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How the Internet of Things is Aiding Food Processing Operations

I recently wrote an article featured in Refrigerated and Frozen Foods on the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) in refrigerated and frozen foods processing. Below are some highlights of the benefits of integrating process equipment with building controls.

As supply chains have become more multifaceted and food-processing systems increasingly sophisticated, controlling a facility’s HVAC, lighting and refrigeration operations has developed into an intricate activity that can impact product quality and the bottom line.

Food industry clean eating business

Existing building management systems can be a simple solution for operators, but connected technology and IoT are emerging to help streamline operations. By integrating the management of process equipment with building controls, organizations can use one platform to control all systems and improve facility activities.

Addressing Operator Pain Points

Food manufacturers need to keep productivity high, control production and maintain flow practices, allowing employees to focus on producing quality products in a timely manner while also ensuring food safety. Leveraging IoT capabilities can provide three key benefits in a processing setting:

  1. Reduce equipment downtime

In the food manufacturing industry, temperatures must remain consistent to ensure food safety. Inconsistencies and stoppages of these automated processes are expensive. Connected facility systems equipment has been designed to create alarms in these instances in order to detect an issue more quickly. From a maintenance perspective, identifying potential failures before they occur can reduce the amount of equipment downtime and avoid disruption in day-to-day operations.

  1. Improve efficiency of equipment management

With connected technology, the facility manager now has the ability to know what’s going on with their systems and implement changes in real-time. IoT software also simplifies equipment management. No longer a time intensive, manual process, connected systems communicate when equipment is correctly calibrated.

  1. Increase energy savings

Employing IoT can help processing plant management to better understand the use and scheduling of equipment, in order to accurately and efficiently operate that equipment. The ability to identify poorly performing equipment sooner results in energy savings and operational improvements. Plant managers can track data on equipment use; this system data can be analyzed for actionable insights to strategically plan for demand and peak cycles.

As the food processing industry becomes more complex, the use of IoT within existing food processing operations will help adopters to improve facility productivity while reducing maintenance issues and overall operational costs.

You can read the full Refrigerated and Frozen Foods article here.

For more than 20 years, Emerson Retail Solutions has been helping businesses like yours safeguard food, reduce energy consumption, protect the environment and optimize business results. To learn more about our technology solutions and services for retailers, visit our website.

Paul Hepperla
Director, New Solutions Development & Enterprise Product Management
Emerson Climate Technologies

Meet the New Boss

Site Supervisor delivers small-format consistency and predictability

Today’s convenience store chains and small-format retailers find themselves in a rapidly changing landscape. As consumer preference for freshly prepared food offerings continues to spill over into their space, small-format retailers are adapting their business models to become more like foodservice providers.

Meet-New-Boss

Read more

Regulatory Landscape in Commercial HVAC Addressed in Latest E360 Webinar

On Aug. 2, we presented the eighteenth installment of our E360 Webinar series. While many of the topics explored here previously dealt with commercial refrigeration, this latest Webinar explored the many impacts of energy efficiency and refrigerant regulations in the commercial HVAC industry. Presented by David Hules, director of commercial marketing for the air conditioning business, the Webinar took a closer look at the two primary forces shaping the regulatory landscape: the Department of Energy’s (DOE) new energy efficiency minimums and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) phase-down initiative on high global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants.

E360 Webinar_Regulations_DavidHules_07-20-16-FINAL_V2.pptx

With HVACR consuming roughly 50 percent or more of all energy in U.S. commercial buildings and homes, it’s no surprise that many of the trends driving the HVAC industry are geared toward providing solutions that deliver the most energy-efficient components, systems and buildings. Green building methodologies, whether LEED or net zero, are taking a whole-building approach to achieve energy efficiencies with particular attention to:

  • Ventilation and air quality
  • Commissioning and monitoring for buildings
  • Coordination of building subsystems

Hules reviewed the current status of energy efficiency code adoption and how it is now determined on a state level using existing versions of the ASHRAE 90.1 standard. The most recent (and most stringent) version of this code, ASHRAE 90.1-2013/2015 IECC, has only been adopted by a handful of states to date. But, based on the DOE’s recent ruling, the IEER (integrated energy efficiency rating) portion of the ASHRAE 90.1-2013 revision of the standard will be mandated nationally on Jan. 1, 2018, on rooftop and/or packaged systems. Hules then explained that this is the first step in a two-phased approach by the DOE, with the second increase in IEER levels coming in 2023.

To meet these increasing efficiency targets, Hules described how new systems will achieve higher part load efficiencies via a number of potential technology levers, including:

  • Multi-speed blower and condenser fans
  • Energy-efficient, modulating scroll compression solutions
  • Larger coil heat exchangers
  • Improved electronic controls

On the refrigerant side of the equation, Hules explained that the EPA’s efforts are part of a global phase-down on HFCs — one that will introduce new low-GWP refrigerants to achieve these phase-downs. The most likely alternatives to replace today’s high-GWP refrigerants are all classified as A2L, or mildly flammable. While these will reduce GWP into the 400–675 range, building code standards must be revised before their use in HVAC applications. To that end, Hules said that feasibility studies and revisions to key standards are currently underway.

OEMs are already preparing for the emergence of A2L alternatives by manufacturing new systems to meet regional requirements or application-dependent criteria. The convergence of the EPA and DOE regulations will present OEMs with the option to approach compliance with each regulation separately, or combine their efforts into a single design cycle. Hules said that while OEMs will ultimately need to produce regulatory-compliant systems, they should also strive to create products that minimize complexity for customers.

To learn more about these regulatory impacts on the commercial HVAC industry, you can view this Webinar.

 

Advances in Supermarket HVAC Equipment

I was recently featured in an article on supermarket HVAC for the June issue of Progressive Grocer. Below are some key takeaways.

 According to Energy Star, food retailers spend more than $4 per square foot annually on energy, with a large portion for HVACR systems. This Progressive Grocer article addresses how supermarket HVAC equipment is becoming more sophisticated and efficient, with the ultimate goal of reducing those figures.

FBPost-ProgressiveGrocer

We’ve seen that recent advances in grocery refrigeration have also led to advances in supermarket HVAC systems. For example, doors on refrigerated cases and air management systems are solutions that improve the shopper’s experience and comfort level, as well as help the HVAC system operate at the ideal temperature.

Another item that affects supermarket HVAC is dehumidification. Removing moisture from the air allows retail HVAC and refrigeration systems to work better, while also improving shopper comfort. For example, grocers in humid climates often deal with refrigeration systems that perspire, which can lead to the pooling of water on floors and cause safety risks for customers who may slip or fall. Reducing humidity can alleviate that problem.

And, a third advancement is the integration of all retail facility systems. Unlike a commercial building where HVAC systems are separate and distinct from lighting, the HVAC, refrigeration and lighting systems in a grocery store can be integrated through a facility management system for improved control and visibility across all equipment. If a retailer is only monitoring the temperatures in food cases, they are missing out on the potential efficiency and gains from also monitoring their HVAC systems.

To read more about how supermarket HVAC equipment is becoming more sophisticated and efficient, read the full article on pages 188-189 of the June 2016 issue of Progressive Grocer.

 For more than 20 years, Emerson Retail Solutions has been helping businesses like yours safeguard food, reduce energy consumption, protect the environment and optimize business results. To learn more about our technology solutions and services for retailers, visit our website.

Paul Hepperla
Director, New Solutions Development & Enterprise Product Management
Emerson Climate Technologies

 

Bridging the Refrigeration Gap

Industry needs to address the shortage of commercial refrigeration technicians

Bridging Ref. Gap

For more than a decade, the lack of qualified technicians in HVACR has been a growing problem in the U.S.

Recent industry statistics help reveal the extent of the technician shortage. An ACHR News article estimated that more than 27,000 skilled technicians are projected to retire annually. Meanwhile, according to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 15,000 trained HVACR technicians are entering the workforce annually, and the industry is expected to grow 21 percent through 2022.

In annual contractor roundtables hosted by Emerson Climate Technologies, the lack of qualified refrigeration technicians is consistently cited as the number one challenge contracting business owners face. Although different HVAC initiatives  have attempted to address the issue through the years, the situation for refrigeration has not improved. On the positive side, we’re beginning to better understand the roots of the problem and where to focus our efforts.

The refrigeration gap may be defined as follows: a shortage of qualified refrigeration technicians available to service increasingly diverse and complex refrigeration systems and applications, compounded by limited access to training programs offered throughout the nation’s career vocational schools and technical colleges. Adding to this challenge is an industry dealing with continually evolving regulations and emerging technologies.

While most of the nation’s technical schools offer accreditation in the AC trade — complete with hands-on training with the industry’s most commonly used equipment — very few of these schools are equipped to support the breadth of equipment and system architectures required to educate refrigeration technicians. Refrigeration technicians must be equipped to deal with a much broader range of refrigerants and application temperatures, as well as myriad system architectures.

The technician shortage was the focus of a spirited panel discussion at our most recent E360 Forum in Atlanta. Panelist Dan Steffen, vice president of AAA Refrigeration, talked about the misperception surrounding what is essentially an extremely viable career opportunity.

“At trade shows, I talk with many peers who don’t want their kids going into this profession,” Steffen said. “The truth is this is a great industry for smart people, and until they find another way to preserve food, this is a recession-proof industry. It’s an opportunity not just for a job, but for a career. We need to change perceptions from within.”

While the panel discussion didn’t produce a solution to the growing problem, the panelists all agreed that it will take the concerted effort of the entire HVACR industry to turn the tide.

To be successful, we will need to leverage the collective strength of the entire industry and develop strategies to attract, recruit and retain new technicians to the HVACR industry.

Starting points for executing on this strategy could include:

  • Bringing together industry stakeholders to holistically evaluate and address the problem, and determine a plan of action
  • Expanding certification opportunities geared specifically toward commercial refrigeration
  • Leverage new media to recruit the next generation of entrants into the refrigeration business
  • Demonstrate a clear path for career advancement and longevity

Emerson Climate Technologies is committed to becoming a champion of this effort. Stay tuned for more information in subsequent E360 events and publications.

This blog is a summary of the article Bridging the Refrigeration Gap from our recent edition of E360 Outlook. Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Bob Labbett
V.P., Communications & Channel Marketing
Emerson Climate Technologies

 

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