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Five Trends That Will Impact Retailers In 2015

Retailers

Retailers are utilizing data-driven approaches to offset a moderate economy, varying consumer behavior and the continued rise of online competitors. In a recent article I wrote for Chain Store Age, I discussed five key challenges and opportunities that will impact supermarket retailers in 2015. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Data-Driven Insight Spills Over to Back-of-House
    Retailers are at the forefront of investing in data to cultivate closer customer relationships, and the industry is now poised to turn that prowess to back-of-house operations. By combining data, such as increased energy usage, alarm trends and maintenance history, retailers can identify problems and better invest their maintenance dollars. Further, data can uncover often-undetectable inefficiencies, such as small refrigerant leaks.
  1. Safe and Secure Data Access
    Data is critical in driving impactful engineering changes. However, getting data from facility management systems has grown increasingly complex. Information and network security is a top of mind concern for today’s retailers. Rather than completely locking down store networks because of security concerns, retailers should consider the potential benefits gained from understanding their enterprise operations.
  1. Increase in Outsourcing
    Today, many businesses are faced with doing more with less. Retailers are turning to outside partners rather than investing in costly internal support centers. Allowing a third party, like Emerson’s ProAct™ Service Center, to manage energy and maintenance data provides retailers with an enterprise view of their operations. These services are customizable, ranging from full-service monitoring with remote equipment integration and resolution to management of maintenance calls and dispatch requests.
  1. Less Square Footage But More Complexity
    Consumer demand for shopping experiences that offer convenience and fresh foods are driving industry changes. Supermarkets are adapting their stores and offerings as customer preferences change. As retailers also expand into foodservice, stores are becoming increasingly complex. Simultaneously, the number of experienced technicians is decreasing and new technicians lack the skills needed to keep up with the industry.
  1. Focus on Sustainability
    With energy efficiency projects, retailers can reduce energy costs and support sustainability initiatives. Through the utilization of setpoint deviation tracking services, a retailer may see million of dollars in energy savings. Another sustainability area in which supermarkets are investing is refrigerant management. Monitoring services provide visibility into equipment performance. With this data, condition based maintenance can enable early detection and potential resolution, which will save refrigerant, equipment, product and overtime labor.  

What do you think of these five challenges and opportunities? What trends are impacting your business as we start 2015?

To read the full article on Chain Store Age, click here.

Mark Dunson
President, Retail Solutions
Emerson Climate Technologies

E360 Outlook: ecoSYS Platform Offers Complete Facility Control and Chain-wide Consistency

Tobacco and gasoline — traditional moneymakers for convenience stores — are producing lower margins than ever as grocery stores, pharmacies and dollar stores extend hours and add product categories. To combat these pressures and generate future growth, convenience store operators are turning to enhanced foodservice offerings, including higher-end fresh and prepared foods.

ecoSYS

The strategy is working. Foodservice grew rapidly within the U.S. convenience store segment in 2013, accounting for 18 percent of in-store sales and 29.1 percent of in-store profits.

Chain operators still face challenges, however. Consumer expectations are different for higher-end prepared and fresh foods, and the convenience market has image issues to overcome. One-third of consumers who don’t buy from convenience stores perceive the food to be lower quality.

Overcoming these issues won’t be easy. Most chains have a variety of store configurations, sizes and systems across their enterprise. Increasing demands on associates also leave little time for monitoring, setting and controlling systems that affect the customer experience.

So how can a convenience store create a high-quality, consistent shopping experience that encourages fresh food purchases across dozens or hundreds of stores?

Emerson’s new ecoSYS control system offers a highly flexible distributed platform that allows retailers to economically deploy enterprise class controls for store optimization and remote visibility. The system is capable of managing refrigeration and HVAC units as well as lighting systems, while collecting performance information like refrigerated case temperatures and energy usage data for trending and reporting. Customers can add to their system as their needs change.

The ecoSYS platform can help safeguard food quality through refrigeration monitoring and control while maintaining ideal lighting and store temperatures. Optional enterprise-level controls enable store-to-store consistency, insights for service teams, and relieve store associates of routine system maintenance.

In addition, ecoSYS controls will soon include capabilities for supermarkets, including robust integration with existing facility control systems, addressing pressing concerns in foodservice and food retail.

E360 Outlook: Fresh Off The Boat

Energy-efficient compressors help a top banana company save millions

BananasImagine you sell a commodity so fragile it must be refrigerated the moment it’s harvested. Then it has to travel to every corner of the globe, but a small temperature change either way will ruin the entire load.
That’s the daily reality faced by Dole Food Company, Inc., the world’s largest producer and marketer of fresh fruits and vegetables. Thanks to recent improvements in shipping technology, however, Dole’s top bananas are sleeping more soundly, saving money on fuel and spoilage while reducing their carbon emissions.

Getting there is more than half the battle

Successfully transporting bananas is no easy task. In the field, bananas are first loaded into refrigerated containers that must be quickly brought to 58.0 °F (14.4 °C). If the temperature drops even a few degrees at any time, the bananas will develop dark spots and won’t ripen properly. If the temperature rises a few degrees, premature ripening and shrinkage occurs. Harsh weather encountered by ships also makes humidity control critical to protecting quality.

In the last decade, shippers like Dole and many others have turned to scroll compressor technology to better protect valuable perishables, save on energy costs and deliver environmental benefits. Modern refrigerated containers are equipped with digitally modulated scroll compressors that provide precise humidity control and maintain temperature within +/- 0.5 °F (+/- 0.3 °C).

An appealing bottom line

Dole switched most of its containers to this technology in 2005. At the harvest location digital modulation “pulls down” the temperature up to 25 percent faster than traditional compressors, enabling 46 percent more efficient temperature control for the rest of the bananas’ journey.

These compressors are smaller and lighter (95 pounds) than typical semi-hermetic compressors, which weigh around 325 pounds, leaving room for more bananas in every container. Industry experts estimate this technology could save the banana industry more than $10 million in fuel costs, reducing shrinkage and spoilage by $500 million annually. In addition, scroll compressors are already reducing carbon emissions related to banana transportation by 15 percent.

E360 Outlook: Cold and Calculated

Canadian grocery chain creates cold storage facility with zero global warming impact

Rapid growth can be a mixed blessing for an organization that takes its environmental responsibilities seriously, but growing pains aren’t stopping Metro Inc. from keeping a 240,000-square-foot warehouse chilly without depleting the ozone layer.

As Metro’s steadily increasing retail operations made it necessary to expand its primary facility for storing cold food and dairy products, the company considered the upgrade to an efficient and safe refrigeration system just as important as meeting its capacity needs. To meet the diverse challenges of the expansion, Metro reached out to CIMCO, an international leader in industrial refrigeration, food and beverage cold storage; and Dessau, one of Canada’s largest engineering and construction firms.

Metro Produce Dairy Products Distribution Centre

It was clear from the outset that hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, known for their high global warming potential, would be out of the question. Instead, the project team developed a design incorporating a dual-temperature, low-charge ammonia package refrigeration system.

Low-charge ammonia systems like the one applied for Metro are growing in popularity for large-capacity cooling applications in the 75–750 kW range. This is partly because of their efficiency, but also because the low ammonia refrigerant charge improves safety and reduces certification costs. Safety is further enhanced by completely isolating the ammonia from the warehouse.

Saving energy—and operational costs

Single-screw slide valves ensure optimum part-load performance in the system, matching any fluctuations in refrigeration load. This combination eliminated the need for expensive inverter drives, improving part-load performance, saving energy and cutting C$100,000 from Metro’s capital cost.

The secondary circuit met another of Metro’s crucial requirements: to minimize the total amount of ammonia used on-site to just 0.12 kg/kW. Microprocessors with process temperature controls fine-tune the function of the entire unit by regulating starting, stopping and capacity control.

Combined with the dual-slide design on the screw compressors, this setup allows the system to function in a range of 20 to 100 percent of flow while continuously operating at the ideal compression ratio throughout the part-load range. This permits the compressor to match the system flow requirements to make cooling as low-cost and efficient as possible, operating at an estimated 15 percent higher efficiency than comparable technologies.

E360 Outlook: Weighing up natural refrigerant alternatives

In the previous Climate Conversions post, we discussed several business drivers that are encouraging a shift toward natural refrigerant systems, including CO2. Here are several other viable natural refrigerants, along with important considerations relating to their use.

Refrigerants Landscape

Refrigerants_Landscape

R290 (propane)

Propane is classified as A3 by ASHRAE: a non-toxic and flammable refrigerant, with ozone depletion potential (ODP) of zero and a GWP of 3. Hydrocarbons are environmentally benign refrigerants and have low discharge temperatures compared to HCFCs and HFCs, thus improving system reliability. Hydrocarbons offer an approximately 40 percent reduction in charge compared to R22 and R134a. Pressures are similar to R22; however, a system must be specifically designed to use hydrocarbon refrigerants.

Propane applications are likely to grow, especially in smaller sizes, as safety in service will be important for adoption.

R600a (isobutane)

Isobutane is used in 95 percent of domestic refrigerators and freezers in Europe today, and countries like Argentina, Brazil and China are following. Millions of pieces of light commercial equipment use R290 and R600a (as well as CO2) worldwide. Early adopters of the technology include The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Red Bull and PepsiCo.

R717 (ammonia)

Ammonia is an abundant and affordable refrigerant, which has been used for years in large capacity industrial systems. It is lighter than air, breaks down rapidly in the environment, and has zero ODP and zero GWP. R717 is up to 25 percent more efficient than HFCs, has excellent heat recovery and low leakage. Because of its toxicity, it is identified and addressed rapidly in case of leakage.

Applications for R717 include: food and beverage; cold storage; recreational ice; ground freezing in mining; district heating and cooling; and heat pumps.

Although hydrocarbons and ammonia have their application challenges, their uses continue to increase in specialized applications.

Andre Patenaude
Director of CO2 Business Development
Emerson Climate Technologies

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