The heat is on

You typically find out too late that your heating or air conditioning isn’t working. The office gets colder by the minute as you flip through the Rolodex trying to remember who the maintenance contractor is or who in building management you are supposed to call.

If you’re lucky, someone can get out to take a look at it later in the day or worse, tomorrow. In the meantime, employees are wrapping up in coats and blankets as productivity drops to zero.

There is a better way.

Advances in technology are changing the way HVAC companies do business. It’s now possible to have the HVAC equipment monitored remotely. When the unit starts to show signs of a breakdown, a technician can be paged and the unit can be repaired before an outage occurs. Technicians are armed with small wireless devices that allow them to file work orders from the field, update inventory levels in their vans or even log their hours remotely so they don’t have to go to the office.

“The quicker you can push information out to the field and back, the more efficient you are,” says David Jack, president of Data-Basics, a Cleveland-based software development firm that specializes in HVAC and facilities management applications. “HVAC equipment that has the right controls can send a work order through the Web that says what needs attention and where. The person running the building might not even know it needs service. This is very proactive and very forward-looking.”

With the right software setup, companies can monitor in real time what the status of all pending jobs are, and customers can log in to see where they are at on the schedule or what the status of their repair is. When complete, the technician can file the appropriate paperwork remotely.

“The sooner the information is filed, the sooner the billing process can start, which will help improve your cash flow,” says Jack.

With a souring economy, new construction may drop off, but that usually means service calls increase as owners look to keep existing equipment running longer.

“The people making the money will be the ones that operate efficiently and are armed with information,” says Jack.

Data-Basics Inc.