EMAIL INTERVIEW – Drew Mire and Ken Sinclair
Drew Mire is the VP of Operations for Computrols where he has been employed since 2008. Along with running the day-to-day operations of the company, Mire also secures strategic partnerships and develops new avenues for the company’s growth. His passion, drive, and knack for the industry has brought him through a number of different roles with the company from his beginnings as a technician.
Drew’s background has given him experience from the ground, up which has proven to be invaluable in his current position. Not only is he able to speak to the overall value of building automation strategies, but he can also assess technical challenges and provide solutions.
In his time with Computrols, Mire has grown the number of branches and dealers, helped the company expand into international markets, and secured Computrols foothold as a leader in the building automation industry.
Who is Computrols?
Computrols designs manufactures, installs, and services intelligent systems that make buildings smart, secure, healthy, and energy efficient
Mire: Computrols was established in 1983 by Roy Lynch and his brother Kevin as a service company, providing maintenance for third party building automation systems. Building automation systems of this era were very cumbersome and required an expert technician to properly install, operate, and service them. In the early 1980’s, the company’s owners identified a need in the market for a more intuitive building automation system software. Recognizing that replacing the building automation system in its entirety would not be a cost-effective solution, the owners of Computrols began brainstorming alternatives. Computrols founder Roy Lynch had a vision of a front-end computer that would run the simplest to use building automation system software the industry had ever seen. The software would be simple to use, but powerful enough to communicate to a plethora of third party control systems. This approach would provide a cost-effective solution for building owners and property management companies, allowing them to break away from the proprietary systems that plagued the industry. This was all well before industry standards, such as BACnet, had been established. By providing a simple to operate user interface, building engineers would be able to maintain and control building systems inhouse, rather than having to rely on support from the system manufacturer. Sinclair: It’s been a long time since we have heard from Computrols in our magazine, give us a brief history of the company.
In seeking to solve this problem and bring this vision to fruition, Computrols brought onboard its third owner and Director of Research and Development, Mike Donlon. Mike immediately began this project and shortly thereafter Computrols Building Automation Software (CBAS) was born. Computrols could now service large building automation systems and provide frontend replacements utilizing their new solution.
The next step in the evolution of Computrols came in the 1990’s when Computrols began designing and manufacturing its own line of Direct Digital Controllers. Today Computrols provides hardware, software, and service solutions for HVAC Control, Lighting Control, Access Control, and Fire Alarm.
Sinclair: Where can we find Computrols?
Mire: Computrols headquarters is located just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana in Harvey, Louisiana. This is where we design, manufacture, and provide support for all of our branch offices and distributors. Computrols proudly manufactures all of its products in Louisiana and backs them with a lifetime warranty. We have branch offices in New Orleans, Tampa, Washington D.C., Houston, San Antonio, and most recently, Los Angeles. Additionally, Computrols has a dealer network which covers much of the United States and also includes several international distributors.
Sinclair: How does Computrols differentiate itself from its big brand competition?
Mire: Being a smaller company in comparison to our competition has allowed us to stay nimble and continue to innovate custom solutions for the unique challenges of our clientele. We have a team of engineers who are excited to take on new challenges, knowing that they have the freedom to think outside of the box as long as it brings us to our end goal as efficiently and simply as possible.
We also feel as though having all of our resources under one roof allows for a higher level of quality control on our products. Our production team recently completed a production run of 836 VAV controllers and less than .002% failed our extensive quality control testing. This is also the reason why we are able to offer a lifetime warranty on all of the products that we manufacture.
Furthermore, we do not obsolete any of our products, rather we build upwards and backwards compatibility into every product that we manufacture. This only makes sense in a world where microprocessors and electronic components are ever evolving. As technology evolves, Computrols develops new products, but always in the same form factor, making upgrading a simple process. Computrols will also buy back dated controllers when our partners upgrade to the next generation. In over 30 years of business, Computrols has yet to obsolete a product.
Perhaps our greatest competitive advantage is the simplicity of our software. At the end of the day, we want our clients to be, what we refer to as, “self performers”, meaning they can make changes to their systems on their own. In case that’s not simple enough, we also offer free 24/7 tech support.
Sinclair: Tell us about some projects that Computrols’ R&D team is currently working on.
Mire: We have several different projects in R&D right now. One is a line of control boards which communicate wirelessly. Furthermore, our team is exploring energy harvesting technologies which could make for a completely wireless solution.
Another piece of technology we have in the works has to do with a very hot topic right now, which is artificial intelligence. Over the years, we’ve gathered histories and data that we are using to create smarter algorithms. These more complex algorithms are allowing our building automation system to think for itself as it recognizes trends and patterns, which in turn allows us to identify alarms before they occur.
Sinclair: What can we expect from Computrols in 2016?
Mire: You can expect Computrols to continue thriving and growing quickly. We recently purchased a 43,000 square foot facility in the New Orleans area that will serve as Computrols’ new headquarters and manufacturing facility. The building is currently undergoing some renovations, and we are planning to move in around June of 2016. This will give our team the ability to continue its expansion out of our home office. The new space will be equipped with a training facility that will be utilized for continuing education for our employees, customers, and distributors.
Among other trade shows, we’ll be attending the upcoming BOMA Conference as an exhibitor and presenter. Our Director of Research and Development, Mike Donlon, will be presenting on Machine Learning in HVAC Control Systems.
Computrols will also be making a concerted effort in 2016 to grow our digital footprint. We have a new website that is due to launch in May of this year, and we have stepped up our social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These will function as hubs for the latest news on our company and the building automation industry.
Lastly, our leadership team is particularly enthusiastic about our new branch office in Southern California. We have a number of current and upcoming projects in the Southern California market and believe we are just scratching the surface of potentially substantial growth in this region. Our office is located at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, where we will be a sponsor and mentor to companies whose aim is to build more sustainable buildings.