Is It Time to Make the Transition to Intelligent, Connected Stores?
Today, food retailers and foodservice operators are making the move toward more intelligent, connected stores to gain insights into all areas of operations. Not only are they looking for ways to reduce energy consumption, equipment and system downtime, or general maintenance costs, but also deliver improved performance levels to maintain a competitive edge. The prospect of connected stores takes the guesswork out of performance benchmarking by offering stakeholders real-time and reliable access to the data that matters most. While they share the same objective of improving performance levels, supermarket food retailers and foodservice personnel have vastly different day-to-day business challenges. Food retailer challenges include:
- Creating a great in-store shopping experience
- Providing a variety of quality foods and brands
- Reducing energy consumption — driven mostly by HVAC, refrigeration, lighting and maintenance costs
The drivers in foodservice equipment and building connective are unique:
- Providing quality meals with speed and accuracy during breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Improving the efficiency of the food service processes
- Ensuring the reliability of the equipment that makes up the “food factory”
- Maintaining access to qualified local service technicians
In terms of technology adoption, supermarket retailers have led the way in connectivity for years, employing electronic store and system controls to better manage and control their equipment. And, they’ve integrated these controls with their IT networks to gain access to real-time performance data. But this hasn’t happened across the board, and particularly in older stores, the opportunity to drive better store performance still exists. Unlike food retail, foodservice operators have not integrated store controls to enable an intelligent, connected environment. Even though a typical store utilizes 40–45 pieces of equipment with embedded electronic controls, most operators have not enabled the technology to connect them. The few early adopters in foodservice have numerous operational advantages:
- Remotely managing equipment to ensure reliable operation and consistent foodservice
- Predicting failures and resolving equipment issues before they occur
- Programming new menu options in real-time
There are several reasons why the connected kitchen concept has taken off in foodservice:
- A store needs both facility and equipment controls that can communicate with each other. Most store controls for small-format retailers have been overdesigned and are too expensive.
- The IT infrastructure necessary for connectivity and communication (i.e., WiFi, LAN, GSM, etc.) has not been developed.
- Contractors have not supported the move to electronic controls, because it represents new technology and a learning curve.
Emerson’s new ecoSYS site supervisory control platform addresses these foodservice challenges and helps small-format retailers enable communication between embedded equipment in the store. We’ve designed it to be easy to install and operate, and it’s affordable. We believe that the connected foodservice store is coming soon, and we are excited to help the industry make this transition. This blog is a summary of Bill Bosway’s column in the latest edition of Emerson Climate Technologies’ E360 Outlook. Read the column in its entirety and download the digital edition.