William Atkinson 2013-07-23 01:34:09
A look at CB Richard Ellis's engineering operations-critical environments team. According to Craig Cousins, director of engineering operations-critical environments for CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), Ltd., (Toronto), CBRE has invested in a full-time critical environments platform. “We are part of the engineering solutions department, which provides technical expertise under various sub-departments, one of which is my group, critical environments,” he said. Cousins reports to Russ Parrish, the global director of engineering solutions. He also works with directly with two others in his department. One of his coworkers holds a degree in nuclear technology, and the other is a highly-experienced data center director with over 30 years in the field. The critical environments group is linked with CBRE's transactions group and the company's project management group — coming to a full circle within CB Richard Ellis. “The transactions people are the strategy people, so when a client comes to CBRE, the transactions group will do the market study, the cost analysis, and then provide options, such as whether the client should own, rent or colocate for data centers,” said Cousins. “[Then] they will proceed with the transaction.” Afterwards, according to Cousins, the project management group will come in and build the space, or build it out, and get it ready for the racks. "At this point, my group will take over the operations and maintenance of all the critical environments infrastructure from the power to the racks," Cousins said. “Beyond the racks, the IT people are responsible, but we work closely with them to manage power and cooling requirements.” According to Cousins, operating and maintaining infrastructure for data centers is all about comprehensive risk management and deploying CBRE’s Operational Excellence program. CBRE's Operational Excellence platform for critical environments looks at reducing risk . Asking and answering the question: what can we put in place to reduce risk in the critical environment? Four Missions The critical environments group has four missions . All of which are designed to help manage this risk. MISSION #1 The critical environments group performs on-site operational risk assessments. "This is the 'bread and butter' of our critical environments program," Cousins said. "We assess 55 risk criteria on each account." The operational risk assessments are organized into five subcategories: Administration Operations and Maintenance Training and Qualification Planning Analysis and Engineering Continuous Improvement "We rate each account in terms of compliance with our program," Cousins said. "We rate each item on a logarithmic scale, so we can identify the areas of greatest concern. After the assessment, we debrief the account, focusing on the items that have the highest weights. When we find areas of risk, we take these opportunities to provide training as we are doing the debriefing." The operational risk assessments look at the accounts in terms of people, processes and equipment. During assessments, they review items such as: Does everyone know what their jobs are? Are the organizational goals well defined? Does the group understand that client's uptime objectives? Do the individuals have performance objectives? Have they gone through a skill and knowledge assessment? Is the staffing model correct for the organization? Is there a match between what the client wants and what CBRE sees as the real required staffing for the environment? "For example, an older facility with a lot of manual processes may need two people on overnight shift instead of one," said Cousins. "Conversely, a client with a very modern, fully-automated data center that does its own switching and looks after its own systems may think they need two people overnight, but they might only need one." The assessment also examines the following: Change control Incident response and escalation management Emergency response procedures Integrated work management The establishment of general work rules (eg: access control, who to contact, how to get hot work permits, etc.) How people are trained in the general work rules, whether standard operating procedures are in place The preventive maintenance program Critical spare parts inventory Training (especially recurrent safety training) New project management Continuous improvement management If the team finds that a client has a process or procedure in place that meets CBRE's own requirements . Such as a change management procedure . And it is fine if the client prefers to use its own process or procedure. "Often, large clients do have their own processes and procedures, and we are fine using these," Cousins said. MISSION #2 This second one focuses on education and learning. "We are responsible setting up training programs for the client sites," said Cousins. "We have a 16-module mission critical training program that clients can sign up for online. We also have a few hundred technical courses available through our CBRE Foundation that are also online.” He continued, “We also have a Global Knowledge Network, which brings our critical environments people together from around the world, which is a network that I lead,” said Cousins. He explained that his network meets once a month on a global network call where they review documentations related to processes, policies and procedures that have been issued or updated during the last 30 days. “I review industry bulletins,” said Cousins. “We also review the critical environments 'lessons learned.' If an account has an issue, it will be documented, and we will discuss it with everyone. This improves everyone's awareness." MISSION #3 This stage consists of performing infrastructure risk assessments, which are different from operational risk assessments. “Here, we look primarily at the equipment, its age and its condition,” said Cousins. “We use the Uptime Institute's tier standards as our guiding document.” This provides requirements for four tiers, from tier 1 through tier 4 — with tier 4 being the most expensive and highly-reliable tier. “During an assessment, for example, if the client thinks they have a tier 3, but our design gap analysis and equipment assessment show that they don't, we let them know,” he said. “We identify high risk items during the review. For example, we may find that they may have an uninterruptible power source which is obsolete.” MISSION #4 The final mission involves Cousin's team being available to clients on a daily basis and they are happy to answer any questions and respond to daily requests. “We are there for the accounts on a day-to-day basis,” said Cousins. “We get a lot of technical and process questions from accounts every day. For example, they may ask if we can send them some underfloor cleaning standards for their data center or a system reference guide for standby power systems.” In some cases, the team will provide brief responses and then provide the accounts with links to the appropriate documents on CBRE's internal website. A Love of His Job How did Cousins get involved in this work and why does he stay with it? “I was 20 years in the Air Force, where I looked after critical infrastructure on airfields, including power systems, electrical systems, cooling systems, and backup power,” he said. “A lot of operating engineers in this field have technical military backgrounds, because such backgrounds lead well into this environment. They are used to working with procedures, with a structured discipline, and with listening to the voice of authority. It's okay to have fun and enjoy what you do. However, when it's time to be serious, you have to buckle down and know exactly what you need to do.” When Cousins left the Air Force, he got involved with outsourcing, and one of his first projects was working on data centers for a major financial institution — his entry into the data center world. What's his favorite part of his job at CBRE? “The most enjoyable part of my job are the people I meet,” he said. “I meet people who really care about what they do, and they do a lot of great things,” Cousins added. “They love what they do, and they go home each day with a feeling of satisfaction.” Cousins is also impressed with how well these people work together as a team, even if they don't see each other that often, since usually they only see each other at handover from one shift to the next. Cousins said that the most challenging part of his job is when an event occurs on an account. “Those can be very stressful times, and it takes a lot of effort to navigate through these events and find out what really happened and why, and what can be put in place to make sure it doesn't happen again,” said Cousins. “Fortunately, with our Operational Excellence deployed, incidents are few and far between.” Currently, the critical environments group works with more than 250 data centers, covering about 80 million square feet. “The numbers continue to increase,” Cousins said. The Future What is on the horizon in the area of critical environments facility management? As Cousins sees it, the big trend these days relates to Data Center Information Management (DCIM) systems. “If you walk into a typical data center today, you will usually see a technology system managing the electrical switchgear, a technology system managing the building automation system, and another technology system managing the power on the racks and maybe even the thermal characteristics of the raised floor area,” he said. “With DCIM, you have one system that looks at everything — from where the utility feed comes in [and] all of the critical systems, including electrical and mechanical, throughout the entire building, including switching simulators, and down to the power and cooling at the rack level.” One benefit in particular that Cousins likes about using DCIM is that he believes there is often a wall between facilities management teams and IT departments, each of whom look at their own pieces of information. According to Cousins, DCIM helps facilities management and IT people work more closely together to proactively manage the data centers — something that was very difficult to do in the past. “For example, the facilities management people can see what's going on at the racks. Perhaps the IT people are loading up way too much power on a particular rack, and creating hot spots. With DCIM, everyone is looking at the same thing,” he said. William Atkinson has been a full-time freelance business magazine writer for 36 years. He covers all aspects of business, industry and management.
Published by Facilities Engineering Journal. View All Articles.