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Monitor Cold Chain Temperatures to Keep Perishables Fresh and Safe

Doug Thurston | Vice President of Sales, Cargo Solutions

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

If you are a grower, producer or supplier of fresh or frozen perishable products, maintaining maximum quality and safety throughout the food cold chain is imperative to your success. From harvesting, processing and shipping to cold storage and delivery to grocers and restaurants, the cold chain journey is fraught with potential hazards and can take days or weeks to complete. Not only are there potentially many steps along this journey, but there are also multiple factors that can shorten your product’s shelf life, diminish its quality, or increase the chances of it becoming unsafe to eat.

Maintaining precise temperatures and real-time visibility to in-transit shipper locations are essential for proper cold chain management. Today, leading suppliers are investing in temperature-monitoring and location-tracking technologies to help them ensure that their high-value perishables are kept at the required setpoints for the duration of the cold chain journey. Emerson partners with many of these industry leaders by providing our GO real-time trackers, GO data loggers and the technological infrastructure to support these vital quality control initiatives.

Our robust solutions provide access to real-time, in-transit shipment status and historical trip data that enables stakeholders to track and monitor several key indicators related to food quality and safety, including: en route locations, shipper temperatures, environmental conditions and cargo security. Combined with our cloud-based Oversight software portal, GO real-time trackers and GO loggers are helping perishable food producers to enable continuous cold chain temperature monitoring by recording trip log data and providing live visibility to in-transit shipment locations.

Capabilities include:

  • Monitoring of temperature, humidity and ripening agents in shipping containers
  • Detecting opening of cargo doors and/or unauthorized access with available light sensors
  • Real-time alerts are issued when cargo temperatures deviate from specified parameters
  • Online and mobile access to historic and real-time shipment information, insights and trends
  • User-friendly displays of summaries of preferred shipment data
  • Automated record-keeping of perishable shipments

Make real-time decisions to avert potential food quality issues

Equipped with this mission-critical cold chain data, producers can make informed decisions and respond in real-time to conditions impacting their perishable products. Here are a few common scenarios:

  • Divert a shipment. If a refrigeration issue arises on a refrigerated shipping truck mid-shipment, producers can divert the shipment to a local retailer or cold storage facility to preserve food quality and avoid loss.
  • Locate lost or stolen cargo. If a shipment veers off-course — due to shipper error or potential theft — producers can immediately locate the shipment and take corrective actions.
  • Ensure temperature certainty. If a driver/shipper intermittently deactivates the refrigeration system to save fuel, producers get real-time notifications when the temperature deviates from its setpoint.
  • Resolve disputes. By tracking and automatically documenting the temperature and condition of perishables throughout the cold chain journey, producers can validate the temperatures to help resolve potential disputes on receipt.
  • Support transportation agreements. Many producers are actively participating in transportation and logistics agreements with their retail partners that require in-transit temperature monitoring to ensure supplier cold chain integrity.

At Emerson, we’re providing cold chain solutions to enable robust temperature-monitoring and location-tracking capabilities to help perishable food producers achieve the maximum quality and safety of their products. We’re ready to work with you and your partners to create a strong cold chain that supports your unique requirements. View our food safety infographic to learn more.

 

 

Supermarket Food Safety: Emerson Cold Chain Solutions

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development

Manager, Food Retail

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Providing consistently safe and high-quality food in supermarkets is important to each stakeholder in the food retail supply chain. From farm to fork, grocers depend on their cold chain suppliers to collect, share and report on the handling and shipping practices that contribute to food safety. In the first blog based on an article in PerishableNews.com, we examined food retail market trends and risk factors impacting food safety and quality. In this companion blog, we will explore how Emerson is helping food retailers and stakeholders address these challenges at nearly every step of the food supply chain.

Harvest and processing

The potential decay of perishable produce starts the moment it is picked, but this can be stunted by controlling temperatures and the ambient environment via: flash cooling/freezing; temporary staging in storage coolers; and pre-cooling shipping containers. Shipping containers may be modified with ripening agents, and processors often measure the levels of ethylene, a natural gas that can accelerate ripening.

Emerson provides temperature-probing devices that can be used to measure internal “pulp” temperatures prior to and during the staging and loading processes. Our real-time temperature monitoring and tracking devices can be activated inside a shipping container to immediately begin monitoring location, temperatures and other environmental conditions of in-transit perishable shipments.

Transportation

Food’s journey to supermarket shelves can last anywhere from days to weeks — by truck, sea and/or air — and grocers rely on their shippers to provide an unbroken chain of temperature certainty. Loading best practices promote airflow and shipments to be “load locked” in order to limit excess vibration. Transport containers must be able to maintain temperatures and provide visibility into container conditions. Mixed-load cargos may have different refrigerated temperature zones within the same shipment.

Emerson’s field-tested, proven compression technologies can withstand the rigors of the road while helping operators to ensure that their transport refrigeration systems preserve product at specified temperature ranges. Temperature monitoring, logging and tracking devices — combined with our cloud-based software portal — can provide real-time temperature and location conditions of product in-transit. The software enables live remote monitoring and issues alerts to stakeholders based on user-defined parameters, such as: temperature excursions; changes to shipping atmosphere; vibration; security breaches; and shipping delays.

Cold storage distribution centers

Upon receipt of food at a cold storage facility, handlers must inspect product temperatures and conditions, including pulp temperatures with probing devices, and trip data from logging and tracking devices. Relying on only the ambient air temperature of the shipping container is not an accurate measure, as some carriers may turn off the refrigeration system during shipping to preserve fuel. After inspection, handlers must promptly transfer perishable cargo into a designated cold storage temperature zone. The entire process must adhere to each facility’s established Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and/or Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventative Controls (HARPC) plans.

Emerson’s logging and tracking devices give end-users the ability to maintain live, remote visibility for monitoring the temperatures and locations of their in-transit shipping containers. In cold storage facilities, our compression and refrigeration technologies help operators to establish and maintain proper temperatures in various cold storage zones. Robust facility monitoring solutions help operators to remotely oversee conditions, ensure proper temperatures, and automatically record temperatures for use in HACCP reporting.

Grocery stores

From the moments perishable shipments are unloaded in supermarkets, operators take ownership of food quality and safety. This starts with inspection — checking pulp temperatures and trip data logs — and continues with the prompt transfer of perishables into designated cold storage coolers or freezers. Once in cold storage, control platforms help retailers to monitor perishable temperatures and optimize food quality.

Refrigerated storage and staging coolers for click-and-collect fulfillment must have sufficient capacity to handle fluctuations in order volumes and frequent opening/closing of walk-in doors. Order-picking processes and customer pick-ups and deliveries must be optimized to ensure safe handling and proper temperatures. Supermarket food preparation introduces hot-side complexities as consumers look to grocers for home meal replacements. Staff must be trained in safe cooking best practices — such as those provided by the U.S. National Restaurant Association’s (NRA’s) ServSafe® certification course — and cook-and-hold procedures should also follow established HACCP/HARPC plans.

In addition to our proven compression and refrigeration technologies, Emerson solutions address a variety of modern supermarket requirements. These include condensing units with variable-capacity modulation to precisely match refrigeration load requirements and flexible distributed architectures that can augment existing refrigeration systems. We also offer a suite of temperature-probing devices to help grocers automate the recording of prepared food temperatures and assist grocers with food safety and process compliance concerns.

Our powerful facility management, monitoring and control platforms address both existing and emerging food retail complexities. These tools provide near real-time access to critical information to help retailers track, triage and respond to issues pertaining to food quality and safety compliance — in individual stores and across their multi-site networks. In addition, these control platforms utilize alarms, notifications and remote access to provide end-users with continuous building and refrigeration monitoring at any retail location.

Connectivity drives cold chain visibility

Modern food retailers are held to increasingly higher food safety and quality standards. Store operators, consumers and health inspectors all demand greater transparency into the food supply chain and improved visibility of food’s journey from farm to fork. With today’s connected internet of things (IoT) monitoring and tracking infrastructures, operators now have the potential for visibility into each step of food’s journey — and even the possibility for comprehensive cold chain traceability. Emerson provides the refrigeration technologies and IoT-enabled infrastructures to help stakeholders at each point monitor, control and track a variety of conditions necessary for preserving food safety and quality.

 

 

 

Refrigerant Transition Gains Momentum

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

For over a decade, environmental advocates around the globe have recognized the need for the commercial refrigeration industry to make the transition from hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants to lower-global warming potential (GWP) alternatives. An HFC phase-down is well underway in many countries and regions, and today conditions are favorable for these efforts to increase within the U.S. I recently contributed to an ACHR The NEWS article where we discussed how recent developments may accelerate this refrigerant transition.

Recent regulatory developments in the U.S. have increased the likelihood the HFC phase-down will become a higher priority for equipment manufacturers, contractors, and food retailers. Among the greatest contributing factors include:

  • The inclusion of HFC phase-down legislation in the recent Omnibus and COVID relief bill
  • A new presidential administration with a greater commitment to environmental stewardship
  • Continued regulatory activities taking place at the state levels

All eyes on California

For several years, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has been proposing regulations targeting HFC emissions reductions in commercial refrigeration equipment used within grocery stores. In 2019, CARB banned the use of R-404A in new or retrofit centralized systems. Last December, CARB finalized those regulations and established an enforcement date, beginning January 1, 2022. Details of the rulemaking impact new (or remodeled) and existing facilities:

  • A limit of 150 GWP for new or fully remodeled facilities in California that utilize commercial refrigeration equipment containing more than 50 pounds of refrigerant.
  • Existing food retail facilities with refrigeration systems charged with more than 50 pounds must collectively meet a 1,400 weighted average GWP or 55 percent greenhouse gas potential (GHGp) reduction relative to a 2019 baseline by 2030.

As a result (in California, at least), natural refrigerant-based systems — such as CO2 transcritical boosters — are often considered leading options for compliance in new facilities.

California’s new regulations, along with new developments in federal refrigerant regulations, will present opportunities for manufacturers who already developed lower-GWP solutions. To support these efforts, Emerson has been qualifying its compressor lines to use a variety of lower-GWP refrigerants for more than a decade. Also, we are developing full-system strategies — such as CO2-based technologies and our distributed scroll booster architecture — that leverage new refrigerant alternatives and enable the implementation of lower-GWP systems. In addition, for retailers in California, we developed smart tools to help them evaluate their store fleets and calculate how they can achieve CARB compliance.

Elsewhere, a growing coalition of states — the U.S. Climate Alliance — has vowed to follow California’s lead. These member states are also continuing to develop their own legislation to enforce HFC phase-down commitments.

New federal legislation could provide industry-wide consistency

While state-level regulations have pushed forward, the status of refrigerant rulemaking at the federal level has been stagnant for several years — particularly after a 2017 court ruling determining the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not have the authority to regulate HFCs under the Clean Air Act. But with the recent passage of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act) as part of the Omnibus and COVID relief bill, that may all soon change. The AIM Act restores the EPA’s authority to phase down the consumption and production of HFC refrigerants and establish sector-based limits.

As importantly, the new federal mandate will hopefully simplify the growing complexity of managing a multitude of state-led HFC phase-down initiatives. Ultimately, a federally-led refrigerant compliance program would provide much-needed guidance to the industry and remove the burden facing individual states. In addition, the industry could even see the adoption of new rulemaking from the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program.

This uptick in regulatory activity will likely result in a busy period for HVACR contractors and food retailers around the country — particularly those in California who will be preparing for the CARB regulations to take effect next year. Emerson is committed to helping commercial refrigeration stakeholders in the U.S. and throughout the world achieve their refrigeration goals and make the transition to lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives.

[New Webinar] Make the Transition From E2 to E3

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development

Manager, Food Retail

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Facility management and supervisory systems have become essential tools for managing food retail facilities and their critical refrigeration, HVAC and lighting systems. To grow profit margins and achieve an ever-expanding list of operational and sustainability goals, retail operators must keep these systems running at peak performance and precisely optimized according to building occupancy schedules. In our next webinar, my Emerson colleague Sam Smith, director of product management, digital solutions, and I will discuss how upgrading from the industry-standard E2 to the new Lumity™ E3 supervisory control can help facility managers to achieve their goals while seamlessly running their day-to-day operations. This webinar will take place on Thursday, April 15 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT.

Supermarket and convenience store customers depend on their preferred retailers to consistently deliver the high-quality, fresh and safe food offerings that they’ve come to expect. In addition to providing a comprehensive food selection, a retailer’s ability to deliver exceptional customer experiences in all aspects of their operation — from comfortable in-store temperatures to welcoming lighting — is part of what can differentiate them from their competition.

At the same time, store operators need to keep a close eye on other factors that can impact their bottom lines, such as refrigeration system performance, energy and other utility consumption levels, store lighting and occupancy schedules, refrigerant leak detection and much more. Establishing connectivity among critical systems via a building management system (BMS) and smart controls is essential to enable real-time visibility into all these key parameters of success.

That’s why Emerson is pleased to introduce the Lumity E3 supervisory control — the next generation in facility management and refrigeration controls. The E3 greatly expands upon the widely adopted E2 with more power, robust control capabilities, faster speeds and seamless connectivity. The E3 is powered by Emerson’s new Lumity supervisory control software and gives end users an intuitive touch-screen display on-site and a web-friendly interface for remote accessibility.

In our upcoming webinar — which is designed for end-users, contractors and OEMs — we will demonstrate how this significant upgrade places advanced control over compressor groups, condensers, walk-in units, HVAC and lighting systems at their fingertips.

Attendees will learn:

  • New features and functionalities of the Lumity supervisory control platform
  • How Lumity supervisory control software brings all of Emerson’s supervisory control devices under one software interface
  • Why the E3 was designed as a true drop-in replacement of the E2
  • How to gain instant visibility to all key systems, faults, statuses, and alarms
  • How the Lumity supervisory control platform enables control of critical systems with advanced refrigeration algorithms, building control strategies and network connectivity

Register now for this informative and free webinar and visit our website at Emerson.com/E3 to learn more.

 

Pandemic Creates Lasting Impact on Food Retailers and Commercial Refrigeration

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

The year 2020 was an inflection point for the food retail industry. While many restaurants closed for in-person dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, supermarkets and other food retailers were considered essential businesses and remained open. But for those responsible for these operations, this meant quickly adapting to new fulfillment scenarios, as many shoppers sought online grocery-ordering options such as curbside pickup and/or home delivery. I recently contributed to an ACHR The NEWS article where we discussed how the events of 2020 changed the food retail landscape and will continue to impact the commercial refrigeration industry in 2021 and beyond.

Online Retail Drives Refrigeration Decisions

As vaccine distribution increases and the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully recedes, the impacts of the pandemic will be felt well into the future. From a food retail perspective, the acceleration of e-commerce adoption appears to have permanently altered consumers’ buying behaviors and shifted the retail landscape.

According to a 2020 study by grocery e-commerce specialist Mercatus and research firm Incisiv, the growth rate of online grocery retail is expected to make up 21.5% of all grocery sales by 2025, representing a more than 60% increase compared pre-pandemic projections. As consumers continue to embrace both click-and-collect and home delivery options, many leading food retailers are rethinking their refrigeration strategies and expanding their fulfillment capabilities to meet both near-term and long-term projections.

The sheer volume of e-commerce sales took many food retailers by surprise in 2020 and has led them to take steps to shore up their online order fulfillment infrastructures. These include investments in additional refrigeration equipment and cold storage space — whether for in-house, click-and-collect operations, micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs) or even dark stores.

In addition, many retailers are evaluating their existing systems to determine if there’s available capacity to potentially tap into. Where there is not, distributed strategies such as stand-alone condensing units or self-contained cold storage are ideal solutions for creating additional refrigeration capacity. Of course, any new system designs or major retrofits will require more thorough consideration with respect to how these systems would align with retailers’ long-term sustainability goals.

It’s also important for contractors to continue playing a key role in helping retailers to make these decisions. They must be prepared with the knowledge and expertise in order to advise retailers on all the available short- and long-term refrigeration strategies — from self-contained propane cases to full CO2 systems to more distributed equipment architectures.

Cold Chain Data Tracking, Monitoring and Control

Another likely permanent impact will be the increased collective focus on cold chain tracking, monitoring and data analytics. Vaccine distribution challenges have highlighted the importance of monitoring product temperatures during transit – similar to the cold chain journey for food.

The adoption of temperature tracking, monitoring and control technologies used for the vaccines will likely accelerate the integration of these tools within the food cold chain — from farm to fork. This presents an opportunity to improve the working relationships, cooperation and technologies among producers, shippers and retailers to create an unbroken chain of temperature certainty throughout the food cold chain.

With supermarkets becoming one-stop shops for essential consumer needs — from freshly prepared and perishable foods to dry goods, pharmaceuticals and mini health care clinics — retailers have a variety of data streams strictly related to temperatures that they need to manage and monitor in order to preserve food quality and safety, as well as ensure proper vaccine storage. They also need to continuously track and monitor the performance of essential equipment and systems such as refrigeration, HVAC and lighting.

Fortunately, technological improvements and increased adoption of the internet of things (IoT) are giving supermarkets the abilities to capture, access, interpret and analyze data to deliver higher-value facility management solutions. Emerson’s Lumity™ supervisory control platform is designed to aggregate these data streams into consolidated views and provide insights to help retailers simplify their increasing facility management challenges.

From the perspectives of cold chain management, power management, equipment performance and preventative maintenance, we’re helping supermarket operators to bring all these aspects together within one cloud and one view — with robust data analytics to provide insights into each of these critical areas.

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