Continuing standby power education

Knowledge is power when designing standby power systems.

11/15/2013


In addition to hosting an annual power generation conference, Generac offers courses with CEU/PDH credits and the backing of the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Courtesy: Generac Power SystemsWhen Mark Twain said, “The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so,” he wasn’t specifically talking about the need for continuing education, but he might as well have been. Those who make their living providing engineering expertise to others have worked hard to ensure that they know the right answer, so they can provide the best possible guidance to their customers. 

A moving target

The challenge, however, is that the breathless pace of modern technology ensures that the right answer has an incredibly short shelf life. Technologies evolve quickly. The tech landscape is littered with the bodies of yesterday’s cutting-edge solutions. The only valid strategy for engineers is to invest time in continuing education, and to share that intelligence with their customers.

Good companies that have reason to be proud of their products like to say that their best customer is an educated customer. When the customer is in full possession of the facts, the good companies don’t have to work as hard to make the case that they are presenting the best choice to their customers. But engineers have to know the right answer before they can share it. 

Therefore, a commitment to continuing education is vital, and it benefits everyone. Yet way too often, engineers don’t devote enough time to educational opportunities, even when those opportunities are free. Why? 

Old school

Engineers are human. Like anyone else, they like to stick with what they know: a specific technology, a comfortable brand, or equipment they’ve recommended in the past. Published surveys of specifying engineers show that familiarity is such a strong motivator of behavior that it even trumps reliability of the product, and is twice as important of a factor as price.

To one degree or another, everyone is guilty of holding on a little too tight to their tried-and-true ways. It’s easy to understand. Everyone likes knowing the answer without having to expend a lot of investigation energy. And there is a real comfort in avoiding unknown risks. But in order to be the very best advocates for customers, engineers have to be open and available to the evolving needs of their customers, and to have their noses to the ground for fresh solutions to meet those needs—or else they risk knowing things that ain’t so. 

Good news, bad news

As exciting as new technological developments are, they almost inevitably come with some degree of a learning curve. A consulting-specifying engineer may specify standby generators infrequently or have an application outside of his or her normal projects. Very often an engineer’s core expertise is in facility power distribution and lighting. Customer expectations can shift slightly and sometimes dramatically in response to new innovations and changing market conditions. Not knowing the new rules can result in an engineer failing to maximize the value proposition with his or her customers. These realities are compounded by ever-changing codes, which always bring the real risk that an uninformed design choice will result in compliance issues with the authority having jurisdiction. 

The good news is that whether an engineer is new to the power generator space and needs to quickly get up to speed, or a savvy veteran who just wants to make sure he or she is at the top of the game, there are continuing education classes available to help provide the best answers to the tough questions. Knowledge truly is power when designing standby power solutions. 

More choices = better choices

Incorporating the unique requirements of a standby generation solution into various types of applications can be challenging. Matching customer expectations for performance, reliability, growth, and sustainable environmental responsibility can create multiple competing design requirements. This is where having options becomes essential to success. Only when an engineer has a complete understanding of the breadth of available technologies and best application practices can he or she achieve optimal solutions. 

New technologies = new possibilities

Today, the standby generator industry is innovating to achieve new possibilities for customers. The major manufacturers have reconsidered how they provide simple, high value, and redundant standby power solutions. These solutions have created a new set of customer expectations for reliability and scalability. Natural gas exploration technology has fundamentally changed the supply and pricing of this fuel, triggering a corresponding rise in customer expectations on how best to use low-cost, clean-burning natural gas generators. In response, manufacturers have innovated new solutions, such as bifuel, that combine natural gas into traditional diesel engines, as well as new approaches to maximize the power density and lower the cost of natural gas gensets. 


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