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Facilities Search Case Study: Director for Utilities & Plant Engineering

Facilities Search Case Study: Director for Utilities & Plant Engineering

Helbling partnered with 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. The university had an immediate need to secure an Associate Director for Utilities & Plant Engineering who could integrate a newly acquired pharmaceutical research complex into its Plant Operations. The candidate secured 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.

Our Client's Objectives:

Our client is a major research institution and it has one of the most technically complex Plant Operations systems in the country. The university had purchased a large pharmaceutical research complex in 2009. While this notable acquisition was very exciting, it posed a challenge for its utilities department with integrating the new research center into its facilities portfolio.

During this same time, the individual who had been serving in the Associate Director for Utilities & Plant Engineering role for the past 30 years was promoted within the university. Therefore, the institution needed to quickly secure a professional for this position considering the fact that the role is responsible for the university’s utility services; plant engineering support; mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; commissioning; and energy management.

In initial discussions with the university’s Director of Human Resources for Facilities & Operations and Executive Director of Plant Operations, we came to understand the skills and competencies of ideal candidates for the position. Most importantly, we understood that we needed to secure a professional who had comparable experience within a large campus setting, and who was experienced with significant multi-faceted budgets and utilities financial management.

Our client contacts also felt it was imperative to secure an individual who had experience in energy conservation, energy audits and commissioning, and strong knowledge of utility rates and emergency preparedness. As we continued to discuss the role and its dynamics, our client expressed that it would be ideal if qualified candidate backgrounds also included organizational re-structuring as the institution was preparing to make structural changes within its facilities department.

Helbling's Search Strategy:

To ensure that we identified a comprehensive talent pool of potential candidates who would have the competencies to fulfill the role of Associate Director for Utilities & Plant Engineering, we performed extensive research of colleges and universities, healthcare organizations, pharmaceutical firms and professional services firms. We focused the majority of our activity within the Midwest, and also selectively performed a national search for appropriate candidates. We also contacted professionals within various maritime academy alumni groups, and utilized our large network of contacts to identify additional sources of referrals.

Search Results:  

Our client selected a professional who was the Associate Director of Operations & Maintenance for a South Central university, where he was directly managing the maintenance and operations groups for the institution’s power plant and chilling stations. He has 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 chose this individual for his experience and many accomplishments, which included enhancing plant efficiency by 30% through improvements in equipment, systems, and operations; installing a chilled water distribution system that substantially improved the reliability of the delivery of chilled water while also reducing costs; and successfully executing several hundred million dollars’ worth of utilities improvements. Our client was also attracted to the individual’s abilities to forecast monthly and annual campus energy use and plant natural gas consumption to allow long-term master planning for utility 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 somewhat rare combination of technical knowledge, and managerial and communication skills. To date, the successful candidate's accomplishments have been:

  • Directing a $75M major utility expansion.

  • Leading negotiations with an electricity supplier on a $47M contract.

  • Modifying purchased utility contracts, which save the institution $8M to $9M annually.

  • Initiating a major project that involves real-time electronic metering for all utilities in all facilities.

  • Eliminating unnecessary projects which have resulted in reducing the capital budget by over $3M.