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[Webinar Recap] Global Panel Explores the Essential Role of HVACR Careers

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

Throughout the world, HVACR technicians play essential roles in society — providing comfort cooling and maintaining the integrity of the cold chain responsible for preserving food and life-saving medicines. While this career path offers lifelong learning opportunities and salaries often exceeding those of many college graduates, our industry is experiencing a global shortage of qualified technicians. In a recent E360 Webinar, we assembled an international panel of expert technicians, practitioners and apprentices to reflect on their personal career journeys, explore the importance of technician professions, and discuss strategies for attracting the next generation of candidates.

In the U.S., we refer to this career path as HVACR technicians. In other parts of the world, they are known as different titles, such as: engineers in the UK; workers in Asia-Pacific; and experts in the Middle East. As I moderated this engaging discussion, each of the panelists provided interesting anecdotes that spoke to different aspects of the global importance of this role and the expanding opportunities that exist. Here is a brief sample of those perspectives.

Don Gillis, technical training specialist at Emerson
As a 30-year journeyman technician and current educator, Don spoke about a typical technician career trajectory for those starting out in the industry that mirrored his own life experiences. A technician often begins their career as an installer, carrying tools, cutting, cleaning and fitting copper together for new applications. A next logical step would be to shadow a more experienced professional, helping them with preventative maintenance and seeing firsthand how rewarding this career can be. Learning more about servicing, troubleshooting and diagnosis exposed him to a variety of issues that can impact system performance, capacity and efficiency. Don shared that his son has followed in his footsteps and started his own HVACR contracting business.

Joe Healy, director of application engineering, MEA, at Emerson
Currently based in Hong Kong, Joe’s experience serving the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions provided a unique perspective regarding the variety of HVACR approaches within different countries and continents — from the cutting-edge sustainability initiatives of Australia and New Zealand to advanced HVACR technologies in Japan to the manufacturing-focused China to the challenges of underdeveloped infrastructures in India. Joe explained that this broad diversity makes HVACR-related professions both interesting and exciting endeavors in these regions. He also shared how technicians make it possible to not only live, work and thrive in extreme climates and densely populated environments, but also serve as the wheels on which these diverse cultures run.

Alonso Amor, director of engineering services, Mexico, at Emerson
Alonso explained that the ambient temperatures in the Latin American region place high demands on refrigeration and AC loads. Perhaps these conditions have led to what he observed as an eagerness and commitment to learn the technician trade in this region. He explained that HVACR-related seminars are always very well attended, indicating a high level of interest in these skilled trades throughout the region. From his experience, candidates take the initiative to receive training, achieve certifications, and make their contributions felt, despite the hot climate and difficult working conditions.

Carlos Obella, vice president of engineering services and product management, Latin America, at Emerson

Carlos shared how his distinguished career started 35 years ago as an HVAC field technician. As an engineer with a college degree, he quickly gained expertise in installing and servicing parallel rack compressor systems for large supermarkets, which has served as a foundation for understanding the proliferation of today’s refrigeration architectures. He offered an anecdote about how the most competent refrigeration technician he ever met was not a degreed engineer. This individual went on to start his own refrigeration contracting business and became the primary refrigeration consultant for one of the biggest supermarket chains in Argentina.

Trevor Matthews, HVACR training and development specialist at Emerson
As a first-generation refrigeration technician, Trevor explained how this rewarding career checked other boxes on his job criteria checklist. First, he knew he wanted a career that would be universally in demand and allow him to travel the world. Second, like many job seekers, he was interested in earning potential. Not only did his job as a refrigeration technician allow him to travel, but he was making a six-figure salary after five years. He said his passion for refrigeration is fueled by the opportunity for continuous learning. Even though it can be a demanding career, Trevor loves the fact that it proportionately rewards the level of commitment you put into it.

Becky Hoelscher, director, aftermarket sales at Emerson

Becky discussed the growing urgency for our industry to replace a retiring generation of baby boomer technicians with the next generation of technicians. She explained that there will be an estimated 15% deficit of qualified technicians by 2026, and the industry needs to start recruitment efforts in high school and entice students to consider this career. Becky reiterated the importance of apprenticeships and discussed federal, state and local efforts to support these initiatives. She believes that a combination of classwork learning and on-the-job training can ultimately lead to certification — where students can even start getting paid while working toward a certification.

Nicholas Didier, mechanical technician (HVACR student)

As a high school senior enrolled in an HVACR program, Nicholas shared his experience participating in a pre-apprenticeship opportunity at Emerson’s The Helix Innovation Center. His goals were to understand the basics of refrigeration and get hands-on HVACR field experience. But in the process, he gained insights into the technician profession and uncovered a desire to further explore system design. Nicholas’ passion and accomplishments earned him a $1,000 scholarship from the Today’s Opportunities Offering Lifetime Skills (TOOLS) program and a new Ford Ranger truck. He plans on using the money to purchase tools for the HVACR technician trade and further his education.

All these anecdotes and individual perspectives speak to the opportunities that await those who enter this rewarding career path. To learn more about the importance of HVACR technician careers and how to attract the next generation of candidates, view this webinar.

 

 

Nine Best Practices for Ensuring Food Safety and Quality

Doug Thurston | Vice President of Sales

Cold Chain-Digital Solutions at Emerson

Food retailers have long focused on ensuring food quality and safety; now consumers are increasingly concerned about these issues as well. In a recent Emerson study of 1,000 U.S. consumers, 51% said they:

  • Worry about the safety of fresh and frozen foods during transportation to stores
  • Would be less likely to shop from stores that aren’t using the latest technologies throughout their supply chain to help ensure food safety

So the challenge for retailers has become how to meet these consumer expectations while also protecting their brand reputations. The solution? Adopt best practices that enable them to maintain strict temperature adherence for fresh and frozen products at every step of the food supply chain.

Preserving Quality and Minimizing Loss

Delivering poor-quality perishable products or past-ripe produce only erodes customers’ loyalty and gives them a reason to switch to different brands — or shop at a competitor’s grocery store. So temperature control for quality (TCQ) initiatives throughout the cold chain are critical to maximizing freshness and minimizing shrink.

If produce becomes too ripe — from poor temperature control or time-of-harvest conditions — it will naturally have a shorter shelf life. Pre-conditioned fruits such as avocados should be carefully monitored to ensure they are continuously kept at the correct temperatures.

Maintaining Proper Temperatures for Safety

Keeping shipping temperatures at precise setpoints throughout the journey from farm to fork is critical to ensuring that food is safe to consume and also preserving perishable food quality. Temperature control safety (TCS) initiatives are mainly concerned with the safe shipping of fresh and frozen meats, seafood, select produce and dairy products. If temperatures deviate from safe ranges or become too warm:

  • The safety of fresh and frozen meat along with seafood will degrade
  • Product will purge (or release water) initially, then begin to grow and spread bacteria, which increases the risk of foodborne illness

Cross-contamination can also occur when meat, seafood and produce are stacked together closely within a transport shipping container or arranged on a stack of pallets — which increases the potential for foodborne illness outbreaks and customer injuries. Improper sanitization procedures between loads can also lead to cross-contamination.

Nine Best Practices for Perishable Food Transport

So how can grocery retailers ensure food safety and quality?

A holistic approach that considers key factors at every step of the perishable supply chain must be followed along with careful coordination among producers and shippers. Here are nine best practices for retailers to adopt from inbound harvest and transport to outbound shipping and receipt from distribution centers (DCs):

  1. Pre-cooling: Stabilize product temperatures with a process after harvest and prior to loading in refrigerated shipping containers.
  2. Transport refrigeration: Ensure proper refrigeration and insulation of reefer trucks and trailers.
  3. Inspection: Visually inspect trailers between loads to ensure a clean and contaminant-free space.
  4. Temperature stability: Maintain continuous setpoint temperatures throughout a trip; do not permit the use of fuel-saver mode or starting/stopping of refrigeration.
  5. Calibration: Annually calibrate the thermistor(s) of reefer trucks and/or trains.
  6. Loading: Correctly load pallets to enable proper airflow and consistent temperatures from the front to the back of trailers.
  7. Load transfer and receipt: Do not allow trailers to sit in receiving docks for extended durations, especially in warm regions; limit opening of trailer doors to maintain holding temperatures.
  8. Avoid mixed loads: Avoid trying to save fuel costs by mixing loads with a combination of fresh and/or frozen products with different ideal temperature setpoints.
  9. Data logging: Enable the automatic capturing and recording of trip temperature data for reporting and verification of quality assurance and to help resolve disputes or questions over rejected loads.

Pick an Expert Partner for Cold Chain Management

Protecting consumer safety is an ethical prerequisite for food retailers. At the same time, it’s important to remember that it only takes one incident to permanently impact your business reputation and potentially incur the significant financial impacts of fines and litigation. That makes it imperative for retailers to clearly understand everything that contributes to food quality and safety throughout the food supply chain. Then, they should partner with an expert to help them deploy the modern tools and technologies needed to address the many challenges associated with perishable cold chain management.

 

Ten Tips for Preventing Refrigerant Leaks in Supermarket Systems

Katrina Krites | Director of Strategic Marketing, Cold Chain

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Refrigerant leaks are a universal challenge for U.S. supermarket operators. These leaks are not only costly from an operational perspective, but emissions of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants also contribute to global warming. Today, commercial refrigeration contractors play a significant role in helping operators to implement best practices to reduce and even prevent refrigerant leaks. I recently contributed to an ACHR The NEWS article where I discussed strategies for leak detection and mitigation best practices for supermarket refrigeration systems.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) recently reported that numerous U.S. supermarket chains were leaking significant amounts of HFC refrigerants. These findings were consistent with a report by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GreenChill program, which stated that the typical supermarket has an annual leak rate of about 25%, which equates to about 1,000 pounds of leaked refrigerant every year.

Understand root causes

Although refrigerant leaks are much more common in large, centralized systems, it’s not as if contractors or operators simply accept leaks as a design limitation. On the contrary, when a refrigeration system is first installed and commissioned, it operates at peak performance. But over time, systems inevitably drift from their commissioned performance baseline, contractors perform repairs to keep systems running, and the potential for leaks can start to rise if a system is not properly maintained and managed.

For a contractor’s perspective on refrigerant leaks, the NEWS also interviewed Todd Ernest, CEO and founder of Climate Pros, a comprehensive commercial refrigeration and HVAC firm with offices in more than 40 states. Ernest agreed that while leaks are a common problem, nearly half of the stores serviced by Climate Pros do not have refrigerant leaks. One common problem that they discovered is that many stores still use the same copper lines and systems that were installed decades ago. Though durable, copper isn’t intended to last forever — and original insulation and mounting hardware will often eventually wear down.

Similarly, mechanical room cleanliness is also essential for helping contractors to identify leaks. Compressor racks, air-cooled condensers, remote headers, walk-in evaporator coils and other components should be kept free of oil and dirt. Corroded steel components should be removed and/or painted with a rust-inhibiting paint to help prevent future corrosion.

Check for leaks

As I explained in the article, service technicians should conduct refrigerant leak checks at regular intervals, depending on the system size or type. For large, centralized systems, this should usually be approximately every 30–60 days. An effective leak detection program should include three key elements:

  1. Accurate detection methods
  2. Reliable notifications
  3. Continuous monitoring for system leaks

Contractors should recommend the installation of a refrigerant leak monitoring, notification and alarm system to ensure the detection of any leaks between regular leak inspections. Detection devices should also be installed in leak-prone locations, such as refrigeration racks and display cases, to monitor the concentration of refrigerants in the air.

By integrating these devices into Emerson’s Lumity™ supervisory control platform, designated store staff and/or service technicians can be alerted when a leak occurs. This powerful facility management system enables continuous monitoring of refrigeration data to help retailers correlate the leaks with respect to different sections of the system or specific maintenance events.

Ernest added that it’s standard protocol for his technicians to perform a leak check every time they go into a store — regardless of the purpose of the actual service call.

Promptly repair leaks

Today’s leak detection devices make it easier to pinpoint leak sources, but it’s important to remember that in many cases, the first refrigerant leak found in a system may not be the only one — or even the largest.

A quick response is most important after detecting a leak to mitigate its impact upon system performance and minimize the associated economic costs. Supermarkets should establish proper leak detection response protocols and institute proactive measures.

If persistent leaks continue, even at lower leak rates of 20%, supermarkets could lose approximately 700 pounds of R-404A annually. At $7 per pound, that equates to a yearly expense of nearly $5,000 — in addition to any potential costs associated with compliance, environmental consequences and overall deterioration of system performance.

A methodical approach can help to achieve all-important early detection and an overall reduction in refrigerant leaks. The NEWS article concluded with these 10 tips:

  1. Perform a leak check on every service call. Conduct refrigerant leak checks at regular intervals, ideally every 30–60 days for large centralized systems.
  2. Periodically replace copper lines as well as insulation and mounting hardware.
  3. Keep refrigeration racks and mechanical rooms as clean as possible in order to spot leaks more easily.
  4. If one leak is found, it may not be the only one, so check the entire system thoroughly.
  5. Once all leaks have been repaired, confirm that refrigerant levels have stabilized, indicating there are no additional leaks elsewhere in the system.
  6. Install a refrigerant leak monitoring, notification and alarm system to detect leaks between regular leak inspections.
  7. During refrigeration system installation, use proper securing mechanisms for piping and the correct piping techniques.
  8. Perform a nitrogen purge and pressure test with every new installation to ensure no leaks are present.
  9. Establish leak detection response protocols and proactive measures to minimize or eliminate leaks altogether.
  10. Implement a refrigerant tracking system to identify significant leaks.

 

[New E360 Webinar] Leverage Data to Optimize Refrigeration System Efficiency

Charles Larkin | Director of Data and Analytics, Cold Chain

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Within the ever-expanding scope of commercial refrigeration applications, internet of things (IoT) technologies have a wide variety of potential uses. From helping to preserve food safety and quality to implementing smart maintenance programs, IoT programs can be utilized to address some of food retailers’ most critical operational concerns. In an upcoming E360 Webinar, which will take place on Tuesday, July 20 at 2:30 p.m. EDT/11:30 a.m. PDT, we’ll explore how retailers can utilize IoT initiatives and data-driven insights to achieve key operational objectives.

Attendees of this webinar will gain an understanding of IoT fundamentals and learn how hardware and software can combine to deliver valuable information on equipment performance. By utilizing connected sensors on equipment and installing smart control devices, operators can leverage previously untapped data to uncover real-time and historic insights on refrigeration status, performance trends and overall asset conditions.

Then, using advanced software with powerful machine-learning (ML) algorithms, this data can be processed and further analyzed to deliver more predictive insights, identify preventative maintenance (PM) opportunities, and even develop prescriptive maintenance models.

The upcoming webinar will explore how retailers can unlock the vast potential of data within commercial refrigeration applications, such as:

  • Identifying procedural problems in quick-service restaurants (QSRs) with respect to adherence to their hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) programs
  • Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of implementing digital HACCP programs and/or remote temperature monitoring of refrigeration assets
  • Developing algorithms for the marine sector to help provide early detection of potential food safety/quality issues during sea transport (and applying these concepts to food retail)

To learn more about how IoT programs can deliver operational insights in commercial refrigeration applications, please register for this informative webinar.

 

 

Multiply the Advantages of Multiplex Refrigeration Systems

Julie Havenar | Director of Integrated Marketing, Cold Chain
Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

The challenges that drive refrigeration system requirements in supermarket and restaurant applications have evolved significantly over the past several years. As operators respond to changing consumer behaviors and a shifting regulatory environment, multiplex refrigeration systems — where one condensing unit services multiple fixtures — are emerging as a refrigeration system of choice. In an article recently published in RSES Journal, I discussed the many advantages that multiplex refrigeration systems offer, including lower operating costs, improved temperature control and greater potential to satisfy environmental initiatives.

Building the business case for multiplex systems

In today’s ever-expanding selection of refrigeration technologies and architectures, supermarkets and restaurants have no shortage of options to choose from. However, not all strategies are created equal. As operators confront new and dynamic competitive pressures, their business requirements need to be carefully paired with a refrigeration strategy that can best meet their current and future needs.

System reliability will always be a primary requirement for any refrigeration system. But changing consumer behaviors are putting pressure on profit margins and driving demand for greater flexibility. And environmental regulations, combined with corporate sustainability goals, are creating urgency for greener technologies.

Multiplex refrigeration systems are rapidly emerging as a leading option that can satisfy all of these requirements. Multiplex systems are refrigeration systems that use minimal outdoor condensing units (OCUs) to provide cooling for multiple fixtures, including display cases, walk-in coolers, freezers and ice-making heads. Instead of the traditional one-to-one relationship of OCUs to refrigeration fixtures, multiplex systems expand this relationship to one-to-many, providing operators with greater flexibility in terms of system design.

Emerson’s Copeland™ digital outdoor refrigeration unit, X-Line Series is designed to allow operators to multiply the advantages of multiplex architectures. Many operators experience a variety of refrigeration challenges that multiplex systems are particularly well-suited to address, including:

  • A need to scale back refrigeration fixtures and/or refrigeration loads
  • Refrigeration units or loads that are oversized for the application
  • Excessive compressor cycling that negatively affects system performance
  • The imperative to improve food quality and extend shelf life by maintaining tighter temperature control
  • Constraints that prevent the installation of multiple fixed-capacity OCUs

And when the multiplex system is designed to use digital compression technology — like the Copeland™ digital scroll compressor — these advantages quickly add up:

Greater energy efficiency: Digital compression technology allows for variable-capacity modulation to precisely match individual load requirements. Whereas traditional fixed-capacity condensing units run at 100% all the time, digital compressors regulate capacity from 20–100% to meet true energy demand. This is a tremendous energy- and cost-saving benefit for busy foodservice and grocery store applications, where demand can vary throughout the day.

Reduced refrigerant charge: In addition to improving energy efficiency, multiplex systems reduce a system’s overall refrigerant charge by as much as 50%. Modern systems also support the use of lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant alternatives. As a result, multiplex systems can help operators to reduce their total equivalent warming impact (TEWI), which is a plus for attaining regulatory compliance and bolstering corporate sustainability initiatives.

Improved temperature control: Digital compression technology allows for tighter control of suction pressures and eliminates large pressure swings while maintaining setpoint temperatures at a much tighter tolerance. Even with the frequent opening of refrigerator, freezer and case doors, temperatures remain constant, thus safeguarding food quality and safety.

Enhanced reliability and protection: With digital compression technology, variable-capacity modulation can take place without cycling the compressor on and off. This limits the in-rush of currents that drive up energy use while reducing the wear and tear of short cycling. With fewer OCUs to commission and maintain, operators can expect to make fewer service calls.

Advanced visibility: Building management and supervisory platforms have become foundational to maintaining operational efficiency and reducing the risk of food loss. Modern multiplex systems have built-in controls to seamlessly connect with these platforms to enable real-time monitoring, remote diagnostics and supervisory functions. In addition to simplifying commissioning, this gives operators and contractors the ability to make system changes (such as changing a setpoint or accessing fault codes) on any web-enabled devices, rather than on the face of the controller.

Smaller footprint, bigger savings

The ability to support multiple fixtures with fewer OCUs provides operators with greater flexibility to do more within a smaller physical and environmental footprint. And with digital compression technology, operators can reduce the risk of catastrophic system failure and extensive food loss.

Emerson is committed to helping food retailers and restaurants get more from their refrigeration strategies. From our next-gen Copeland digital X-Line series to our Lumity™ E3 supervisory control, we provide the technologies to optimize operations, increase equipment uptime, safeguard food quality and safety, achieve sustainability goals, and decrease operational and maintenance costs.

 

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