Article from Microsoft Customer Stories featuring an interview with our CIO, Bradd Busick: 

Using the cloud to build and maintain smart buildings

MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions is shaking up the tradition-bound construction industry. Using Internet of Things and data analytics technologies, MacDonald-Miller helps customers build energy-efficient buildings and keep them operating at peak efficiency. Here, Bradd Busick, the company’s Chief Information Officer, talks about how MacDonald-Miller has gone all in with the Microsoft Cloud to design cutting-edge smart-building systems that save customers money, give MacDonald-Miller new growth opportunities, and help save the planet, one building at a time.

 

By Bradd Busick, Chief Information Officer, MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions

When you look at the construction industry, there really hasn’t been a lot of change for 50 years. Even with most smart buildings, all their different moving parts—heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, security systems, lighting, room scheduling, and on and on—still function separately. They are rarely connected with each other or to the building’s maintenance system.

So, facilities management has remained very reactive. For instance, a building manager picks up an alert from one system, creates a work order in a second system, and sends the field service team to hunt around for manuals and parts in a third or fourth system. It’s inefficient and ultimately burdens the building owner with higher energy and maintenance costs.

At MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions, we’re on a journey to make buildings work better. We’re working with Microsoft to take building maintenance into the twenty-first century. We first concentrated on getting all our data in one place—the Microsoft Cloud. Specifically, we’re using Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Azure, which together provide us with a single source of truth across sales, field service, inventory, accounting, and other parts of our business. And we use ICONICS software running in Azure, together with various Azure Internet of Things (IoT) services and Microsoft Power BI, to analyze building data and give employees visual insights into that data, in a way that makes sense for their different job roles.

We’ve come up with a really cool building maintenance service we can offer to building owners, whereby a building’s IoT sensors feed data into Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Field Service when they detect a problem. Say an HVAC unit generates an alert that a part is overheating. The alert is passed to Dynamics 365, which automatically creates a trouble ticket for our service staff. Our technician shows up at the customer site knowing what the problem is, having a complete repair history in front of him, and bringing the right parts and tools so he can be much more efficient and effective, making a first-time fix.

With the IoT data and automatic alerts, we’re able to catch and fix a potential problem before the customer even knows it exists.

Not only are our technicians more efficient, but we also get a whole lot more visibility into problems in the field now. It makes us more efficient as a company for service technicians to be able to see all the work that we’ve done for a customer before they undertake a regularly scheduled service procedure.

Incorporating advanced technology helps our business grow, too. Many of the new construction jobs we won last year we won because we offered an optimization component. No longer can a company walk into a bid situation and say, “We’re going to build your building” and expect to land the job. You need an optimization solution, a way to analyze a building’s health in real time to maintain energy efficiency over the life of the building. That’s good not just for building owners but for the planet.

We’re working with Microsoft to innovate and improve our ability to fix the right thing at the right time, with the right people, and continuously drive down energy and maintenance costs. With the Microsoft Cloud, we achieve faster time-to-market and lower our costs with new solutions.

We continue to invest heavily in the Microsoft Cloud, offering data visualization and analytics, including equipment analytics, to our customers as a service. We’ve fully embraced Microsoft PowerAppsMicrosoft Flow, and Office 365 to help our employees work closely together and be effective from anywhere.

Our Facilities Solutions group has fully embraced the capabilities of the wearable technology that we’ve integrated both with ICONICS and Dynamics 365 to give frontline workers the ability to see real-time equipment operating metrics and the details in the work-order tickets. We’ll continue to invest in creating visual artifacts for “seeing” the performance of equipment in real time, which assists in decision making and historical reference.

We’re also investing heavily in cloud-based, geo-specific user experiences that give customers the opportunity to virtually see behind the walls of their buildings. We’re also near completion of a computer-aided virtual environment (CAVE), which will provide architects, general contractors, and our customers with a virtual experience that enables them to see and experience their building in virtual reality before it’s built.

All these innovations make the building industry an incredibly exciting place to be—and MacDonald-Miller is leading the way.

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