At the recent AHR Expo convention in Orlando, technology was a prominent feature built into virtually all of the products on display. From smart thermostats to equipment that actively communicates with other HVAC components as well as water heaters (if the same brand), and all of it available via your smart phone, via email, or from your tablet or computer.
Data logging and energy usage reports are becoming the norm, rather than the exception. The down side is the lack of free-flowing communication between brands. Pretty soon you’ll need more screen space to display all the apps you’ll need to trouble-shoot and/or monitor your customers’ mechanical widgets! Floating about in The Cloud is all good and well — that is — until a storm cloud brews up a perfect storm.
Case in point: I once stated we would never have a fax machine in our office. We didn’t have computers back then in the technological dark ages either. Less than a year later we had both! The fax machine became a vital necessity for moving business contracts at the speed of Ma Bell’s phone lines. Parts diagrams could be faxed within minutes. The Internet opened our horizons too while email began to edge its way into business transactions. Oddly, the fax is going the way of the Dodo bird in favor of text messaging and email.
A few weekends ago, GoDaddy began promoting a “new look” for their email login. They’ve been an exceptionally reliable host for our business email, so we did not expect the change would cause any issues. However, the Saturday the change took affect logging in became a no-go: type in your ID and password only to be taken right back to the same login page. Given that it was over a weekend, and based upon their past rapid resolution to glitches, we figured they’d have it resolved by Monday. A few hours later, the old login page was back and access to email was easy. So, the new login page was not ready to launch. Funny, but you’d think they would have ironed out the kinks before launching.
Monday, the new login page was back and we couldn’t login to access email. Other sites could be accessed, so it had to be GoDaddy, right? A call to tech service did not resolve the issue. Bids were being prepared, and I sent a completed multi-page proposal to our printer. It’s wireless, of course, and a communication error message appeared on screen. We rebooted the router (multiple times) and our computers too, but no dice. Turned out our digital subscriber line was down. Widespread outage in our area, but anticipated to be back up and running by 4:00 a.m. the next morning. Our smart phones utilize Verizon wireless, but GoDaddy login was still a no-go. We were in the midst of a perfect technological storm and that’s when it struck me: technology has become the lifeblood of business operations.
During this technology blackout, we were in the middle of negotiating a bid for a large commercial project with an out-of-state general contractor. I needed to use DocuSign and email back the executed contract and work was to start the same day due to their exceptionally tight construction time frame. No Internet. No email. No executed contract! Business no longer moves at Ma Bell’s speed, it moves at the speed of light. Makes me almost nostalgic for rotary dial phones!
During this blackout, we were in the middle of negotiating a bid for a large commercial project with an out-of-state general contractor.
When DSL service was restored — not the next day — two days later, that caused our router to become brain-dead — the memory completely wiped out. All internal settings had to be manually keyed back into its brain. Technology is supposed to enable us to be more productive, and when it works well, it does. When it falls apart, it becomes a nightmare and huge black hole of wasted time.
Which brings me back to the recent AHR and technology leaping into our mechanical widgets at a frenetic pace. I worry that the new generations of service techs entering these trades will be totally dependent upon technology and will not possess mechanical trouble-shooting skills for times when the on-board technology goes dark.
No longer will they need to know how to calculate superheat or subcooling, the digital gauges will do that for them, send it to their smart phones and/or email that information back to the office. No longer will a tech need to troubleshoot, the onboard technology will have done that before he was dispatched with the needed parts in hand.
For the techs who learned the trades before technology was running the show, help the newbies learn to troubleshoot for the inevitable time when a perfect technology storm cloud rolls in to keep them in the dark.
All Dave Yates material in print and on Contractor’s Website is protected by Copyright 2016. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must first have the expressed written permission of Dave Yates and Contractor magazine. Please contact via e-mail at: [email protected].