July 2018

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Scott CochraneEMAIL INTERVIEW –  Scott Cochrane and  Ian Morse

Scott Cochrane is President and CEO of Cochrane Supply & Engineering, a leading industrial IoT and building controls supplier with locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky, as well as one in Canada. In 2000, Scott took over the business from his father, Donald Cochrane, Sr., who founded the company 50 years ago. He is proud to be an advisory council member for multiple industry manufacturers such as Honeywell, Johnson Controls, and Tridium, and to be named a 2016 IBcon Digital Impact Award Winner for his innovative contributions to the industry.

Ian MorseIan Morse is Division Manager of Building Automation Systems for Conti Corporation and has been in the controls and automation industry for more than 25 years. Since 1969, Conti Corporation has led the industry in the development of design and construction solutions that address job requirements while surpassing performance expectations. Today, Conti performs the complete lifecycle of construction services from design/build to field installation, training, and maintenance for an array of services. These services include renewable energy, electrical, technology, mechanical, fire suppression, HVACR, and road/underground. 

Master Systems Integrators (MSI)

They make sure all systems communicate properly, coordinate all project participants, collaborate with building owners to ensure systems information will be accessible and usable, and they develop software layers responsible for integration, aggregation, and communication of the building systems.

Master Systems Integrators (MSI)

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Scott Cochrane of Cochrane Supply & Engineering has the unique benefit of working with 300+ of the best systems integrators in the country. Cochrane recognizes the critical role they have within the building automation industry and is speaking with a different highly-regarded MSI each month with the goal of providing examples of industry trends, best business practices, and the growing value of an MSI. This month, he interviews Ian Morse, Division Manager, Building Automation Systems, Conti Corporation.

June Interview with Marc Dugré, President of Regulvar, Inc.

May Interview with Rick Gorka, President of the Airon Group of Companies

April Interview with Colin M. Murray, Owner of Solution Control Services

February Interview with Jeff Murphy, President and CEO of ECT Services, Inc.

January 18 Interview with Chris Saltz, Managing Principal of FIX Consulting LLC.

December Interview with Jason Houck from Hepta Control Systems.

November Interview with Geoff Hunter, President and Senior Principal of Palmer Conservation Consulting (PCC)

October Interview with Brian Oswald, Managing Director for CBRE | ESI.

September Interview with Joe Napieralski the Co-Founder and Director of Development of Smart Building Services LLC

August Interview with Sidney H. Blomberg, Jr. the founder and President of K & S Ventures, Inc

July 17 Interview with Scott Cochrane and Ken Sinclair

This month he interviews Ian Morse, Division Manager of Building Automation Systems for Conti Corporation

Cochrane:  How did you become an MSI?

Morse:  Our position as an MSI really started with a need in the marketplace.  There was a void that needed to be filled.  Because of Conti’s size and resources, we were perfectly positioned to fill that void.  We have performed as an MSI partner at Ford Motor Company, Birmingham Schools, and Macomb Community College. We landed the initial Ford projects through our mechanical division.  They bid on and were awarded the project mechanically through the GC, with controls included. Conti is a large, well-known name, and that got us through the door at Ford.  We’re currently doing two data centers for them, and there’s so much more on the horizon. Our first experience on the MSI realm was at Birmingham Public Schools. We’ve been working in this school district since 2013.

Cochrane:  Can you explain what some of the characteristics are of a good MSI?

Morse:  Understanding the needs of the customer is number one.  If the customer is not happy with the system, you won’t be working for them for long.  It also takes good partners.  Vendors such as Cochrane Supply and our graphics team are key to a successful business model.  Of course, it also helps that Conti Corporation has all of the MEP trades in-house to perform nearly any task requested by the customer. We’re a one-stop shop.

Cochrane:  How do you sell Master Systems Integration services?

Morse:  Initially, it was part of the project we quoted—we didn’t have to go in and upsell the customer to be their Master Systems Integrator. I can definitely see that part of our business is growing. In the very near future, there will be much more emphasis on selling Master Systems Integration as a service. With Ford, for example, they continue to add to the MSI portion of our scope of work. Undoubtedly, there will be an emphasis on growing this part of Conti Controls.

Cochrane:  How do your customers procure MSI services?
Morse:  With Birmingham Schools, for instance, it was an interesting story. One of our team members saw an ad in the paper, requesting a price for a new control system at an elementary school. We decided to bid on the job, which was just for a single building at the time. One elementary school was all we were promised. We bid it with very tight margins and got the job, not knowing that we were going to become the preferred contractor to do several more schools after that one was complete. We did have competition, but we were consistently able to win the projects. I believe more than 50% of the district is now operating on Tridium controls, including both high schools. Our work at Macomb Community College came from publicly-bid jobs—we had to be the low bidder to get that work as well.

Cochrane:  As an MSI, what percent of your time is spent in the following categories? R&D, Consultations, Field Commissioning, and Software Programming.

R&D: 5%
Consultation: 15%
Software Programming: 45%
Field Commissioning: 35%

Cochrane:  Describe a few challenges that you’ve encountered as an MSI.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]Morse:  Working with a customer’s IT department can be a challenge. More often than not, the IT group will be leery about having “foreign” devices on their network.  They’ll also be concerned about increased network traffic due to the BMS. Working with IP networks can be trying. There is a lot of latency in IP systems that customers often don’t understand. Customers and owners may expect that with a Gigabit IP-infrastructure, the transfer of information across their network will be instantaneous. Not realizing that there is latency; there are delays. Every time the data goes through a network switch or gets transferred from copper to fiber and then back to copper, there are delays. The same holds true during commissioning. Commissioning firms want to see instant results when it’s IP-based, not realizing the delays involved.

The other side of it is just getting the customer, not necessarily the end user, to understand what we do. They easily grasp the construction trades, like steel, concrete, sheet metal, and piping—they understand those trades because they’re things they can see. When it comes to controls, much of what we do is in the background; they can’t see it. They can’t get their hands on it; they can’t necessarily wrap their minds around it. Subsequently, we may be faced with time constraints that just aren’t realistic. It takes a bit of perseverance, but eventually, we get our MO across to the customer.

And then there are security concerns—in many cases, external access to sites is prohibited. Secure ports and certificates are often required.  The network can be so tightly locked down, that even from within the building, we can have issues with device-to-device communication.

Cochrane:  Do you envision Master Systems Integration as being a part of your business in the future? If so, how?

Morse:  No question about it, it will be a big part of our business in the future. Integration will continue to be a major part of our business growth. We will push further and further into the MSI world.


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