Interview with Shawn Manuel | AirCare Automation

Connecting the technical and business sides of a company, Global VP of Sales for AirCare Automation, Shawn Manuel, discusses his view on the cleanroom controls sector

Electrical engineer by trade, Shawn Manuel soon moved onwards and upwards to become Global VP of Sales for air quality control specialist, AirCare Automation. In his role, Manuel serves as a direct conduit from customer to product. “Companies are beginning to value more of a hybrid model associate whom not only understands and communicates the business side but the technical side as well to provide a comprehensive solution,” he says.

To fuel his engineering experience, Manuel worked as an Avionics Mechanic for the Texas Air National Guard, then moved to Harris Corporation where he worked as an Engineering Tech Manager. His last role before moving in the Sales side of business, was as an Energy Engineering Program Manager for the Southwest Research Institute.

To give him the extra edge in business knowledge, Manuel then undertook a Business Administration, Management and Operations course at Harvard Business School Online. “My undertaking of Harvard’s Business school online was a matter of necessity as much as convenience,” Manuel explains. “I was back filling what I introspectively identified as what may be lacking in regards to business education in comparison to my MBA decorated peers.”

Manuel speaks highly of the course, saying that Harvard offered what he considered a more progressive education with access to advanced curriculum in innovative principles and modern day digital evolution to compliment conventional business curriculum.

The addressable air quality market has accelerated into a multi-billion dollar business

How Manuel got into the niche cleanroom controls industry seem, to him, very serendipitous. “Looking back it all makes sense, combining my engineering experience in medical device development, circuit board fabrication, quality compliance and HVAC,” he reflects.

After his first Sales Engineer role at Bergstrom it seemed that Manuel had built up the perfect repertoire to fit into the ‘hybrid model’ associate that seems to be in demand. Now he can really affect change from his role, and he explains how the company has grown 25% year over year since he has come onto the board.

When it came to the pandemic, the VP really noticed a shifting mindset. “While environmental quality and critical environments have been in practice for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a huge spotlight on indoor air quality bringing IAQ or the lack thereof to the forefront of the mainstream HVAC industry,” he says. “Whether it’s just basic, getting back to work in offices or factories, new pharmaceutical developments, space programmes or simply bolstering healthcare compliance, clean air implications are substantial. The addressable air quality market has fundamentally shifted and accelerated into a burgeoning multi-billion dollar business."

Manuel is taking his role in getting the population through this crisis with the weight it deserves. “I personally feel honoured and blessed to have found myself in an essential position to serve and support not only our local community but our world through a pandemic and beyond,” Manuel says. “We’ve endured significant changes in the way we operate, whether it’s engineering’s inability to travel to jobs due to travel restrictions or logistical supply chain issues. It’s forced us to be more resourceful in engineering supporting remotely or finding new and in turn better suppliers.”

In terms of getting himself through the pandemic, Manuel is family first and foremost, but is also a fitness fan. “I am a huge health and fitness nut. I like to compete and challenge myself when I can in triathlons and long distance running. Most of which have taken a pause due to COVID-19 unfortunately. Although I am thankful for the extra time with family as we all work and school remotely.”

Like many, Manuel has also taken the time to reflect on the important things in life. “The inability to travel, the limited access to mainstay entertainment like theatres or indoor dining, has pushed us to appreciate and explore the outdoors or homecooked meals that we may not have realised otherwise. I choose to see the silver-lining but am careful not to turn a blind eye to others who may be struggling so we are active in our church, donating and helping our less fortunate brothers and sisters.”

Technical

In order to keep up to date on the industry’s latest developments, Manuel is active in the company’s partnership with organisations like the IEST, ASHRAE, USP, CETA, to name a few. “These groups support healthy discussion and contribution to the multi-faceted landscape of compliance to ensure public safety,” says Manuel.

Manuel is aware of the great many varieties of cleanroom and how hard it is to make generalisations on equipment. “There are so many levels of critical environments so it’s difficult to focus on just one in regards to importance,” he explains.

Speaking about what his company’s offering, Manuel believes they have hit a very health balance. “AirCare Automation has done an excellent job of creating a comprehensive ecosystem that answers the challenges that come with environmental monitoring and compliance. We start with our proprietary fan filter unit FFU controls that is widely used in the industry. Married with our internally-coded, custom software and plug/play sensor infrastructure, we provide an intuitive, automated approach that the industry appreciates. This differentiates us from the rest!”

Manuel seems proud of the modern technology that his company is using. For monitoring systems this is no different. Automated monitoring systems are a far cry from the antiquated model of someone walking around with a clipboard collecting temperature, relative humidity, or pressure measurements, that is quickly becoming obsolete as businesses scale, he explains. “We provide automated, continuous datalogging that produce customer-configurable, time-stamped reports.”

In Manuel’s opinion, cleanroom commissioners and certifiers are better served through downloadable, easy to process reports.

In a discussion about negative plenum design and positive pressure installations, Manuel has some strong opinions.

The antiquated model of someone walking around with a clipboard

“Ducted or engineered air systems are ideal in the most accurate control and monitoring of air flow although they can be costly. Typically the airflow CFM or air changes per hour ACH are calculated measures not true measure,” Manuel says. “AirCare Automation has developed true CFM technology with one of our OEM manufacturer partners so we are in the early stages of adoption industry wide. Similar to the progression from cheaper AC FFU motors to smarter, more efficient EC or electronically commutated fan motors, we anticipate it is only a matter of time.”

Manuel adds: “AirCare Automation is extremely versatile so we do support the old as well as the new, even tying in building HVAC air handling units AHU, dampers and exhaust fans. We have done full drop-in retrofits as well as new builds. We can also tie into the cloud for real-time, network & remote access. We control door interlocks, audio/visual alarms when out of range, automated pressure control, lighting, building automation system/ building management system BAS/BAS or Bacnet MSTP/IP protocols.”

In the future, Manuel expects that the appreciation for air cleanliness that has build through the coronavirus pandemic will continue. "Through the lens of the pandemic, companies and governments alike, are finding that environmental quality matters are not only a liability but addressing them accordingly is a necessity. I predict there will be less hinderances or doubt as capital expenditure projects rachet up in the low-interest rate environment our economies are providing to subsidise economic growth.”

Manuel ends the interview with some words to work by: "Good company’s adapt and thrive in a crisis and we have.”

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