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Pandemic Reveals Importance of Cold Chain Integrity

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Even the most resilient food supply chains are being challenged in ways never imagined before the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, consumers, retailers and regulators are demanding more visibility and transparency into food’s entire journey — from meat, dairy and produce plants all the way through to dinner tables, according to a recent Food Logistics article for which I was interviewed. Also quoted were my colleagues, Katrina Krites, marketing and business development manager, food retail, and Amy Childress, vice president of marketing and planning, Cargo Solutions, both with Emerson’s cold chain business.

The food supply chain is one of the segments hardest hit by the pandemic. Consumers quickly switched their buying behaviors from brick-and-mortar stores to online groceries. Spikes in demand and disruptions throughout the food supply chain led to acute shortages of certain product categories. One-third of consumers surveyed in NPD Group’s NET COVID-19 Pantry & Food Strategy Tracker still experience out-of-stock inventory months after the outbreak began.

It’s no wonder then that 81 percent of shoppers say transparency is important or extremely important to them, both online and in-store, according to a study by FMI, The Food Industry Association. Responses to the survey also revealed that consumers believe grocery retailers should provide detailed product information. Food safety clearly remains a top concern because of pandemic-related interruptions.

Delivering safe, high-quality food starts with understanding everything that contributes to food quality and safety throughout the cold chain. It’s staggering to realize that there can be potentially as many as 20 to 30 individual steps and multiple changes of ownership throughout this journey. Stakeholders at each point are now able to monitor, control and track a variety of conditions necessary for preserving food quality, including temperature, humidity, lighting and more.

Providing this greater visibility and management of inventory will require operators across the supply chain to integrate cold chain monitoring solutions and other technologies to assure food safety and on-time delivery. In addition, operators will need to implement the following:

  • Stringent operational processes
  • Enhanced supplier sourcing
  • Strong company relationships
  • An overarching standard to produce, deliver and sell food safely and ethically

See into the cold chain in real-time

Food chains have historically been opaque, long and complex. Increasingly, they are becoming more transparent, shorter and traceable. That’s occurring because consumers want to know more about where their food comes from and how it’s been handled. The impacts of the pandemic significantly increased the urgency behind this push.

According to Dan Crossley, executive director for Food Ethics Council, the question businesses should be asking is, “If our customers could see everything about how our food is produced, distributed, stored and sold, would they still want my product?”

One way to answer this question is by improving cold chain integrity. As Amy explained in the article, Emerson participates in the IBM Food Trust, where we leverage advanced cold chain technology “to provide temperature-related information on in-transit, refrigerated cargo to improve shelf-life estimates and food freshness, enabling more actionable data for IBM Food Trust network members.”

Smarter approaches to food safety

Expanding use of real-time and near real-time tracking devices and cloud-enabled software systems to monitor in-transit shipping conditions will also help operators to ensure food safety and quality. This is especially critical to keeping up with the global demand for year-round access to perishable products. Consumers want a variety of fresh produce, regardless of the location of its origin or the complex cold chain necessary to transport it by land, sea and/or air. The supply chain begins at the point of harvest and continues through processing, cold storage and distribution — all before the food ever begins the last-mile delivery to a store, restaurant or consumer. Overseas shipments can often last anywhere from two to four weeks.

Precise tracking of the condition of this food is possible with advanced hardware and software systems. For example, ProAct™ Connect+ enterprise management software from Emerson can help retailers by providing near real-time access to critical information to help retailers immediately monitor, triage and respond to issues across their multi-site networks. It also provides alarms/notifications using Emerson’s Site Supervisor and E2 facility management systems to provide continuous building and refrigeration monitoring at any location and across the enterprise.

As Katrina said in the article, “By providing enterprise management of refrigeration and other key facility systems, ProAct Connect+ can help retailers preserve food quality while meeting food safety compliance mandates.”

In-transit monitoring of food temperature, location, light, security and other sensor data for perishable cargo can be accomplished with Emerson’s GO real-time loggers and trackers and complimentary cloud-based online portal, Oversight 2. The solution’s automated reporting, real-time alerts and historical reports increase visibility into the status of in-transit cargo.

New normal: Verify food in-transit

The pandemic exposed areas of the global food supply chain that are susceptible to disruption by rapid changes in consumer behavior as well as food safety concerns. Food must be resupplied faster and kept fresh longer. Building these capabilities along with resiliency into the supply chain, will require even more focus amid our “new normal.” Those efforts will begin with the implementation of cold chain technologies that enable businesses to verify the condition of food at any and every step in its journey from producers to consumers.

 

Focus on Cold Chain Visibility for National Food Safety Education Month

AmyChildress Amy Childress | Vice President of Marketing & Planning, Cargo Solutions

Emerson’s cold chain business

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year an estimated 1 in 6 Americans (i.e., 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from eating contaminated food. To help prevent food poisoning and improve awareness of food safety best practices, the CDC has designated September as National Food Safety Education Month. For Emerson’s cold chain business, improving the quality and safety of food throughout the supply chain is a core principle. Among the many ways we are helping stakeholders fulfill this mission is through a focus on cold chain visibility technologies designed to monitor and track food conditions along its journey to consumers.

Effective cold chain visibility is a goal shared by nearly everyone actively involved with or impacted by the food supply chain. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new initiative called the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, of which traceability is a key component. Designed to build upon the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), it outlines a path forward using science and risk-based standards to help ensure food safety and prevent foodborne illnesses. With respect to traceability, the blueprint seeks to utilize modern technology to provide visibility of food from farm to table and rapidly trace contaminations to their source locations.

Temperature control and visibility technologies

Achieving precise temperature control during staging, shipping and storage is the backbone of Emerson’s strategies for helping our customers promote and achieve food safety and quality. Our products and services are designed to help stakeholders in each segment of the food cold chain implement their unique cold storage best practices and quality control methods — from proper container and facility insulation to reliable refrigeration strategies — and maintain the tightest possible temperature ranges.

Enabling visibility into food’s journey throughout the supply chain is a critical component of ensuring proper temperature control. This means our customers must have the ability to track and monitor food’s condition throughout the journey to the point of sale.

To that end, we provide refrigeration monitoring solutions that help growers, producers, shippers, restaurants and food retailers keep food within ideal temperature ranges. Throughout multiple steps of cold chain custody, our real-time monitoring devices and tracking infrastructures are helping stakeholders automate the processes of recording and documenting key data points related to food conditions, including: location, temperature, humidity, vibration and security. By leveraging these products and services, stakeholders can better use information to support their food quality and safety programs.

And since we work with multiple stakeholders, we’re better able to help facilitate information sharing and wider cold chain visibility, thereby limiting the potential for disputes while keeping the focus on preventing food safety and quality issues.

Participation with industry workgroups

Our dedication to driving food safety and quality initiatives is further demonstrated through our participation in and support of leading industry initiatives and organizations, including: the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Global Food Traceability Center. Collectively, we share the common goal of increased cold chain visibility and traceability to promote food safety and minimize global food waste.

These are all part of our efforts to further empower the cold chain by providing more actionable data for our customers and the industry. Today, our customers utilize a variety of enterprise resource planning (ERP), transportation management systems (TMS) and other information technology (IT) architectures within their businesses, and we’ve designed our devices and data formats with the flexibility to integrate with a variety of system infrastructures — all of which further promotes visibility and information sharing in the supply chain.

Achieving industry-wide visibility will require participation from all stakeholders along the chain of custody. It’s estimated that of produce shipped in the U.S. have been applied with standardized PTI case labels. Emerson encourages all growers to participate in this and other traceability initiatives. As an industry, we must help all stakeholders understand the value of capturing cold chain data and leveraging available tools and standards.

 

 

Grow Your Bottom Line With Sustainable Refrigeration Retrofits

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development Manager, Food Retail

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

 

Across the food retail market, supermarket operators are re-evaluating their legacy refrigeration architectures. A dynamic mix of regulatory mandates, sustainability goals and the emergence of e-commerce fulfillment models are dictating changes in the status quo of refrigeration. We recently published an article in the RSES Journal that discussed refrigeration retrofit strategies that allow retailers to meet their sustainability objectives while improving their bottom lines.

When considering refrigeration retrofits, food retailers must remember that sustainability is a two-sided coin. While reducing leaks of global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants is important for lowering direct emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), many supermarket operators often overlook the potential for indirect GHG emissions caused by poor system energy efficiencies.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that supermarkets are the most electricity-intensive of all commercial buildings. Commercial refrigeration systems account for 40–60% of supermarket energy consumption and are by far the greatest contributor to indirect GHG emissions. Combined, direct and indirect emissions make up the true measure of sustainability, or a system’s total equivalent warming impact (TEWI).

Reduce direct emissions with lower-GWP refrigerants

The transition from high-GWP refrigerants and those with ozone depletion potential (ODP) is inevitable. Common legacy refrigerant options such as the HFC R-404A will be phased down while hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) such as R-22 are being phased out. But this does not necessarily mean operators should immediately transition to an alternative refrigerant or embark on a complete refrigeration rebuild.

Lower-GWP A1 refrigerants, such as the hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) blend R-448A/R-449A, are available that allow end-users to retrofit their existing system, reduce GWP from direct emissions by up to 60%, and still maintain a familiar operational footprint similar to the one they have today.

For those operators currently using R-22, the transition to R-448A/R-449A is relatively straightforward and requires very few substantive architecture changes. The transition from R-404A to R-448A/R-449A is slightly more involved but can still be accomplished without significant architectural changes. R-448A/R-449A produces compressor discharge temperatures that run approximately 10–12% higher than R-404A. This may require additional compressor cooling mitigation such as head cooling fans, demand cooling modules, or a liquid or vapor injected scroll compressor. Consult your compressor OEM’s guidelines for specific retrofit procedures.

Improve system energy efficiencies

Any system retrofit or upgrade comes at a cost, so food retailers must ensure their investment delivers long-term viability and returns to their bottom line. This is where reducing indirect emissions by improving energy efficiencies plays such an important role. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that every dollar saved in electricity is equivalent to increasing sales by $59.

While it makes sense to undertake energy-efficiency measures in conjunction with a refrigerant transition, energy optimization best practices can — and should — be performed periodically on all systems. Before considering any retrofit options, start by performing a system assessment to determine your current performance metrics — which in many cases will deviate significantly from the system’s original commissioned baseline.

The next logical step in the energy optimization process is to enable a variable-capacity modulation strategy by either upgrading to a digitally modulated compressor or adding a variable-frequency drive (VFD) to a fixed-capacity compressor. Variable-capacity modulation provides significant system improvements, not just to energy efficiency but also to overall refrigeration system performance, reliability and lifespan. Benefits include:

  • Precise matching of capacity to changing refrigeration loads
  • Tight control over suction manifold pressures, allowing increased setpoint and energy savings
  • Improved case temperature precision
  • Reduced compressor cycling (on/off)

In digital compressor retrofit scenarios, we’ve demonstrated that replacing an underperforming, fixed-capacity compressor with a variable-capacity compressor can result in an additional 4% energy savings — even before activating digital modulation capabilities. And once digital modulation is activated, operators can expect an additional 12% energy savings.

Whether you’re trying to reduce your direct emissions with lower-GWP refrigerants or seeking to improve energy efficiencies and lower your indirect emissions, Emerson has compression technologies and sustainable refrigeration solutions to help you meet your specific objectives. The Copeland™ digital semi-hermetic and Copeland™ digital scroll compressors provide opportunities to transition to lower-GWP refrigerants and enable variable-capacity modulation to drive energy efficiencies.

Transform Commercial Kitchens with Automation

Paul_Hepperla Paul Hepperla | Vice President, Solutions Strategy – Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Commercial kitchens can maximize efficiency, increase food safety, and reduce labor costs by implementing internet of things (IoT) technologies into restaurant operations. So, why has the foodservice sector been relatively slow to adopt advanced, connected automation?

Transform Commercial Kitchens with Automation

That’s among the many questions discussed by a recent E360 panel of key industry stakeholders, including:

  • Chuck Guerin, vice president for controls of the Middleby Corporation, a leading manufacturer of commercial cooking equipment
  • Jim Kleva, director of equipment engineering of Wendy’s, a global quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain
  • Matt Toone, vice president, sales and solutions, cold chain, Emerson

They acknowledged that restaurants lag behind the digital transformation achieved in other industries, largely due to concerns about data security. Nevertheless, kitchen operators are in “an experimentation phase” with an eye toward how automation can enable them to optimize commercial operations.

New on the menu: Predicting what customers will order

Among the potential improvements resulting from IoT technologies are faster ordering, cooking and drive-through procedures for quick-service restaurants.

Kleva said the technologies at Wendy’s can potentially predict what customers will purchase before they order, making it possible to speed up cooking and service. In this scenario, smart devices, cameras and sensors would connect to identify individuals, access their purchase history, and provide real-time analysis of conditions at nearby stores, traffic patterns, weather and school events — all while determining the number of patrons in the store, cars in the drive-through area and consumers entering the restaurant.

How much of this is a good idea remains to be seen. Many consumers may welcome the option to speed up service by allowing businesses to identify them by reading their vehicle license plates or through the use of facial recognition technology. Other consumers will likely object, viewing application of these advanced technologies as intrusive.

“Currently, our customers don’t want us to go there,” Kleva said.

Consumers might be more comfortable with restaurants implementing technology based on the last time they ordered. In addition, this recognition technology could be used for much less-specific identification purposes, to determine whether incoming customers are children, adults or other demographic details which could help QSRs accelerate service levels.

“Even a five- to 10-second heads-up could make a huge difference in our drive-through operation,” Kleva said.

The amount of data — along with the hardware and software — to make this smart restaurant vision a reality requires investments in connected equipment. Middleby’s cooking equipment already offers data processing for menu pushes and service-related alerts.

“The next generation of technologies will assist restaurant managers not by just predicting what food is needed but also by automatically starting the cooking process,” Guerin said.

Top concerns: Data security and communications

Potential barriers to wider adoption of IoT in commercial kitchens arise due to concerns from business owners and consumers about the security of data collected, stored and shared by restaurant equipment.

Among the challenges: how to pull all of the data safely and securely into meaningful, useable information. QSRs must manage equipment from multiple providers, each often designed with communication protocols and connectivity standards that are proprietary.

“There’s not safety or a compelling critical infrastructure issue forcing the industry to adopt a standard system,” Guerin said. “As OEMs, we’re all competing and we’re all trying to figure out an approach that meets our customers’ needs.”

Standardizing commercial kitchen technology would enable the devices to communicate more easily while enhancing data security. One solution is the growing use of application programming interfaces (APIs), software that make it possible for one system to share information in precisely controlled ways with another system. It’s the path Emerson has chosen.

“Establishing a common architecture, or at least flexible APIs, will become more important as the foodservice industry becomes more connected,” Toone said.

Emerson can help automate your restaurant

Emerson is helping QSRs leverage IoT in commercial kitchens to exercise control over equipment and systems and automatically perform routine tasks. Our smart facility management and supervisory controls, food temperature probes and IoT technologies are helping QSRs monitor and control food storage and cooking temperatures to comply with food safety regulations and maximize food quality and consistency. Implementing the systems can either free up workers for other tasks or enable kitchen managers to reduce labor costs.

These efforts can provide commercial kitchen equipment that is financially viable and easily connectible across legacy systems and modern, IoT-enabled devices. Learn more by reading the final article of this series about IoT-driven kitchen automation. We welcome you to read article 1 and article 2 if you’d like to review the full series.

As Good As New: Copeland Certified

Michael Williams | Copeland Product Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

When you purchase a Copeland Certified remanufactured compressor, Copeland will stand behind the quality and reliability of the replacement. Our latest E360 Product Spotlight takes a closer look at why Copeland Certified compressors are the service aftermarket’s most reliable option for replacement semi-hermetic compressors.

While the service aftermarket is full of independent mechanics and larger rebuilders, only Copeland Certified semi-hermetic compressors are remanufactured to the same Emerson engineering guidelines and production standards as our OEM compressors. You’ll get a replacement model that is as good as new.

Why is this so important to contractors? There’s no need to worry about a Copeland Certified compressor harming your reputation due to installation challenges, safety issues or potential system failures.

Likewise, business owners and managers can be confident that selecting a Copeland Certified compressor will help restore their refrigeration system back to its optimum performance.

Remanufactured to OEM specifications

Rebuilding a Copeland Certified compressor is an extensive production process. We examine every component to ensure its operational integrity. That means replacing all outdated, discontinued or unfit parts. When we’re done, the rebuilt compressor will meet all of Emerson’s stringent engineering and manufacturing guidelines.

The process starts by disassembling salvaged compressors into individual components, where more than 500 parts can be evaluated. Then our expert builders inspect, clean, upgrade or replace each essential component with Copeland Certified parts — qualifying them according to the latest engineering specifications.

Our team then reassembles each compressor and subjects them to Emerson’s quality assurance and testing procedures. We perform air board tests on every compressor, checking for leaks, motor performance and pressure integrity. Every day, remanufactured compressors are selected via a random audit program to fully verify their performance and ensure that Copeland Certified compressors are restored to Emerson’s OEM specifications.

To make sure that happens, Copeland Certified compressors are remanufactured in the same state-of-the-art manufacturing facility — and on the same production lines — as our new compressors. This production consistency delivers the following benefits and capabilities:

  • Cellular manufacturing processes
  • UL recognized and approved
  • Use of all Copeland Certified parts

The benefits of choosing a Copeland Certified compressor include:

  • Built with the latest engineering guidelines; remanufactured to OEM specifications
  • Peace of mind knowing that your replacement compressor will work as good as new
  • No compromise in reliability and performance or degradation in energy efficiencies
  • Reputation protection by removing risks of system failure and performance issues from using sub-par replacement compressors

 

Trusted reliability, performance and safety

The result of all these quality-enhancing measures is that you get the most trusted remanufactured compressors for the refrigeration aftermarket from the industry leader in compression technology. If you need a service compressor that delivers unwavering reliability, unrivaled performance and superior safety, trust Copeland Certified.

Contact one of our 850 certified wholesalers to learn more about using Copeland Certified compressors for your next installation.

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