Cloud-based Energy Management Systems (EMS). We know you’ve heard about EMS—in fact, we’ve blogged about it before, and while it’s still not prevalent among small- to medium-sized retailers just yet, it will be—and sooner than you may think.

Automated building systems are gaining in popularity across the commercial real estate landscape; whether they’re basic systems or highly complex, they save building owners and manager’s time, money and frustration. They also help to keep customers and tenants comfortable and happy. Even low-cost automated building systems can deliver high-quality performance, and many pay for themselves over a short time period on energy savings alone. Cloud EMS is no exception.

If you’re like most facility management professionals, there’s a decent chance you’ve been asked (or that you soon will be asked) to cut your 2015 operating budget by a certain percentage. It’s a real estate management reality, and it’s not likely to change anytime soon. How you accomplish that may not be management’s concern. But with low-cost EMS, you have a tool in your toolbox to help achieve the cost reduction challenge you will likely confront.

Cloud EMS: A Quick Refresher

Just to recap, cloud EMS is designed primarily to signal you when a unit is not performing as it should. This provides you with information that’s really important, because with HVAC, problems can stay hidden for days, even weeks, until breakdowns finally occur.

Conversely, by knowing about issues early on, you can schedule service ahead of time and pay your technician normal service rates, rather than emergency rates. With cloud EMS, you’ll proactively address issues upstream before they become expensive catastrophes. Cloud EMS also helps to avoid overtaxing HVAC units and it ensures efficient unit operation.

Questions, Questions

Before deciding whether cloud EMS makes sense for you, ask yourself five questions:

Question #1:
Are your utility bills going up? Rising energy costs strain everyone’s budgets. One obvious remedy is simply to consume less energy. But how can you do that? You could cut store cooling in the summer and heating in the winter during business hours. But making those same reductions during times when your stores aren’t occupied—like Christmas Day and New Year’s Day—saves money without making customers and employees uncomfortable. The greater number of stores, the greater the savings. In fact, we’ve seen cases where large national retailers installed EMS in all their stores based on this expected energy savings alone.

Question #2:
Approximately what percentage of your HVAC equipment is in fair to poor condition? As you probably know, older and poorly performing HVAC equipment takes more time, attention and money to keep up and running than new or newer equipment. Cloud EMS is designed to allow you to focus on equipment that may be problematic over time.

Question #3:
Are your stores making too many emergency calls? A typical HVAC emergency call costs $800, and the problem at hand may or may not be fixed during that call. When that same problem is preventable, one emergency call is too many – its money not well spent.

Cloud EMS is essentially management by exception; before an HVAC units breaks down (or fails completely), you’ll receive an alert two, three or even four weeks in advance. You’ll likely still need to place a service call, but that will cost less than a typical emergency call. And, you can schedule that call so it doesn’t disrupt normal store operations.

Question #4:
Do have the capital to replace units that need replacement? If not, cloud EMS can help you monitor those units and address problems before they cause breakdowns. In this respect, the expense of cloud EMS— roughly equivalent to a programmable thermostat— may be, dollar for dollar, one of the best investments you can make.

Question #5:
Do you think it’s difficult to monitor dozens or even hundreds of stores? This is a bit of a trick question, because in reality, you’re already monitoring all your stores, whether you realize it or not. You’re just doing so reactively, fielding calls whenever things go wrong. Cloud-based EMS enables you to proactively get ahead of the curve, before problems get worse.

Again, cloud EMS is management by exception; you decide which stores or units you want to monitor, and how you want to monitor them. If there’s no problem, you won’t receive a notification. Additionally, companies like CLS Facility Services can monitor units through cloud EMS and provide customized reporting as customers see fit.

We’re not asking you to make a commitment to cloud EMS today. Rather, we hope you’ll think about the challenges you face in keeping your current HVAC equipment operating smoothly and cost-effectively. It’s not easy— we know, because we confront those challenges on behalf of our customers every day. And every day, we become more and more sold on the significant benefits that cloud EMS offers retailers, from small stores to big boxes.

In our next installment on cloud EMS, we’ll dive into some of these benefits in more detail. If you’re interested in learning more, we love talking about this stuff, and we definitely love helping our customers save money. Call us… we’ll sit down with you, go through your numbers and help you determine whether cloud EMS will pay for itself in a short period of time. With 2015 on the horizon, you’ll probably be crunching those numbers anyway. We’re here to help.

Until then, if you want to learn more about CLS, a facility management company, please call us at 800-548-3542.