Mobility and Collaboration Tools “Make Life More Comfortable” for Hill York

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Case Study by Onix

Hill York Air Conditioning Services & Energy Solutions, a full-service HVAC contractor specializing in commercial air conditioning and energy solutions, provides energy efficient services for the installation, maintenance and repair of a wide range of heating, cooling and ventilation systems. Founded in 1936, Hill York serves the state of Florida with the vision of “Making Life More Comfortable”.

Background: Pioneering HVAC Company Looks to Streamline Technology for Workers Across the State

Since designing and installing the first air conditioning systems in Miami Beach hotels after World War II, Hill York has led Florida facilities such as hospitals, colleges, government buildings, performing arts venues and fitness clubs to new levels of indoor comfort and energy efficiency. Hill York relieves building owners of maintenance chores by using smart technology and remote monitoring.

Today, the company has more than 200 employees in four office locations with an additional 120 field technicians serving customers statewide. Michael Harris, who joined Hill York as Vice President of Information Technology in 2016, saw an opportunity to elevate the company’s technology. He also knew that the ownership was ready to make changes.

The Challenge: Unacceptable Service Disruptions and Outages

Hill York’s existing email setup was subject to disruptions and outages, as was the company’s hosted server. In a service industry where timeliness and responsiveness are key, Hill York needed a more dependable solution.

The company researched both Office 365 and Google G Suite, considering several factors:

  • Some employees use a desktop computer while others work entirely remotely, depending solely on mobile solutions. Therefore the solution needed to work well across various devices including phones, laptops and tablets. Mr. Harris and the team sought a complete solution. They needed the standard office tools like documents and spreadsheets, but also wanted to improve their collaboration by leveraging calendar sharing, text / chat options and video calls.
  • Though cost was not a deciding factor, it was considered during the decision process.
    The team determined that Google was the better choice. Hill York went live with G Suite — and quickly saw improvements across the organization.

The Solution: G Suite Meets a Variety of Needs

Mr. Harris reports that for field technicians, the transition was needed. “They use Gmail and Drive. They use Google Photos to upload job pictures to Drive. In the past, pictures would be taken and emailed. This became a problem when sending several photos or needing to access the photos weeks later. Additionally, we use Google MDM (Mobile Device Management) to publish and manage apps on their phones. The techs have everything they need to do their job.” He added, “All data is backed up because it’s a company phone. Replacement phones are quick to deploy; all of their data is right there in the cloud. We only have to sign them into the new phone and they have everything they need.”

In the offices, the team is putting the collaboration tools to good use. The billing department generates a Google Sheet with past due balances. Sharing this information with account managers gives everyone an accurate financial status when speaking with customers. Mr. Harris noted that employees like that history is visible in Chat, and that Cloud Search is so powerful for both Drive and Gmail. He also noted that, “Hangouts and Chat are proving to be very popular. Our team has really discovered Forms recently and have begun using them to streamline several internal processes.”

The company now has an intranet built with Google Sites housing training information, an employee recognition board, a shared events calendar, forms and more. “It’s the one stop for everything Hill Yorkers need,” said Cristina Crenshaw, brand manager for Hill York. Mrs. Crenshaw gave another Sites example, “When Hurricane Matthew was heading for Florida in the fall of 2016, we were able to build a site in a day — without having any programming experience. This site was a way for employees to get updates about company operations, employee availability, storm status from various weather and government agency news feeds and other relevant info.”

Hill York has an IT team of four people; Mr. Harris notes that moving to G Suite has helped them become comfortable with the cloud. They have one Google admin and one help desk manager that can quickly rectify needs such as restoring information deleted by accident, or wiping a Hill York-registered mobile phone remotely when lost. Additionally, he was able to cite some impressive cost savings realized as a result of going Google:

  • Saving $180,000 in licensing over four years since the company qualified for Google’s Enterprise Agreement promotion
  • Offsetting the running cost of cloud-based servers that were supporting email at about $16,000 a year for four years
  • Licensing servers, regaining another $10,000
  • Avoiding the need for an OCR and indexing application costing $24,000 a year, instead using Google Drive
  • Transitioning to Drive storage by turning off a file server to save $12,000 a year
  • Terminating the purchase of AirWatch for 260 phones for about $120,000 over four years by instead using MDM from Google
  • Moving to an integrated fax solution, sending and receiving faxes by email. Eliminating fax machines and their phone lines will save $24,000 over four years.

Conclusion: Increasing Adoption and Implementing New Uses for Google Cloud

“Our industry is slow to adopt new technology; users can be uncomfortable with it. While adoption varies across the company, some users have very successfully adapted and are much more productive,” said Mr. Harris.

When analyzing Onix’s role in the G Suite migration, Mr. Harris commented, “They’re very knowledgable and kept us organized on the project management side. They made solid recommendations on how to deploy and manage the environment. Onix validated our change management approach. The technical team was excellent and quickly resolved any issues.”

As an example of the success of the deployment process, Mr. Harris explained, “We wanted a single sign-on solution designed for iOS devices. Google says that doesn’t exist and can’t happen. But Hill York and Onix implemented it along with Google MDM features and a device management policy application.” Due to great teamwork and project team communication, the timeline was accelerated; the project was completed ahead of schedule.

He concluded, “We’re not as deep into the Google platform as we will be in another year. Next on the radar at Hill York is Google App Engine and Cloud SQL.” With Onix, Hill York is starting work on a client portal. “Onix is great at teaching us to fish. We want to learn how to do things ourselves and Onix has been very receptive to that. We’re learning something new all the time and making the Google platform work for us.” Up next for Hill York are transformation workshops to expand the G Suite experience and brainstorming new ways to work even more effectively.

Onix Case Study

Buildings ‘get smart’ to improve comfort, save money, and reduce energy use

Today’s economy is one run by consumers and participants having unlimited information at their fingertips at all times.  This on-demand economy has brought smart technology and data analytics into all facets of business today.  The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) just released a report discussing how smart buildings upgrades are catching up to this new trend.  Among many other findings, they spoke to the energy saving potential that the South region of the United States has when it comes to smart heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for commercial buildings.

Making much more data and information available to a building operator is driving efficiency in large and small buildings all over the country.  Whereas a smart building with integrated systems can realize 30-50% savings, individual components can be added to small and medium businesses and save 5-15% with little money upfront.  HVAC technologies like smart thermostats, sensors, variable frequency drives, and cloud based energy information systems have huge potential for savings in Florida where HVAC use in commercial buildings accounts for over 50% of electricity consumption, which is significantly above the national average. A study referenced in the ACEEE report proved that rooftop package units installed with smart thermostat controls, multi-fan speeds, and demand control ventilation can save approximately 50% in electricity savings.

With the addition of the aforementioned smart controllers and sensors, real time data analytics can give visibility to a unit’s operating efficiency by the minute.  This advanced assessment of a building gives the operator an unprecedented look into run-time and efficiency so that nothing is wasted.  Hill York has been working with these new smart building solutions for more than 8 years with our Alerton and HYStat controls for large and small commercial buildings, respectively.  Seeing reports from the country’s leading energy efficiency minds further validates what Hill York has been advocating for years; smarter buildings make efficient buildings, which fuel smart businesses.

 

Cities Set New ENERGY STAR Benchmarking Requirements

As I referenced in a post earlier this week, business driven markets and government policy go hand in hand with Energy Solutions. With the consistent trend toward long-lasting infrastructure improvements and smarter buildings in most industries across the country, it’s no wonder why we see government policy working to accelerate the savings of both money and energy.

Government regulation can be on a macro (federal) level between countries and a micro (city) level, like the movements we are seeing today. Cities across the nation are adopting policies requiring building owners to benchmark and publicly report on their energy use through ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager.

Adding to the list of 17 in the past months, Portland, Atlanta, and Berkeley join cities like New York, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Denver, and Philadelphia as municipalities that are making it easy for Energy Solutions to be implemented. It’s only a matter of time before Florida cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville enact policies that require ENERGY STAR Benchmarking. When they do, Hill York will be there as an ENERGY STAR Partner with over 6 years experience and a Portfolio of over 100 buildings benchmarked already.

Leveraging the Market and Government Policy

The private sector has been driving energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction as a part of a sustainability movement for the past 10 years. Companies and industries such as Microsoft and Coca Cola, and many more, now release sustainability reports so that consumers can see everything that they are doing to help reduce the impact made by their product or service. Apart from the private sector, governments are now pushing the sustainability movement even further with new goals to reach and a plan on how to get there.

In November of 2014, the Obama administration announced a joint sustainability venture with China to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26% below 2005 levels in the United States by 2025 and to peak carbon emissions by 2030 in China. In late March, the United States submitted its plan to achieve such reduction in greenhouse gases that included reducing building sector emissions and four other actions. One way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was the utilization of the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool to benchmark buildings and drive efficiency through building upgrades and efficient appliances. Other possible ways to achieve this is offering federal rebates for efficiency upgrades or grants on both the state and federal level.

What does this mean for Hill York, a company at the forefront of efficiency in Florida? It means that while we have been operating on a market driven wave of efficiency, we can leverage new sustainability goals by the US to bring Energy Solutions throughout the state. Hill York is already using Portfolio Manager and has benchmarked many facilities that have grown into large-scale efficiency projects. We also recently secured two Energy Solutions jobs by leveraging state grant money to improve energy efficiency; a perfect example of keeping up with all the tools at our disposal. Read, download, and print the press release here. Our business is driven by both the “invisible hand” of the market as well as government policy, and staying on top of both has put Hill York at the front of the industry.

Study Ranks Cities’ Energy Efficiency Policies

Energy efficiency in large cities is the most effective way save resources, protect the health of the community, and catalyze the local economy. This week, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released their 2015 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard that takes the 51 largest US metropolitan statistical area (MSA) populations and grades them in the five categories below.

•Local government operations
•Community-wide initiatives
•Buildings policies
•Energy and water utilities
•Transportation policies

The intricate scoring system placed Boston in the top spot with 82 out of the possible 100 points. Following after Boston was New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, Austin, and Denver to round out the top 10. The four Florida cities on the list, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, all scored in the bottom 50% with Orlando scoring the best at 33.5 points.

Compiling this information in one place with yearly reporting is the ideal way to drive change. The old saying that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure first” holds true. This is the second year this report has been released and cities averaged an increase in their scores by 2 points. Energy efficiency is an important tool for both business and home to save money, save energy, and protect the environment. Florida cities have their work cut out for them and this is an exciting time to be a driving force in the energy efficiency industry.