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The Need for Refrigeration Innovation Discussed at Latest E360 Webinar

Emerson Climate Technologies recently completed the sixteenth installment of its E360 Webinar series with a live broadcast from the show floor at the 2016 AHR Expo in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Rajan Rajendran, vice president of system innovation center and sustainability, presented the topic of “Innovation in Refrigeration” to an audience consisting of roughly 130 at-show attendees and another 127 online participants.


From the vantage point of the AHR Expo, Rajendran pointed out that evidence of innovation was on display all around. But a perfect storm of energy efficiency and environmental regulations imposed on the commercial refrigeration industry was adding renewed urgency to the innovation process. Achieving the advances needed to meet this unprecedented challenge will require a collective response from the entire refrigeration value chain, as well as input from other industries that were forced to solve their own problems.

In the face of staggering refrigeration industry economic realities, such as $32 billion of annual global energy spend and $18.2 billion in annual facility maintenance costs, Rajendran discussed the importance of balancing the four key variables of the equation:

  • Energy consumption — DOE regulations are requiring significant reductions in energy consumption in the next four years on new designs for reach-ins, walk-ins and ice machines.
  • Maintenance costs — a dwindling contractor workforce is impacting maintenance costs and prompting the growth of diagnostic electronics.
  • Refrigerant shifts — EPA and global regulations are driving the move away from HFCs and high-GWP refrigerants in favor of low-GWP blends and natural alternatives.
  • Component electronics — embedded electronics are becoming ever-present to streamline diagnostics, enable supervisory controls and capture data for business intelligence across the cold chain.

With all these factors to consider and the compressed timeframe in which to operate, Rajendran stressed the importance of developing solutions that represent a step change in innovation, rather than the incremental progress that may have sufficed in the past. He then explained that this new method of innovation, teamwork and collaboration will be practiced at Emerson’s new Helix Innovation Center.

Rajendran demonstrated how The Helix’s commercial kitchen and supermarket industry modules will be used as a proving ground for prototypes developed at the innovation center. Most importantly, he explained how these real-world simulations can be used facilitate rapid progress from concept ideation to implementation — a process that takes just weeks, not months or years.

Rajendran closed with an explanation of the six-phase innovation process used for rapid prototyping at The Helix:

  • Understanding — problem exploration and analysis
  • Team building — assembly of a diverse team (even from outside our industry for fresh perspectives)
  • Ideation — conceptualize ideas and develop potential solutions
  • Prototyping — create proof of concept
  • Test — implement and test in The Helix’s real-world industry modules
  • Transition — determine efficacy of results and next steps

To learn why innovation in refrigeration will be required to meet the industry’s current challenges, please view this webinar in its entirety on our website where all of our E360 Webinars are archived.

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