INTERVIEW – Tom Willie and Ken Sinclair Tom Willie, CEO, Blue Pillar, Inc.
Mr. Willie joined Blue Pillar in 2013. Tom brings a highly successful 15-plus year start-up, technology and smart grid history to Blue Pillar, including a proven executive management track record. Mr. Willie, a native of Indianapolis, was most recently CEO of Current Group and had also served as CURRENT’s Chief Product Officer and its Chief Operating Officer since December 2003. He also served as the Vice President/Vice Chairman of PRIME Alliance AISBL, a nonprofit industry trade group focused on the development of a new open, public and non-proprietary smart metering and smart grid communications solution. Prior to joining CURRENT, Mr. Willie served as Vice President and General Manager of Siemens/Efficient Networks. Tom has also held strategic worldwide marketing management positions at Texas Instruments and National Semiconductor. Tom Willie obtained his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University.
The Rise of Centralized Facility Management (CFM)
It is important that a CFM platform have specific functionality to aggregate facility energy and operational information, health, state and readiness, compliance status and reporting, and other facility operating conditions and performance trends into a single and centralized dashboard and control interface.
Sinclair: Facility managers and corporate enterprises are facing a number of cost and operational challenges when it comes to managing geographically dispersed and multi-site facilities. One of the trends that we have seen recently emerge is the move to a centralized facility management approach. Can you explain what is driving this trend?
Willie: There are a number of issues at play today when it comes to economically and reliably managing core facility-based operations. Facility managers are undeniably challenged with ever-tightening budgets, rising energy prices and aging core electrical and mechanical infrastructure. Further complicating the situation, more than 50 percent of facilities management personnel are expected to retire within the next 10 years. Facility and corporate managers alike simply don’t have the tools to gain the insight needed within and across all facilities to make smart operational and budgeting choices.
This perfect storm is driving the shift toward the corporate centralization of facilities management and operations. This emerging trend, called Centralized Facility Management (CFM), aims to address operational challenges by gathering performance data across all facilities to foster better decision-making.
Sinclair: What industries and organizations are looking to adopt a CFM approach and why?
Willie: Large or multi-site geographically distributed facilities such as hospital systems, universities and military institutions are leading the charge in adopting CFM. Simply put, the organizations that benefit the most are the critical and complex facilities where bad things happen when the lights go out.
According to Standard and Poor’s Index, the average U.S. hospital is more than 27 years old and military base is around 20 years. On top of aging infrastructure, the sheer number of vendors and equipment to manage can be daunting in these types of facilities. Statistics like these underscore the breadth of the challenge and the opportunity for CFM to help improve resiliency and energy reliability, which is critical for ensuring systems don’t fail, money isn’t wasted and lives are not put at risk.
Sinclair: What’s involved with adopting a CFM strategy and what does the process look like for organizations looking to migrate their current processes, procedures and technologies?
Willie: The implementation path to CFM typically follows a four-step process. First, organizations migrate budget decisions from the local to the corporate level to allow for enterprise-wide capital prioritization based on critical need. Second, comes a technology implementation where the organization (ideally) deploys a secure, vendor-neutral and scalable visualization, monitoring and control software-based platform. Third, corporate management uses that platform to run analytics to surface operational data that can improve best practice score-carding and enable more efficient staff deployment across sites. Lastly, organizations virtualize certain aspects of energy consumption, including enacting remote facilities management and automating load shaping and genset dispatch.
Sinclair: Technology obviously plays a large role in CFM. Can you explain more about the types of technologies and tools that can be used to gain better insight into multi-site operations?
Willie: Selecting a vendor-neutral platform is critical for CFM. The industry is littered with vendor-specific technologies that lock you into proprietary systems and don’t integrate with best-of-breed solutions on the market. In the end, that type of solution can inhibit progress and cost you an arm and leg to upgrade.
At Blue Pillar, we recently launched such a solution, Avise Foresite, which is a platform built specifically for CFM. With a platform like this, you can gather a deep level of insight into specific assets and performance trends across geographically dispersed facilities. It is important that a CFM platform have specific functionality to aggregate facility energy and operational information, health, state and readiness, compliance status and reporting, and other facility operating conditions and performance trends into a single and centralized dashboard and control interface. These capabilities are critical for allowing organizations to centralize decision making, enable system-wide operational oversight and compliance, execute energy efficiency programs, and support budgeting and asset planning processes.
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