How to Select the Right Automated Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) Solution

May 4, 2016


With similar words being used for different tools and different words being used for similar technologies, it’s often hard to narrow down the right fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) platform. And as buildings continue to age and cloud technology continues to mature, keeping up with it all can become dizzying.

Considering the growing number of open building automation systems (BAS), there are several important factors facilities teams must take into account in order to ensure the automated FDD solution they choose fits the bill not only today, but many years down the road.

Here are the six components of an effective automated FDD solution you should prioritize:


1. Prioritized Insights

The purpose of automated FDD is to turn mountains of data into actionable information. Most FDD systems can analyze millions of data points from building automation systems to determine where operational inefficiencies and energy waste are taking place. However, facilities teams can easily find themselves drowning in this data with no sense of where to start. That’s why the right FDD solution should not only identify a laundry list of problems but also prioritize findings in order to direct action towards the best opportunities for improvement (read: highest ROI).

This way, facilities teams can direct resolution of maintenance issues to achieve energy savings, improve comfort levels and extend the lifespan of systems, based on what’s most important to them. After all, there are only so many hours in the day and don’t we all want to be spending those making the most impact?


2. Mass Customization

No two building portfolios are exactly alike, which means you need an FDD solution that is flexible enough to meet the unique requirements of each of your buildings. An FDD solution appropriate for today’s demands should be able to handle a diverse number of systems without reinventing the wheel every time. That means no rewriting of diagnostics with every new building; automated FDD can normalize and map different data sources seamlessly across systems into a standard diagnostics architecture without costly and time intensive custom coding.  

To get the most accurate and actionable building analytics, diagnostics should be deployed automatically across many different building profiles, systems and types of equipment. In practice, this means your FDD solution should be able to incorporate thousands of lines of code and complex logic that can be rapidly configurable and rolled out quickly and accurately across the entire portfolio.


3. Root Cause Analysis

Simple rules on their own that are developed for individual buildings are a lot like alarms. These alarms may be applied across different systems to gain efficiencies, but the information produced to inform facilities teams is similar to what may already be available in their building automation systems: reactive alarms to active issues. The problem here is that building operators already have a lot of alarms to deal with, and digging through them is a costly process prone to false positives.

With as much data as buildings are generating today, FDD solutions need to connect the dots for you by combining multiple rules into an overarching hierarchy to identify the root cause of a problem and direct its resolution while avoiding false positives.


4. Cloud Scalability

For large organizations managing hundreds or thousands of buildings, scalability is non-negotiable when it comes to FDD. After all, scalability is one of the top reasons companies are flocking to the cloud in the first place for email, web development, payment processing, you name it.

The world of FDD is no different. Cloud-native FDD solutions (which are scalable by their very nature) enable large deployments across an unlimited number of buildings, equipment and points. This means no more data storage and processing power limitations caused by PC or single-server based applications. Why spend months integrating a single building to a locally hosted solution when you can connect 100 air handlers across 20 buildings or thousands of HVAC points in 30-60 days to capture more energy-cost savings sooner?

When data is streamed into a true SaaS architecture from hundreds or thousands of sites, the processing power required to handle, store and analyze that data with diagnostics can effortlessly scale to meet demand. That means that thousands of virtual servers may be used at any given time to process an organization’s diagnostics, and many users within an organization can log into the system at the same time. No bottlenecks or lag times.

It’s also important to note that even small portfolios can experience significant gains of speed and cost savings by going full cloud.


5. Automatic Releases and Update Schedules

Gone are the days when yearly releases and manual updates were an acceptable feature of the software landscape. Long release cycles are no longer acceptable (even from big enterprises), and any company who uses them will soon wind up with obsolete technologies and components. That’s not the horse you want to hitch your wagon to.

Considering the rapid rate of technological change, a standard software package loaded on a server or PC will be altogether outdated within a year of installation if it does not receive regular updates.

Automated FDD, on the other hand, enables constant innovation in the form of continuous deployment of upgrades to all users in near real-time. This means facilities teams no longer have to upgrade manually or deal with buggy or slow software while their providers work through months- or years-long release cycles — upgrades appear through a web interface regularly and seamlessly.


6. Built for Proactive Maintenance

As important as the identification, prioritization and investigation of maintenance issues is, an efficient workflow is arguably the most important part of successful FDD implementation.

Choosing the right FDD solution can make or break your team’s ability to effectively act on the information created and track the results. What’s needed is a process that determines who acts when so that high-impact issues are always resolved in a timely manner. Chances are, different stakeholders within an organization have different priorities, including:

  • Reduction in comfort complaints
  • Increasing efficient maintenance productivity
  • Risk management
  • Energy cost reduction

It is important to determine who the primary stakeholders are and how much support will be needed to enable a FDD response process where teams take ownership over the delegation of actions based on diagnostic findings.

With automated FDD, this is built in. Workflows can be developed directly within the web interface that can establish when an internal engineer or outside controls and mechanical vendor should take action. The system should also automatically track and report on the results of any action taken.

In a Wrap

Using the six criteria above, you’ll be better prepared to choose and implement the right FDD solution — one that will automatically adjust to your unique buildings requirements, scale with you as you grow and, thanks to continuous release cycles, become even more innovative with time. The value of the solution, not cost alone, should drive your purchasing decision.


Want to take this checklist with you? Download our free How to Select an Automated FDD Solution Checklist below:





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