduced specifically for the marijuana growing application. Trane, Carrier and Johnson Controls are just a few manufacturers offering these products.

The indoor grow market has only scratched the surface. It is an emerging market that is only going to get bigger.

FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the HVAC world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.

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Employee Spotlight: Ellen Nybida

The Rimrock Corporation team is made up of many hard working, talented individuals with interesting stories to tell. In our Employee Spotlight series, you’ll meet some of these people, learn what they do, and how they keep Rimrock exciting and fun.

This month we shine the light on Ellen Nybida, our project manager. Ellen was born in Thamesford, just outside of London, Ontario. Prior to working at Rimrock, Ellen worked as a data manager at a marketing company, and before that for a software company called Angus Systems, a property management software company.

When Ellen is not carting her son around to his karate, ninja and other sports, she enjoys working out, playing sports and spending time with friends and family.

Read on to learn more about Ellen.

What do you love most about working at Rimrock & how long have you been here?

I have been here for almost 3 months. I enjoy the ownership of my role within the company, the ability to learn while growing with the company. The team here is amazing, helpful and very welcoming.

What is your favorite place that you have visited and where is your next dream vacation spot?

I really enjoyed Hawaii where I got to visit Maui & Kona (my future retirement dreams). My dream vacation requires a lottery win where I would start in Japan, visiting my husband’s family and work my way down the coast visiting a few places I have been, and continue down through Malaysia, Bali, Australia, New Zealand and finishing in Hawaii before heading home.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you?

HA! But if that should happen…maybe Sandra Bullock?

What TV shows/music/apps/Podcasts are you currently obsessed with right now?

I don’t have much time for TV, but I enjoy either comedy or thought inducing thrillers when the opportunity to watch is available. The music I listen to in the car is usually rock/alternative rock to get me through the traffic. I change it up when I am running to something more upbeat and use classical or something with a good base tone to calm and relax.

If you could have a drink with anyone (fictional, alive, dead, famous, non-famous) who would it be and why?

My grandfather. He passed away when I was just under a year old and I want to know more about how he started his own garage (Three Bridges Automotive aka Pelton’s Garage), teaching my father his passion for that trade, his love for racing and other stories I have heard about.   

Tell us a “fun fact” about yourself or your “secret talent” that your colleagues might not already know.

I have a birthmark that looks like a chocolate chip cookie… and I can bake some pretty good chocolate chip cookies (which my colleagues now know).

Any pet peeves?

My biggest pet peeve is when someone litters. There are garbage receptacles everywhere…why litter?! 

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It’s Time to Make Skilled Work ‘Cool’ Again

Technicians

Over the last 30 years, our society convinced itself that the best path to a successful career is an expensive, four-year degree.Pop culture has hyped up the “corner office job” at the expense of the jobs that helped build the corner office. As a result, our society has devalued and discouraged any other path to success and happiness. Well-meaning parents and guidance counselors have labeled community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs as “alternative” and “vocational consolation prizes”. Students are taught that these are best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. The push for higher education has coincided with the removal of vocational arts from high schools nationwide. And the effects of this one-two punch have laid the foundation for a widening skills gap and massive student loan debt.

Today, the skills gap is wider than it’s ever been. The cost of college tuition has soared and student loan debt is the second highest consumer debt category in the United States. We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back, educating them for jobs they can no longer find, while discouraging them from pursuing good jobs that actually exist. Slowly but surely our society is reaffirming the misguided belief that a career in the skilled trades shouldn’t be desired.

How do we change this prevailing misperception of skilled labor?

We need to make skilled work cool again.

In order to close the skills gap we must challenge the stigmas and stereotypes that discourage people from pursuing the millions of available jobs. One of the biggest misperceptions of a job in the trades is lousy pay. What people don’t realize is these are good paying jobs with loads of growth potential. Some technicians can make north of six figures, and many go on to run their own businesses. But we rarely hear those stories in the press. Instead, we get studies that try to justify the cost of college.

Mike Rowe is a television host on the series “Dirty Jobs”.  Since 2008, he has been working to bring awareness of the value of work and has advocated for skilled trades. Rowe refers to one study that compared the income of college graduates with the income of non-college graduates. The study obviously concluded that college graduates made more. But the study didn’t compare skilled tradespeople to college graduates – it compared everyone to college graduates – including those with no skill. In other words, they put high school dropouts and unskilled workers into the same category as skilled tradespeople. If you dig a little deeper, and compare the income of a philosophy major, (or a history major, or a sociology major, or a math major) to that of an HVAC tech, or a plumber, or an elevator mechanic, you’ll see that the trades pay a very competitive wage – without the debt of a four-year degree.

Mike Rowe is on a mission: “To help close the skills gap by challenging the stigmas and stereotypes that discourage people from pursuing the millions of available jobs. We’re redefining the definition of a good education and a good job, because we don’t think a four-year degree is the best path for most people.” He continues, “Our crumbling infrastructure, our widening skills gap, the disappearance of vocational education, and the stratospheric rise in college tuition—these are not problems,” Mike said. “These are symptoms of what we value. And right now, we have to reconnect the average American with the value of a skilled workforce. Only then, will the next generation aspire to do the work at hand.”

When we do see young people entering the skilled trades, it is often by way of the family business. This new generation of skilled tradespeople are looking for ways to modernize the business and make it more desirable for their peers. An end-to-end field service software can help you attract and retain top, new talent (aside from your son and son-in-law). Contact us for a free demo or for more information.

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Government of Canada Recalls 1,739 Elevators After Doors Open to Empty Shafts

Shaft

It isn’t strange to see product recalls posted on the government of Canada website. Officials frequently order companies and distributors to remove items, usually food, that are reported to have made people ill or endangered consumers. Less frequently these recalls target non-perishable products with malfunctions, like cars, for example. A recent recall, however, may be a consumers’ worst nightmare. The government of Canada recalled over 1700 elevators after doors kept opening to empty shafts.

Elevators are used so frequently in our day to day lives, especially if you live in an apartment building, that you never really think about something malfunctioning in them. Although the majority of elevators are safe, sometimes things go wrong.

Health Canada has issued the recall for Cambridge Elevating Inc.’s Elmira, Heritage, and Hybrid residential elevators that have been sold throughout Canada and the United States. While there is not a specific list of exactly which buildings contain these elevators, Health Canada has stated that 1739 of these defective elevators were installed throughout Canadian buildings, while 681 were sold in the United States. 

These elevators are newer models that have been installed sometime between January 2009 until November 2017 and are used for residential buildings. To view specific models and serial numbers that are affected you can view the full recall here. 

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.

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Meet Bill: Win New Business, Keep Customers Happy and Increase Revenue

With all the functionality FIELDBOSS has to offer, it is often hard to explain to potential customers all the ways they can benefit from ditching their paper process. Our Meet Bill video offers a quick look at how our customers benefit from using FIELDBOSS. As a single, integrated system, FIELDBOSS provides you with the tools you need to connect to your customers, field staff, equipment and data. It also automates your business processes, cuts down on your paperwork and streamlines inefficient operations both in the back office and the field.

Click below to Meet Bill and learn how to win new business, keep customers happy and increase revenue.

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7 Simple Ways to Avoid Customer Disputes

There’s a lot to say about the human race and how we’ve changed over thousands of years, but there’s one thing that we have always been throughout history: committed to complaining. The oldest complaint known to history can be found in a cuneiform tablet from ancient Mesopotamia. Ideally, your organization will always run smoothly, without a single customer complaint. Unfortunately, it’s rare that this is a reality. Luckily, there is a simple way to avoid customer disputes. The digital trail is the most basic feature provided by an end-to-end field service management software, but it’s also one of the most powerful functions that keeps businesses and their employees safe from customer disputes and legal liability in a number of ways.

Here are 7 simple ways to avoid customer disputes with an end-to-end field service contractor management software:

  • Technicians can attach photos, videos, inspection forms and more to the work order – visual proof of the work completed.
  • Customers can sign off on-site for approval of work done.
  • Create detailed reports that can be sent to customers as attachment of the invoice. The customer can review the service report, and dispute any charges right then and there on the spot, before a formal invoice is sent out. This means less back and forth with the customer, along with direct proof of the services provided, materials used, and their agreement to the above.
  • Technicians can let customers know upfront if they are eligible for free service or if they will need to pay for the service, based on the level of their service contract and the status of their warranty.
  • Managers can use geo-tracking for mobile devices to see where their technicians are throughout the course of the day.
  • Business owners can review an audit log for work orders and customer records to see a full history of how a work order has been edited.
  • Technicians can complete digital forms, such as an inspection report or installation checklist. These steps ensure that procedures and protocol are followed.

This level of transparency provided by a comprehensive field service software protects good customers, good employees, and business owners – allowing owners to minimize their risk and improve their reputation. They can also use their software as a tool for selling – showing customers that they will have transparency throughout the process of working on their home or business.

By providing specific workflows, detailed documentation, and making it simple to share information, field service management software can help you avoid customer disputes.

Contact FIELDBOSS and learn how to keep your customers happy!

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Flammable Refrigerants: Consumer Safety or Environment

Flammable refrigerant

There’s a good reason why the air conditioning industry relies on chemicals that are bad for the environment—they’re safe for consumers. The Kigali Amendment, however, brings to the forefront the consumer safety versus environment trade-off. Based on current air conditioning technologies, there’s a direct trade-off between addressing climate change and refrigerant flammability. Lower global warming potential refrigerants such as R-32 and propane are more flammable. For now, to phase down HFCs, countries will need to squarely confront this trade-off.

In 2016, countries gathered to develop the Kigali Amendment to phase down the climate impact of refrigerants over the next 30 years. Sixty-nine countries have ratified the amendment. Notably, today’s two largest producers and consumers of HFCs, the US and China, have not signed on. Neither has India, the country likely to lead global air conditioning use in the future given the country’s hot, humid climate and large population.

Finding a Balance

There are two options for countries to take when looking at consumer safety and the climate.

  • Argue that consumer safety is paramount and no flammability risk is acceptable when it comes to air conditioning. Choosing this option says that the perceived cost in terms of safety is too high relative to the climate change benefit. A government holding this position would want to keep all flammable refrigerants off the market. Such a country would be relying on the development of new air conditioning technologies and refrigerants to meet its Kigali phase down goals. If new technologies don’t appear this view could lead a country to conclude that phasing out HFCs just isn’t worth the cost and continue relying on existing non-flammable options. The US is currently in this camp and has found itself with several states taking the phase-down into it’s own hands.
  • The second option is for a country to allow more flammable refrigerants to enter the market, with significant regulatory safeguards. An alternative refrigerant, R-32, which is classified as “mildly flammable”, has entered the market and captured a large market share. R-32 has been well known for decades but has been rarely adopted due to its flammability. These governments have, in effect, reconsidered the careful balance between consumer safety and climate change and concluded a riskier refrigerant is needed given the costs of climate change. Japan, Europe and Australia are taking this approach.

There is no winner or loser here. Moving to a low GWP refrigerant means people around the world, now and in the future, benefit from less climate change. It also means there are households who now have a flammable chemical in their home.

As efforts to address climate change progress, difficult trade-offs will likely become more common. It will be more important for policymakers to recognize the trade-offs and carefully balance them. Hopefully, with a little time, more manufacturers will find other ways to meet the environmental goals safely.

FIELDBOSS stays current on industry trends to keep you informed on what’s happening in the HVAC world. Read our blog and sign up for our newsletter for all the latest news.

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