I’ve recently written about savings opportunities and the benefits of control systems for convenience stores. To follow up on these previous posts, I’ve included my thoughts below on three features to look for in state of the art systems and the five keys to success for convenience store controls.
In creating our new small format control system, ecoSYS Site Supervisor, we learned more about the way people interact with the product, which ultimately changed our design techniques from engineering-centered to human-centered design. We spent a lot of time talking to people who actually use the product to better understand their interaction to create a system that works for them. This insight helped me shape my views around a state of the art control system.
What does a state of the art control systems look like? The three key features you want to look for are:
- User interface: Ideally, the user interface is web-based, allowing facility managers the ability to view the technology anywhere, including on mobile devices. Customizable user interfaces and role-based user management give the person accessing the system a better user experience.
- Alarm flexibility: Remote alarm notifications, through SMS and email, can signal a problem when a facility manager is offsite. Smart categorization for alarms is also beneficial, allowing the user to customize the alarms with names used by the organization.
- Enterprise management: A web-based or server-based system provides the ability to capture data from all stores, which can be analyzed for operational performance. You can also view and control the systems in all stores across an enterprise.
Once you’ve identified the need for a control system within your enterprise, and you’re ready to implement controls, successful engagement with the system is even more important. Below are my five keys to success for convenience stores using facility controls:
- Think through who needs to interact with the system: Who would you like to have access to the control system – store personnel, on-site technicians, or maintenance and energy managers? Think about this first before deciding if access will be available for everyone.
- Standardize the system configurations: Make configurations for HVAC and lighting schedules, refrigeration control settings and additional monitoring points as similar as possible throughout all stores. There will always be some differences to account for, but standardization across an enterprise is helpful for everyone to understand the system capabilities and their actions.
- Determine how you want to handle alarms: It’s important to plan the way alarms will be managed before startup. Determine whether you will avoid nuisance alarms. Review thresholds and critical vs. noncritical alarms. Think through alarm notifications, schedules for off hours vs. peak hours, and the differences between HVAC and refrigeration alarms.
- Insure all data is used appropriately: Analyze the information collected through the system to identify problem areas. Alarms and other relevant data can be used to target maintenance and equipment replacement.
- Place a high importance on training: Do not underestimate the need for a thorough, simple training program for all people who will interact with the system. Set up training before the systems are installed, and schedule ongoing training as needed.
What have you found to be most successful? Please share your experience in the comments below.
Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions
Emerson Climate Technologies
The journey of a marine refrigerated (reefer) container from the producer to the consumer is fraught with many challenges. When you consider all the transit trials these containers are presented with, maintaining a consistent setpoint of -40 °C to +30 °C throughout the transport process is no small task. From high ambient temperatures and extreme environments to excessive handling due to a variety of logistic delays and intermodal shifts, there are many factors that can place container contents in jeopardy. Some shipping companies rely on pervasive connectivity to their container fleets to monitor perishable cargos throughout the process and troubleshoot issues along the way.
In our most recent Making Sense webinar installment, I discussed Emerson Climate Technologies’ approach to reefer container management through pervasive connectivity. Beyond the shipper’s goal to improve profit margins, there are many trends driving the growing adoption of on-board diagnostic systems, including: regulatory governance of perishables; continued focus on improving energy consumption; expansion of global systems for mobile communications (GSM); and ever-increasing consumer expectations. All of these factors make pervasive connectivity a sound investment for shipping companies that want to stay competitive.
I also discussed the many advantages of deploying pervasive connectivity on reefer containers, and how such solutions allows the shipper to monitor key transit activities in specific geographic zones, such as: route verification, confirmation of final delivery, and automated, on-site notifications to alert handlers and minimize delays. Advanced diagnostic capabilities give shipping company administrators a window into reefer container conditions. Everything from g-force detection and setpoint temperature deviations to prolonged “off” periods are visible to the administrators through advanced event handling and alert notifications.
With the many benefits that on-board, pervasive connectivity provides, the reasons for adopting this technology to improve shipping line operational efficiency are obvious. Reduced energy costs, maintenance, incident claims and handling costs combined with increased revenue and precise container utilization create a strong business case for adoption.
To listen to an archived recording of this webinar and learn more about pervasive connectivity on reefer containers, please visit our Making Sense website, where we make sense of the issues that matter most in commercial refrigeration today.
Emerson Climate Technologies, Transportation Solutions
For every decision made by the facilities team in a retail environment – from maintenance and energy to design and construction – store operations are the primary stakeholders in those decisions. So, what is the relationship between store operations and facilities?
These groups may work closely together within some retail organizations, but that is not always the case. While the overall goal for both groups in a retail environment is the same, there are several differences between them that may make it difficult to work together toward that goal. Yet, recognizing these differences and using them to understand how the other group works can result in opportunities to enhance facility processes and improve store operations – and ultimately provide a better customer experience.
In general, one of the biggest differences is that the facilities team works “behind the scenes” and the store operations team is often interfacing directly with consumers. With facility management, the focus is more on capital and finding innovative ways to enhance processes that reduce costs or result in energy savings, while the performance of the store operations is measured by sales. This results in a large amount of external or market-based pressure on operations, while the pressure on facilities comes from within the organization. Store operations professionals often have a sales, marketing or business mindset, while the facilities team is likely made up of professionals with engineering backgrounds. There is often higher turnover within the operations team, and a store director or captain often has a larger team to manage. Operations may consist of about 300 employees, while facilities may have, on average, about 10-20 employees.
Below are six tips for the facilities team to work together with the store operations team to enhance facility processes and improve operations:
- Engage more. Be more visible and engage with them.Take the time to go out to the stores and engage with the operations team, if you are able to.
- Use facilities data in their report formats. Ask the store manager to see his/her daily or weekly store report to better understand how the store is measured. Find out the areas they tend to focus on most. Take the facility maintenance and energy data you’ve compiled and provide it to the store team in a format that will fit well in the report shared with their manager.
- Relate what you do with how they are measured. Take the areas where store operations is evaluated – i.e., total sales, dollars sold per hour worked, average items per sale, margin and shrink – and, if it makes sense, find ways to equate them to case availability, dollars sold per alarm, dollars sold per maintenance hour, margin loss of energy increases and shrink related to refrigeration issues.
- Educate. Identify opportunities tohelp the store operations team better understand your strategy and processes. Consider implementing an energy awareness program or invest time in store awareness mechanisms. You may post photos for associates to show how to properly stock a case. Sharing infrared images with store directors can help them see when a case has been overstocked, which to reduce customer complaints about cold aisles.
- Help their staff be efficient. Provide the store operations team with tools and information that can allow them to work more efficiently.
- Make training easy. Simplify training on facility maintenance processes for store operations. Show them what to do when a problem occurs and explain the way a system works to illustrate why your approach is the best way to relegate the issue.
- Eliminate nuisance calls and false alarms. This may be the biggest one on the list. Too many false alarms and nuisance calls can harm your relationship with the store operations team. If you are able to ensure that the alarms and calls they receive occur only when an issue needs to be addressed, a store director will place higher importance on the alarms and will see the value your team can provide in improving his/her operations.
The outcome of improved relationships between store operations and facilities drives down costs and improves satisfaction, resulting in a better overall retail environment.
Are you a retail facility manager or engineer? What is your experience in working with store operations? Please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.
Director of New Solutions and Product Management, Retail Solutions
Emerson Climate Technologies