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The Path From IIoT to Predictive Maintenance for Commercial Refrigeration

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson is writing a series of articles about the implications of new and transformative technologies for the commercial refrigeration industry. In our first article, I described the challenges and methodologies related to transforming a newfound wealth of data into true predictive maintenance capabilities. You can read the full article here.

 

One trend driving the commercial refrigeration industry’s rapid adoption of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies is the promise of predictive maintenance. Collecting massive amounts of real-time data comes with the potential to develop data-driven algorithms that can accurately predict looming problems and failures in refrigeration systems and equipment.

In the commercial refrigeration space, operators’ goals related to predictive maintenance are to reduce energy savings, lower maintenance and service costs, improve food quality and safety (and indirectly, customer experiences), increase comfort, and reduce downtime. So as IIoT technologies become more affordable, widely deployed and interconnected, a question naturally arises: “When will we see the results of these predictive maintenance capabilities?”

It’s a fair question. After all, some industries, such as industrial automation, are seeing rapid advances in their predictive maintenance capabilities. But many of these industries also have an inherent advantage: they’re often monitoring identical devices with well-defined historical performance models, making early problem detection relatively easy.

However, commercial refrigeration is a different ballgame. Commercial refrigeration applications are diverse and complex, making the development of their predictive maintenance capabilities far more challenging. Commercial refrigeration systems consist of many diverse and interdependent components, which often originate from multiple vendors. They encompass a wide range from traditional centralized direct expansion systems to an ever-expanding array of emerging architectures designed to achieve very specific operational (and more often, sustainability) objectives. Industry trends further complicate the issue, such as the adoption of new refrigerants and the migration from centralized to distributed, self-contained and integrated systems.

These complex systems differ in the amount, type and quality of the data they can provide — making data modeling and writing algorithms for different equipment even more difficult. Add more variables into the mix, such as weather, humidity and climate — not to mention widely varying operator goals, processes and workflows — and you can start to comprehend the depth of the challenge.

Developing predictive maintenance capabilities for commercial refrigeration is not a matter of simply pouring more data into the cloud via the IIoT. That data is as diverse as the equipment and systems which produce it. Determining the predictive potential of all that data requires fundamentally changing how we understand and approach the needs of the commercial refrigeration industry.

At Emerson, we’re tackling this challenge head on, taking a methodical, deliberate approach to predictive maintenance. Our goal is not to simply throw more IIoT technologies at the challenge. We’re working to help deliver on the promise of predictive maintenance by applying our deep knowledge of the commercial refrigeration space to help operators uncover the predictive value of data gathered from many different applications. By doing so, we’re simplifying the complexities and uncovering insights into the industry’s most common refrigeration scenarios.

We’re deriving predictive maintenance solutions from IIoT data via a three-pronged methodology: 1) understand the complexity of the domain and its individual systems; 2) define what data is relevant to which situations; and 3) determine how application sensors should be used to generate the necessary data. Then we can take the crucial step of developing tools to extrapolate true predictive maintenance answers from real-time and historical data.

In upcoming articles, Emerson will expand on these learnings and provide examples of how new technology is already being used for successful predictive maintenance programs in commercial refrigeration.

[New E360 Webinar] Why Retrofit Your Aging Supermarket Refrigeration Architecture?

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Many supermarket operators face a common dilemma regarding their refrigeration systems: they know they need to make changes or upgrade their legacy systems, but they’re not sure what their retrofit options are — or even where to begin. In our next E360 Webinar, I’ll offer guidance on how supermarket owners/operators can embark on this critical journey.

Join me on Tuesday, Aug. 13 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT for this informative webinar.

[New E360 Webinar] Why Retrofit Your Aging Supermarket Refrigeration Architecture?

There’s no question that reliable refrigeration is the backbone of any supermarket operation; it accounts for more than 50 percent of the electrical consumption for an average supermarket. That’s why keeping your refrigeration system running at optimal efficiency is essential to maximizing profits and ensuring operational success.

But if you’re like many owners/operators, you’ve been relying on the same centralized refrigeration architecture for decades. During that time, these systems have typically experienced declining performance levels and energy efficiencies — all due to progressive deviations from their original commissioned states. And while these systems are perfect candidates for an upgrade or a retrofit, even newer systems can offer opportunities for improvements, especially within the context of today’s rapidly evolving industry and market dynamics.

Compared to just 10 years ago, the drivers behind refrigeration decisions have changed dramatically, and the days of a one-system-fits-all mentality are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Environmental concerns, energy costs, shifting regulations, shrinking store formats, consumer demands and omnichannel delivery have all irrevocably reshaped the supermarket landscape.

As a result, more supermarket owners/operators are reevaluating their existing (and often aging) systems while looking for any retrofit opportunities that are available to them. Our next E360 Webinar is designed with them in mind. To help you better understand the many factors to consider when evaluating a supermarket refrigeration retrofit, I’ll be discussing the following topics:

  • Industry and market trends driving the need for refrigeration system retrofits
  • How to identify deficiencies and baseline performances in centralized architectures
  • A look at the potential architectures of the future
  • Recommended technologies for retrofits and recommissioning
  • Energy-efficiency strategies for refrigeration, HVAC and the complete building envelope

As always, we will take time after the presentation to answer any of your questions. So, be sure to register now and add this event to your August calendar.

Building Blocks of Artificial Intelligence for HVACR

 

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson is applying our expertise in commercial refrigeration and AC toward building predictive models for a variety of applications and architectures, a foundation for the emerging artificial intelligence technologies in the HVACR industry. I recently discussed our work in ACHR News magazine, “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on HVACR.” You can read the full article here.

The building blocks of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled equipment and systems in HVACR are already well in development: next-generation sensors and controllers, increasingly sophisticated predictive analytics, and machine-to-machine learning (M2M) software, cloud data storage and the growing implementation of the internet of things (IoT). These tools are already providing opportunities to improve comfort, save energy, reduce maintenance costs and extend equipment life, all while helping end users better manage their operations.

But integrating these tools into true AI solutions — data- and algorithm-driven applications that will enable systems and equipment to learn and automatically perform critical tasks without human intervention — is a challenge that will require a deeper understanding of the complexities of equipment, HVACR architectures and building systems.

At Emerson’s innovation centers and in customer field trials, we’re tackling this challenge head on — but methodically. Rather than simply throwing more technologies into the mix, we’re leveraging our deep refrigeration domain expertise to simplify complexities and uncover insights into the industry’s most common refrigeration scenarios. We are in the process of understanding how deeply AI could be implemented into equipment and buildings, and how effectively it could help solve the industry’s biggest challenges.

As I stated in the article, Emerson is researching how some newer AI-related technologies can be utilized for more advanced services, such as detecting problems faster and pinpointing which actions need to be taken. For example, we are already incorporating some AI-related technologies into equipment when we learn they add value, such as sensors that warn of refrigerant leaks in supermarket refrigerants.

However, delivering on the promised value of AI — autonomous predictive analysis and control of HVACR equipment and even entire building environments — will require more than simply installing connected sensors and devices, transmitting clouds of data, and creating libraries of algorithms. As the automobile industry has learned, building a self-driving vehicle is a far more complex undertaking than it appears. This example is important to keep in mind when considering the inherent complexities and diversity of commercial refrigeration applications.

A typical commercial refrigeration system consists of many interdependent components — often from multiple suppliers — with potentially diverse data sources. The proliferation of system architectures and refrigerants has resulted in an ever-expanding diversity of applications. This makes data modeling and defining predictive algorithms difficult. At Emerson, we believe that the development of AI in HVACR will grow as an iterative process, via data processing performed at the equipment level — with tighter integration of sensors and controllers providing richer data to cloud- and IoT-based services. These services provide both real-time alerts and historical trends of equipment performance under a given set of conditions — including indications of potential failures.

These data sets are the foundation of the next level of AI, enabling predictive maintenance models that will anticipate problems and maintain optimum conditions across a defined range of variables. Reaching that point will require generating sufficient historical data detailing the operation, failures and problems of equipment and components. And while much of this data is available today, new sensors may also be required to provide more advanced predictive capabilities.

Relatively speaking, the use of AI in HVACR equipment and controls is still in its infancy. But we’re working to accelerate its advancement to help our industry reap its potential benefits, including: improved reliability, energy savings, prolonged asset life and, of course, predictive analytics. As more AI-related technologies arrive in the HVACR space, we’ll start to fully understand the significant benefits and valuable data they are capable of providing.

10 Takeaways From 10 Years of GreenChill Data

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership recently completed a 10-year study examining supermarket data trends. In our latest E360 Webinar, Tom Land, manager of the program, presented these findings from GreenChill’s unique perceptive. View the webinar in its entirety or read the summary below.

Latest E360 Webinar on Demand

For more than a decade, the GreenChill program has worked with supermarket retailers across the country to promote the use of “greener” refrigeration systems in their stores. While our industry is in the early phases of transitioning to more sustainable refrigeration, GreenChill partner companies are at the forefront of this movement. The number of retailers participating has increased significantly since the program’s inception, and the data Tom discussed at the webinar provides a road map for other companies as they formalize their own sustainability initiatives.

Let’s look at 10 takeaways from the recent webinar.

  1. GreenChill partnership on the rise — in 2007, just more than 4,000 stores were GreenChill partners; today, that number exceeds 11,000 stores.

 

  1. Partner refrigerant emissions remain low — among the growing number of participating GreenChill partner stores, emissions have been held to a minimum. This is in large part due to the program’s emphasis on reducing refrigerant leaks and system charges.

 

  1. Refrigerant charges are declining — the average amount of refrigerants used in participating stores has declined steadily since 2007, even as the number of stores increases.

 

  1. Pounds per store leaks are dropping — in 2007, partner stores emitted more than 390 pounds per store every year; today, 290 pounds is average.

 

  1. Leak rates well below industry averages — on average, GreenChill partners have a leak rate of 13.9 percent, well below the industry average of 25 percent. Twelve of the partners have achieved a leak rate below 10 percent.

 

  1. One-fifth still use R-22 — although R-22 use is on the decline overall, 20 percent of commercial refrigeration systems continue to use it.

 

  1. Low-GWP refrigerants on the uptake — R-407A accounts for 20 percent of partner-installed refrigerants; installations with refrigerants less than 1,420 GWP now account for nearly 3 percent of all partner-installed refrigerants, with R-448A accounting for much of this growth.

 

  1. CO2 installations increase — installations of CO2 secondary loop, cascade and transcritical booster systems among partners continue to rise, with more than 12 partners exceeding a combined total of 160,000 pounds of installed R-744.

 

  1. Growth of GreenChill certifications — in 2009, fewer than 25 stores achieved GreenChill Gold and Silver certifications; today more than 360 stores have achieved Platinum, Gold and Silver certifications and re-certifications.

 

  1. California leads certification — among those states with GreenChill-certified stores, California leads the country with 151 stores. The next closest state is Florida with 45 stores.

Over the past decade, Emerson has worked with a variety of GreenChill partners to meet their sustainability objectives, utilizing leading low-GWP refrigerant alternatives and energy-efficiency strategies. If you’re interested in transitioning to a greener refrigeration system, we’re here to help you develop a strategy that meets your long-term goals.

California HFC Phase-down Schedule Continues

Jennifer_Butsch Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

The state of California and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have taken steps to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) beginning in 2019. I recently presented this topic during Emerson’s January E360 Breakfast at the AHR Expo where I spoke about this and how it may influence refrigerant regulations in other states. Read Accelerate America’s article, “California Starts HFC Bans — with More to Come.”

As we had discussed in late 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated that in the wake of the vacating of SNAP Rule 20, it will no longer enforce HFC refrigerant delistings and has proposed to roll back further HFC-related regulations. This decision has a left a void in the regulatory landscape — one in which California and other U.S. Climate Alliance member states are vowing to fill.

In particular, many are looking to California to lead industry efforts on reducing high-GWP HFC refrigerants in commercial, industrial and residential refrigeration and AC applications. With the adoption of SNAP Rules 20 and 21 into state law, California appears to be embracing this role. As of Jan. 1, R-404A and R-507A are no longer permitted in new and retrofit supermarket central systems, remote condensing units, and low- and medium-temperature retrofit stand-alone units — all of which can be legally enforced in California under the authority of the California Cooling Act (Senate Bill 1013).

January 1 also marked the onset of bans for R-404A, R-507A, R-410A, R-134 and R-407A/C/F in new medium-temperature, stand-alone units with a compressor capacity of less than 2,200 BTU/hr and not containing a flooded evaporator. These actions mirror the now vacated EPA SNAP rules and are all part of an HFC phase-down schedule that will continue in California in the coming years.

The California Cooling Act also prohibits manufacturers from selling equipment or products that use banned HFCs manufactured after their respective prohibition dates. It’s important to understand this phase-down in the context of even larger and more ambitious state-wide environmental initiatives.

The California Air Resources Board plans to enact further restrictions on HFCs via its SLCP (Short-Lived Climate Pollutant) strategy, which was approved in March 2017. These actions are all intended to help California reduce HFC emissions 40 percent below the levels it recorded in 2013 by 2030, as stated in Senate Bill 1383 (aka the Super Pollutant Reduction Act).

CARB’s SLCP strategy is based on a multipronged approach in which they have proposed:

  • Limiting the GWP of refrigerants used in new stationary air-conditioning equipment to below 750 starting in 2023
  • Imposing prohibitions on refrigerants (more than 50 pounds) with a GWP of more than 150 for new stationary refrigeration beginning in 2022
  • Calling for a blanket ban on all production, import, sales, distribution or entry into commerce of refrigerants with a GWP of 1,500 or more, effective in 2022, with possible exemptions for R-410A for use in AC and reclaimed refrigerant.

We anticipate CARB to announce a final regulation on these SLCP initiatives in December for AC and March 2020 for commercial refrigeration. In the meantime, we encourage stakeholders to engage CARB in one of the many public meetings they’re planning throughout 2019.

As other states watch closely to see how California’s pending environmental regulations take shape, we believe it’s important that our industry continues to push for consistency in our approaches. Dealing with state-by-state mandates on what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable would only introduce unnecessary complexity. To see my comments on this matter, please read the full article here.

 

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