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‘Real-time’ service

FM Controls monitors heating, ventilation systems

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Team members of FM Controls pose at their Fort Dodge office recently with a web server and user interface. From left to right: Steve Lursen, operations manager; Don Ludwig, technician; Theresa Lursen, accounting; and Paul Ludwig, owner.

When Paul Ludwig first learned about the internet in the 1990s, he wasn’t necessarily sold on its capabilities.

“This was in another office,” Ludwig said. “I walked in and a guy said, ‘look here, this is the internet.’ He said you can search for anything and I said why would you want to do that? But look what it’s changed.”

The internet has been vital to Ludwig’s business, FM Controls, which officially launched in 2004.

Ludwig has been working in the industry since 2000.

“I needed a business,” Ludwig said. “I needed a job.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Don Ludwig, a technician at FM Controls, monitors temperatures from his workstation at the company’s Fort Dodge office.

FM Controls installs, programs, and services heating and ventilation systems, primarily for commericial buildings.

“We do a lot of work with schools, health care facilities, commercial office space,” said Steve Lursen, operations manager.

In addition to providing service all across Iowa, the company has installed systems in places like Chicago, Seattle, and even as far away as Hawaii.

“We install systems that are all networked together, so you have controllers controlling individual pieces of equipment,” Lursen said.

Once installed, technicians with the company can monitor and make system changes hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their Fort Dodge office, 102 First Ave. S. FM Controls moved its office from Duncombe to Fort Dodge in November 2018.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Temperatures in the Dubuque County Courthouse are on display on a screen at FM Controls. Technicians at FM Controls can monitor the temperatures of every room in real time.

“Those (systems) are tied to a network, so we can log in to a building, make changes, troubleshoot issues,” Lursen said. “We can turn equipment off and on, change temperatures. It’s all relative to what’s installed in the building. What time a building starts to warm up in the morning. We can bring control to the supply of fresh air into the building, say rather than running an air conditioner.”

The company employs eight people. The roster consists of technicians, installers, and sales representatives.

Inside the office, there are four workstations.

At those stations, technicians like Don Ludwig can see up-to-the-minute graphics on the systems in place at each location the company serves.

“It’s all real-time,” he said.

Don Ludwig is Paul Ludwig’s son.

Don Ludwig travels on behalf of the company to install the systems.

He said the evolution of the internet has been the biggest change in the industry.

“That change was right when I got into the business,” Don Ludwig said. “It was dial-up motums and then the internet changed everything. No software required, you just log in to a web page.”

In the beginning, Don Ludwig said he had to be careful he wasn’t hooked up to the internet for too long.

“You’d get in trouble if you left your computer on and computers were making long distance calls hooked to the internet,” he said. “There were some costs you didn’t want to incur.”

“I remember a $1,200 bill one time,” Paul Ludwig added.

Access to high-speed internet changed all of that.

“The internet allows us to serve a larger region,” Lursen said.

Paul Ludwig added, “We don’t have to drive 200 miles to troubleshoot. We do all the graphics and programming.”

Now, about all Don Ludwig needs is a laptop.

“A laptop and lots of experience is what it takes,” he said.

Lursen said the goal is for each building to be “comfortable, consistent and operate in an economical fashion.”

FM Controls uses equipment made by Reliable Controls, of Victoria, Canada.

Nothing is manufactured at the Fort Dodge building. The space is used as an office and storage space for equipment.

“We dont make or manufacture anything,” Don Ludwig said. “We sell systems that have a lot of different components. Some manufactured in Wisconsin, Seattle, Victoria.”

The work keeps him busy.

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “Every job is different. Every job is custom.”