About the role – service engineer Will McDonnell
The time, tools and training to triumph
To become a multi-skilled service engineer with Thermodial you are provided with the three key ingredients – time, tools and training.
The Thermodial multi-skilled service engineer can then carryout work on a mix of essential heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and water systems, such as cooling in a data centre; heating in a school; hot water systems in a hotel or ventilation in a hospital. Work varies, from planned preventative maintenance (servicing), to callouts, to repairs and sometimes minor upgrades.
Thermodial service engineer, Will McDonnell spoke about his work and experience of going up through the Thermodial ranks, from apprentice to service engineer, having joined the company in 2015.
What exactly is a multi-skilled service engineer?
A multi-skilled service engineer can work on all parts of the HVAC and water system. In addition to their national craft certificate skill, a service engineer will be trained in gas safety. Then, as applicable the service engineer is trained in minor electrical, plumbing and F-Gas works.
Then the service engineer is ready carryout work on commercial HVAC and water systems.
What help is provided in becoming a multi-skilled service engineer?
You are given the chance and time to learn the multi-skilled nature of the work through, on-the-job work and in the training courses provided for you. Once you are ready for further training, Thermodial will provide it for you.
I know a service engineer might physically work alone, but you are never alone, help is there if you need it. It is not like other companies, here, asking for help is actively encouraged. There is a lot of experience and knowledge just a phone call away – from the directors to the service co-ordinator to the contracts managers. Help is always at hand.
What other ways does Thermodial support you?
Bonus, pension contribution, health insurance, tools, iPhone, tablet, lunch allowance, company van, fuel card, parking and tolls are all provided for.
These supports provide you with the freedom to focus on your work.
You came up through the apprentice route, did it take long to become a multi-skilled service engineer?
After the four year apprenticeship – mixed with phases in college and on-the-job – it takes another year to get fully up to speed. You gain more experience and do further training, such as gas safety, after your apprenticeship. Then you are ready to go on to the emergency callout roster, where you are responsible for the out-of-hours calls that come in, in the evening and at night.
Aside from technical skills, what does a service engineer need to be good at?
Communication and engagement is very important. Most things you do in commercial HVAC services will have a knock-on effect for others in the building, therefore, you need to keep the right people in the loop and explain what you are doing, when and why.
For instance, calling to site, the service engineer should not only check-in with the building or facility manager to let them know they are there, but also to get a handle on any issues that may have occurred since the last site service. Leaving site too, it is important to communicate with the customer and to give them a verbal briefing on your progress.
Communicating on your tablet is important too, ensuring all works are inputted for reports.
Internal communication and engagement with fellow Thermodial staff is important too. From communicating with the scheduling manager on the progress of a job, to keeping contracts managers informed on the issues on the ground on their sites, to seeking technical support from them and others.
What tools does a service engineer need for this work?
All tools necessary for each job are provided, you are never found wanting.
The most important tool a service engineer will use is their head.
To know when to watch or listen – i.e. for small leaks or pumps seizing – or ask for help. Thermodial have a vastly experienced team, who are only too happy to assist you with their knowledgeable. Eventually, you’ll build up your own bank of knowledge and you’ll know what to do in each situation, from experience and the additional training provided.
What is the service engineer mainly responsible for?
The service engineer is responsible for making sure equipment is running smoothly so unplanned downtime and breakdowns are avoided. As the maintenance service engineer, it is your responsibility to stay on top of issues on the site you are working on. You also need to able to operate independently and manage your own time on site, as there is a certain time frame with which to carry out your work.
A service engineer visits different sites throughout the week, how do you prepare for this?
Service engineers receive their weekly schedule for the coming week, towards the end of each work week. That is when your planning starts. Figure out if you need any additional tools from the Thermodial stores and book them accordingly. Do you need to order filters or belts for air handling equipment? Does any new equipment or replacement parts need to be fitted during the service? If so, they need to be collected. Thermodial’s computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) will alert you on these questions – visible through your tablet. It also helps to log on to the customer login on thermodial.ie, where you can view the previous reports for each site, ensuring you are up to speed on recent site activities.
Preparation and information are the key when you are planning your week. All of the information is there for you.
What is involved in a typical service maintenance job?
As previously mentioned, make sure you check-in with the building or facility manager to let them know you are there, while also getting a handle on any issues that may have occurred recently. These issues can be investigated first, as every building has its own criticality and pressure points.
Every day is different but the setup is the same. You are looking at the same HVAC equipment everywhere, it is just laid out differently in different buildings. Different manufacturers equipment throws up different faults on their own branded equipment.
As a HVAC service engineer, you could also be going from a boiler issue to an electrical issue in the space of a day, so there is a nice variety. You definitely get to use your head a bit.
Generally, a service engineer will begin with the big items, so usually it is the boilers first. This gives you time to observe them after servicing, while you are still on-site working on other equipment. Obviously, service one boiler at a time in case there is an issue with one.
Then, before you leave. Check that there are no active alarms. Make sure everything is back up and running, leaving the plant room clean and tidy, as you might not be back the next day, even if scheduled. Let the customer know you are leaving.
What is involved in responding to an emergency callout?
Get a verbal description on what you are attending, either from Thermodial’s service co-ordinator (during business hours) or the call contact centre (outside business hours). Keep an open mind on the issue – wait until you arrive to make your mind up fully. If there isn’t water gushing out of the ceiling, you have the opportunity to get a feel for the site. Your standard selection of tools should get you out of most holes, however, the most important tool is your head.
Get the equipment back up and running. We aim for a first time fix. It’s in everyone’s best interests to ensure there are no repeat calls on the same callout. Share your number with the customer in case the issue arises again, this will save time for you both. Make recommendations based on what happened and report it to the Thermodial contracts manager for that site. Afterall, maintenance is about efficiency and reducing the amount of callouts.
If the call comes in during the night, make sure you get the correct customer contact details. Then ring the site and see if you can talk the customer through the issue over the phone or if it can be investigated during business hours – when you have more options, i.e. when suppliers are open to get prices or parts.
What is involved when you go to a repair job?
The same planning and communication is important here.
Communication is essential if there is potential for any interruption to services or if access is required to places where others are working. The building or facility manager will already have received a risk assessment and a work method statement from Thermodial, but there would be no harm in reviewing these in-person, in advance of work commencing.
What do you need to be a good service engineer?
Pride in work, good timekeeping and a good communicator between the office and customers.
A good service engineer is also trustworthy. You are trusted with maintaining customer’s expensive equipment and with the responsibility for the correct operation of a building’s protection measures, such as frost stats, ballcocks and various valves. Also, once you get settled and are trusted, there is a degree of flexibility in organising you own plans for the coming week, in conjunction with the weekly schedule.
What advice would you give to someone starting at Thermodial?
Enthusiasm is a good quality to have, whether it is generally for customer service or for wanting to improve yourself and doing additional training, Thermodial will always support you in that, once they feel you are ready.
Also, don’t get too stressed. Ask for help.
Any advice for those thinking of coming through the apprentice route?
As an apprentice, if you show a good interest in what you are doing, in the third year of your apprenticeship you are given a bit of independence. You also have to care about what you are doing; have an interest in the job and ask the right questions.
Finally, how would you describe the culture/work environment at Thermodial?
It is a good environment. They provide you with the time and training to get things done the right way, rather than in a hurry. They are very good with all the gear they provide – you are not found wanting for anything. Then there’s the experience at the end of phone if you have any questions. So you aren’t left on your own, even when you are working on your own.
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