Associate Director of Utilities & Plant Engineering
for a Midwestern university

Our client is a major research university that is known for having one of the largest single campuses in North America and an extremely complex plant operations system. They had an immediate need to secure an Associate Director for Utilities & Plant Engineering who could fulfill this critical role, which included integrating a newly acquired pharmaceutical research complex into its plant operations. The successful candidate has a rare combination of strong technical knowledge, and managerial and communication skills; and he has assisted the university in reducing costs and achieving multiple objectives within its plant operations department.

In 2009, the university purchased a large pharmaceutical research complex. While this significant acquisition was very exciting for the university, it was also a challenge for the utilities department as it integrated the new research center into its facilities portfolio.

At the same time, the individual currently serving in the Associate Director for Utilities & Plant Engineering role for the past 30 years was moving on within the university. Therefore, the institution had a critical need to secure a professional for the position, which is responsible for utility services; plant engineering support; mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; commissioning; and energy management.

In meeting with the university’s Director of Human Resources for Facilities & Operations and Executive Director of Plant Operations before initiating recruitment activities, we came to understand the competencies and skill sets needed to perform successfully in the position. First and foremost, we knew we needed to secure a professional who had comparable experience in a large campus setting, and who understood the management of significant multi-faceted budgets and utilities financial management.

It was also important for the university to secure an individual who had a background in energy conservation, energy audits and commissioning, and who had a strong understanding of utility rates and emergency preparedness. As we further discussed the role and its dynamics, our client expressed that it would be ideal if candidates had experience in dealing with organizational re-structuring, as they were preparing to make changes within their facilities department.

To ensure that we identified all potential candidates who would have the competencies to fulfill the role’s responsibilities within a large campus setting, we performed extensive research of colleges and universities, healthcare organizations, pharmaceutical firms, and professional services entities. While the majority of our activity was focused within the Midwest, we selectively performed a national search for appropriate candidates. We also approached professionals within various maritime academy alumni groups, and utilized our large network of contacts to identify sources of additional referrals.

The successful candidate was the Associate Director of Operations & Maintenance for a university in the South Central U.S. where he was responsible for directly managing the maintenance and operations groups for the institution’s power plant and chilling stations. He possesses a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration, and is a Registered Professional Engineer in several states.

Our client selected this individual based upon his experience and many accomplishments, which included improving plant efficiency by 30% through improvements in equipment, systems, and operations; implementing a chilled water distribution system that significantly improved the reliability of the delivery of chilled water while also reducing costs; and successfully executing several hundred million dollars worth of utilities improvements projects. Another attraction was the individual’s abilities to forecast monthly and annual campus energy use and plant natural gas consumption to enable long-term master planning for utility systems and distribution systems.

In follow-up conversations with our client, they speak highly of the professional’s knowledge, expertise, and attention to detail. They also comment on his rare combination of technical knowledge, and managerial and communication skills. To date, his accomplishments include:

  • Directing a major utility expansion valued at $75M.
  • Leading negotiations on a $47M contract with electricity supplier.
  • Modifying purchased utility contracts, which save the university $8M to $9M annually.
  • Initiating a significant project that entails real-time electronic metering for all utilities in all facilities. 
  • Reducing capital budget by over $3M by eliminating unnecessary projects.
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In meeting with the university’s Director of Human Resources for Facilities & Operations and Executive Director of Plant Operations before initiating recruitment activities, we came to understand the competencies and skill sets needed to perform successfully in the Associate Director role. First and foremost, we knew we needed to secure a professional who had comparable experience in a large campus setting, and who understood the management of significant multi-faceted budgets and utilities financial management. It was also important for the university to secure an individual who had a background in energy conservation, energy audits and commissioning, and who had a strong understanding of utility rates and emergency preparedness.
Rick Nawoczynski, Senior Managing Consultant

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