Industry News

Knowing When to Repair or Upgrade A BMS

August 17, 2016

There’s no doubt that everyone wants the latest and most dependable technology. One of our longtime partners, Honeywell, recently released a new building control platform EBI R500, and building managers everywhere are considering this upgrade so that they have the fastest and most reliable system. The hesitation to automatically improve their building management system (BMS) is caused by a long list of things to be examined, similar to buying a new cell phone.

Because of constant changing technology and the introduction of new products, everybody has considered the option of whether or not they should upgrade their cell phones to keep up with modern technology. There are numerous benefits to upgrading to this new technology including improved communication and the ability for people to get in contact with each other in many different ways.

For example, despite the location, we are able to have face-to-face conversations while being miles apart using a video chat feature. Being able to connect with people in all different ways allows us to develop a new type of relationship that would have not been possible without these new innovations. Advanced technology has made us into a global society being able to connect with anyone around the world at any time. To argue, some people might disagree that increased communication is a positive. Total connectivity can be scary because it can lead to a leakage of personal information. In order to make a decision to upgrade, one must weigh their options heavily to see if succumbing to new technology is the most beneficial for their own personal and client needs.

Similar to a new cell phone, upgrading a BMS has both its perks and disadvantages. This is what happens when technology is constantly evolving. There are factors such as cost, labor, downtime, and efficiency that go into making an upgrade decision. However, with the right contractor, these scenarios can be minimal to nonexistent.


Upgraded Honeywell Building Control Platform

Honeywell’s EBI R500 is the new “cell phone” that building managers are looking at for their next upgrade. It offers secure integration by using mobile apps and cloud technology. Cloud technology is a new capability that saves data and files to a “cloud” that allows different devices to share access to that information. This makes sure that data stays intact even if one device crashes and loses its memory. Some other new features included are mobility and remote access, intelligent integration, a new user interface, and security improvements. The EBI now delivers real-time performance which has a unified view across your building to help make decisions faster. This product also advertises increased efficiency, lower risks, and a safer environment. Overall, this new system seems to satisfy what every building wants out of their automation controls.


Three Choices for End-of-Life Systems:

Now that we have seen the new features of this system, there is a choice to be made about how the upgrade should happen or if it is even worth the time and money yet. When questioning whether or not to convert from an old (or legacy) control system after it becomes end-of-life (EOL) to a new system, there are three options to choose from: repair, replace, or integrate.

Repairing EOL Systems

Repairing an existing building controls platform when it stops working is most likely the lowest cost option but it would require old parts, tools, or equipment that might be discontinued from the original manufacturer. When a new system is made, it is almost guaranteed that manufacturers will eventually stop selling parts for the legacy system. However, if it is decided that repairing is the best option, it is still possible to obtain the corresponding parts to that product during the obsolete period. This is described as the transition period when a product goes from available to unavailable by the manufacturer to make room for the new products. The original manufacturer sends out a product discontinuance notice (PDN) to announce that a product has reached EOL. After that, the old parts are available for last-time-buy (LTB) in order to stock up on spare parts for their legacy products to be repaired in the future. A disadvantage to this method is that eventually, all of the spare parts will be gone after a few repairs and finding someone to repair the system could become rare and costly. Technicians or engineers stop learning how to fix old systems eventually and they start to move on to learning how the new systems operate instead.

Replacement of EOL Systems

When repairing seems to be an impossible solution, next consider replacement. This consists of totally replacing the old system and installing an entire new system. It is guaranteed that this new system will run smoothly for years and parts for repair will be available for a longer period of time but is also highly expensive because it takes a lot of manpower and time to replace. Another huge disadvantage is that these systems will not be in service while the replacement is being conducted. There will be a period of downtime during the upgrade. Many building managers also hesitate to do a full replacement because it is incredibly expensive to constantly replace an entire control system every time a new one is released. On the other hand, replacement can be the best solution if the legacy system has an excessive amount of issues that cannot be fixed by repairing. It is important to consider whether or not the legacy system that is being replaced has been used to its full capability and if the money spent for its maintenance has reached its return on investment.

Integration of EOL Systems

So the question remains that if you cannot spare downtime and your system has too many issues for a repair, what is your next option? Integration of old and new products could be the most beneficial solution to a company in regards to cost efficiency and labor spent on the project. This solution includes integrating legacy and new systems to coexist together. When one legacy controller breaks, it would be replaced with a new one and it would continue working with the old controllers until every controller eventually stops working and gets replaced. Integrating results in a gradual transformation to a new control system. Integration also allows for the old system features that work with the needs of the building to function right alongside the upgraded features offered by the new controllers. Another upside to it is that once you replace a controller, you can use the old parts as back-up stock in case of an emergency. This will be useful for quick fixes.

One thing that building managers should be aware of if they pursue an integration plan is the possibility of bait and switch. This is when a contractor agrees to start integrating and they suggest to leave the old controllers to save money. However, sometimes, they don’t have the skills or resources needed to fix the existing controllers. Now you are left with unplanned expenses because of the contractor’s expectation of a simple, easy integration.

Integration is less expensive and requires less manpower than full replacement because it is a slow, progressive process to replace each controller once it breaks. It is part of a process of replacing one controller at a time as they break until the whole BMS gradually gets upgraded completely. Slow isn’t always a bad thing, especially if downtime is an issue. The main difference between integration and replacement is that systems continue working together while the integration is in process. It would take a long time to replace the entire system all at once and inactivity of all controls during that time could be a potential risk.

Since the process of integration is gradual, it will be easier to learn how the new control system works while still using the old one. For example, if there are nine legacy controllers and one new controller, it will be easier to manage nine old controllers with software that is familiar, while still learning the new functions of only one new controller at a time. The gradual familiarization of a new product will keep productivity high while maintaining old practices.

Now that you have heard about the benefits and disadvantages of each side, the choice is yours to make.



Written by: Teodora Bartalini

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