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Prepare for the Future of Real-time Cargo Tracking

Matthew Neidlinger | Director of Product Management,

Digital Solutions, Emerson’s Cold Chain Business

The real-time cargo tracking industry is changing. For years, 2G and 3G cellular networks have enabled real-time trackers to deliver live location and temperature data on shipments traveling throughout the global perishable cold chain. But in many parts of the world, the mobile device industry is outgrowing the use of 2G and 3G; many of these legacy networks are turning down to make room for newer 4G and 5G options. As this transition takes place over the next several years all around the globe, end-users of real-time cargo tracking devices may experience gaps in their live shipment monitoring and tracking capabilities.

What the 2G turndown means to perishable cold chain stakeholders

In recent years, real-time trackers have become essential tools for helping to monitor food quality and safety in the perishable supply chain. For many cold chain leaders, Emerson’s GO real-time trackers are viewed as essential, cost-effective devices for protecting their valuable shipments. Combined with a cloud-enabled technology infrastructure and supporting Oversight software, this solution grants growers, logistics companies and food retailers live access to in-transit shipment location and sensor data they need to help monitor food quality and safety — such as levels of temperature, humidity, light exposure and much more.

But as 2G and 3G networks become obsolete, end-users of these real-time tracking devices may experience data gaps in their in-transit shipment coverage, which could result in:

  • Inability to help monitor food quality (freshness) and safety in real-time
  • Missing real-time alerts (emails/text messages) of temperature excursions
  • Incomplete data for prompt resolution of shipment disputes
  • Potential risks to brand reputations

If your company is currently using 2G and 3G real-time trackers, you already may have experienced the impacts of cellular network turndown. However, if you’re not closely monitoring in-transit shipment data, you may not even be aware of gaps in your real-time data. Moving forward, it’s important to be vigilant of any disruptions in coverage. Look for the following signs of network connectivity issues:

  • Increasing blind spots in visibility to shipment location/temperature data
  • Intermittent brownouts of real-time access
  • Gaps in historic trip coverage and data points

What is Emerson doing to help you navigate the cellular transition?

The cellular network transition has created a complex landscape that will be in flux for the next several years. As cold chain experts and cargo industry stewards, Emerson is doing everything possible to help prepare the cargo tracking industry for this ongoing transition. We’re addressing this challenge on multiple fronts by:

  • Working closely with our customers to determine which real-time trackers work best for their shipping routes
  • Communicating with cellular companies to get a better understanding of the specific timing of 2G and 3G network turndowns
  • Developing the next generation of real-time trackers that utilize emerging low-power, wide-area (LPWA) 4G and 5G network technologies

Wherever your business ships its perishable cargo, Emerson is committed to helping you navigate this cellular transition. Our subsequent blog will discuss the timing of the 2G network turndown, emerging cellular technologies, and the next generation of devices designed to bridge the gap between 2G and 4G/5G networks. Read our informative white paper to learn how we’re helping the industry achieve uninterrupted real-time cargo tracking of perishable shipments.

Pandemic Drives Changes in Grocery Store and Refrigeration Designs

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development

Manager, Food Retail, Emerson’s Cold Chain Business

 

As essential businesses, food retailers were among the few sectors that had remained open during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Staying open meant they would have to adapt quickly to new operating protocols, which often included one-way aisles, plexiglass shields at registers and enhanced cleaning procedures. Grocers were also inundated with high volumes of click-and-collect orders, which tested their e-fulfillment capabilities and presented additional challenges. I recently contributed to an ACHR News article discussing the shifting grocery landscape and its potential impacts on store and refrigeration system designs.

 

Attempts to provide “contactless” shopping experiences were among the first areas of focus, as store layouts were modified to limit the need to touch physical items and surfaces. While these were originally intended as stop-gap strategies, some of these short-term measures have already become more permanent elements of in-store designs. In fact, new store builds and remodels will likely feature layouts and case placements that are designed to adhere to as many safeguards as possible and provide much-needed merchandizing flexibility.

Of course, this shift will also affect the type of refrigeration architectures grocers select to address these emerging challenges. Flexibility in refrigeration translates first into the ability to meet typical capacities, but also provides the freedom to scale up or down to meet fluctuations in demand — such as staging additional self-contained cases or enabling variable-capacity modulation in walk-in units that support click-and-collect.

Shoring up stores for click-and-collect

While demand for click-and-collect fulfillment surged significantly during the initial onset of the pandemic, months later it shows little to no signs of letting up. In fact, recent reports indicate a 23 percent growth in click-and-collect adoption from June to July. Many experts believe this change in consumer behavior will represent a more permanent change in buying habits — although the degree to which it becomes a preferred shopping method remains to be seen.

Fortunately for most major retailers, click-and-collect capabilities have been in place for several years. But that doesn’t mean they were necessarily prepared for pandemic-level order volumes. In terms of fulfillment and execution, this emerging business model presents a variety of cold storage, picking and associated labor requirements.

As retailers respond to the increased amount of online shopping, they will need to account for fluctuations in consumer demand and the impacts on refrigeration equipment loads. Refrigeration design strategies with variable-capacity modulating compressors — such as the Copeland™ Digital Outdoor Refrigeration Unit, X-Line Series and Copeland scroll compressors — will help retailers balance click-and-collect refrigeration loads more effectively.

Another effective strategy is to implement “dark stores,” which are dedicated online fulfillment centers. Retailers who operate dark stores essentially take load fluctuations from click-and-collect activities out of the equation, which may make it easier to balance refrigeration loads. Whichever method is preferred, retailers will ultimately approach click-and-collect services differently, depending on their local demographics and store design strategies.

Emerson to Participate in Online ATMOsphere America 2020

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Cold Chain Business

As an industry steward and leader in the development of environmentally friendly refrigeration technologies, Emerson is pleased to announce our participation and Silver sponsorship at the ATMOsphere America 2020 conference, which will take place October 20 through October 22. Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, this year’s event will utilize an online, virtual format to make the business case for natural refrigerants.

Per usual, the annual event will feature a packed agenda of keynote presentations, technology case studies, HVACR market trends and policy updates to provide a complete picture of the latest developments and future trends related to the use of natural refrigerants. In addition, ATMOsphere America 2020 will be expanding its scope to cover opportunities for natural refrigerant technologies in Central and South America. As a result, the agenda will include sessions that discuss both international- and national-level policy developments, highlight notable projects, and bring together stakeholders to talk about their experiences.

Policy and Standards panel discussion

Among the industry experts speaking at the event are Emerson’s Rajan Rajendran, V.P., system innovation center and sustainability; and Jennifer Butsch, regulatory affairs manager. Rajan and Jennifer will be participating in the Policy and Standards panel discussion on Wednesday, October 21 at 11:10 a.m. EDT. This distinguished panel will also include Tony Lundell, senior director of standards and safety with the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR), Christina Starr, senior policy analyst with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), and Glenn Gallagher, air pollution specialist with the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

This panel discussion will explore the current status of federal hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) regulations in the U.S. and the potential impact of presidential administration changes upon future rulemaking. Rajan and Jennifer will give a short presentation and then take questions from the online audience.

Latin America CO2 transcritical case study and training panel discussion

On the final day of the conference (October 22), Emerson’s Carlos Obella, V.P., engineering services and product development for Latin America, will present a case study in a session titled, Casos de Estudio: Refrigeracion Comercial e Industrial at 3:20 p.m. EDT. The presentation will demonstrate how they have applied an enhanced control algorithm to ensure the optimized system management of CO2 transcritical systems with liquid and vapor ejectors. The case study will highlight an installation located in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which utilized dynamic superheat management and the implementation of overfeed evaporators to considerably increase the overall coefficient of performance (COP) when compared to other direct expansion (DX) solutions. Other system features to be discussed include: heat reclaim regulation, dynamic suction setpoint and remote monitoring via a web-based application. In addition, Emerson’s Alonso Amor, technical manager for Mexico, will present on the learning centers in both Brazil and Mexico in a session titled, Panel de Discusion: Capacitacion at 12:20 p.m. EDT.

 

ATMOsphere America 2020 promises to be extremely informative for those interested in learning more about natural refrigerant technologies and the policies that impact their use. To learn more about the conference and view a detailed session agenda, please visit their website. To attend any of the sessions, please register here.

Connected Strategies Drive Needed Cold Chain Visibility

AmyChildress Amy Childress | Vice President of Marketing & Planning,

Cargo Solutions, Emerson’s Cold Chain Business

Over the last decade, connected technologies have transformed the ways in which food cold chain operators preserve food safety and quality. By utilizing monitoring devices connected via the internet of things (IoT), cold chain stakeholders have much greater visibility into their supply chains — and control of myriad factors impacting freshness, safety and quality. Today, with the acceleration of e-commerce fulfillment models, these tools and technologies are even more critical. I recently participated in an article from The Packer, which discussed the importance of cold chain connectivity in today’s challenging retail business climate.

When you consider the international sourcing of fresh produce, overseas shipments can last from two to four weeks, often involving 20–30 steps to travel from farms to consumers. With today’s IoT-enabled monitoring and tracking infrastructures, cold chain stakeholders have the potential for much-improved visibility into each step of this journey — even the possibility for comprehensive cold chain traceability. Connected devices give operators the ability to monitor, control and track a variety of determining conditions, including temperature, humidity, the presence of ripening agents, lighting and much more.
Impacts of e-commerce acceleration
While the growth of the e-commerce grocery business began well before 2020, the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated this trend dramatically. In particular, click-and-collect business models have introduced new refrigeration requirements; but many of the walk-in cold storage lockers and reach-in coolers installed for these purposes were undersized for pandemic-driven spikes in volumes. What’s more, many of these coolers were not designed for high volumes of traffic, and frequent opening and closing of doors cause infiltration of warmer, humid air.
Simply put, retailers need new refrigeration strategies to manage the high volume of orders, maintain precise temperatures, and keep up with today’s demand. But it’s critically important to seize this opportunity and provide service levels that keep consumers coming back — especially considering studies show half of customers will stop shopping online with a retailer if they are not happy with the service.
To help address these challenges, Emerson recently launched the Copeland™ Digital Outdoor Refrigeration Unit, X-Line Series. This reliable and robust unit provides refrigeration for medium-temperature, walk-in coolers, such as those used by supermarkets making the transition to e-commerce business models. In addition, its wide applicability makes it ideal for display cases and food preparation areas that are commonly found in convenience stores, small-format stores and restaurants.
Making the cellular network transition
The ongoing evolution of wireless networks is impacting the connected infrastructures and devices utilized by cold chain technology providers. Currently, there are 4.5 million connected pieces of equipment monitored globally by Emerson’s Retail Solutions business. And in many regions, the mobile device industry is phasing out the use of 2G and 3G networks in favor of newer technologies such as 5G. As a result, any legacy real-time tracking device that relies on 2G and 3G networks to transmit data may experience brownouts in coverage.
This is why Emerson is currently launching new devices that utilize emerging technologies such as Category M, or “Cat-M” and Narrow Band internet of things, or “NB-IoT” — both of which are coming online as cellular providers introduce 4G and 5G networks. In fact, we recently launched our next-generation 4G/Cat-M real-time trackers at the Fruit Logistica trade show in Berlin. These new devices are designed to bridge the gap between 2G and these emerging technologies to ensure uninterrupted tracking and monitoring.
Key infrastructure upgrades
As part of our connected infrastructure upgrades, we have also recently introduced Oversight 2, a cloud-based online portal that serves as a real-time resource for monitoring in-transit shipment information. Oversight 2 provides stakeholders with key data points that may impact the quality of perishable cargo, such as temperature, location and other indicators.
For the retail store environment, Emerson’s ProAct™ Connect+ Enterprise Management Software provides near real-time access to critical information to help retailers immediately track, triage and respond to issues across their multi-site network and better meet food quality and safety expectations.

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