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Posts from the ‘Cold Chain’ Category

Integrated R-290 Cases Expand Into U.S. Markets

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently asked to contribute to an Accelerate America article about the increasing use of R-290 in the U.S. commercial refrigeration market. The article featured a variety of perspectives from supermarket operators and equipment manufacturers. Read the full article (pg. 38) and more on Emerson’s perspective below.

Integrated R-290 Cases Expand Into U.S. Markets

A growing number of American retailers — including Target, ALDI US and Whole Foods Market — have been deploying self-contained, R-290 cases as spot merchandisers in hundreds of stores, many of which are mainly served by centralized rack systems. Some retailers regard these units as partial or even full-store alternatives to using a centralized rack-based system.

Obviously, this comes as no surprise to Emerson. Not only have we been partnering with R-290 equipment manufacturers for many years, we also support operators and commercial refrigeration designers alike in their efforts to utilize R-290 — and a variety of other lower-GWP and natural refrigerants — in their systems. As others have stated in the article, this trend reflects a shift in the research and development processes for some manufacturers, in that fewer emerging architectures are being designed to utilize hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases.

It’s further evidence that, regardless of the unpredictable state of environmental regulations, R-290 use in commercial refrigeration continues to gain traction. We at Emerson are seeing the use of integrated case architectures — where one or more R-290 compressors is/are housed within a refrigerated case — and the continued use of completely self-contained units as the most likely paths to wider adoption of integrated R-290 in 2019 and beyond.

While R-290 systems may have originally been born out of necessity to address environmental concerns, today they’re perceived in the market as much more than just eco-friendly alternatives. With the expansion of smaller-format stores and increasing retail urbanization, many times there simply isn’t enough space to accommodate a machine room for a traditional central system. In these scenarios, plug-and-play, low-charge, R-290 systems are an ideal fit.

The safe use of R-290, which is classified as an A3, highly flammable refrigerant, is governed globally by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and nationally by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Historically, these standards mandated that R-290 charge limits should be limited to a maximum of 150g. However, the IEC recently updated their standard (IEC 60335-2-89) to allow the use of up to 500g of A3s like R-290. This charge limit increase will enable more application flexibility for European food retailers.

It’s important to note that in the U.S., the UL standard still mandates a maximum of 150g charge limit for A3s. Even with the low charge limit of 150g, R-290 cases have proven viable options for many leading retailers in the U.S. market and abroad.

While the industry adapts to the charge limit increase, there are real-world installations that are also indicative of the safety and reliability of these self-contained, R-290 cases. Since 2013, an HEB grocery store in San Antonio has utilized the R-290 cases installed throughout the entire store as its primary refrigeration source. The designer of that architecture, who was also interviewed in the same article, stated that these cases have proved to be both safe and reliable — and have had no leaks since they’ve been installed.

Today we’re achieving more flexibility using R-290 systems with micro-distributed architectures utilizing integrated cases. They are designed to remove compressor exhaust heat via a shared glycol water loop that’s directed to the roof of the facility for heat removal. These systems typically stay within the 150g limit and enable a greater degree of scalability.

It will be interesting to see how the possibility of increasing the R-290 charge limit, as has been discussed and studied within the industry for years, might impact system design in the future. For now, R-290 seems to have a place — albeit a relatively niche one — in U.S. markets.

Advances Continue in Cold Chain Tracking Technologies

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article from Snack Food and Wholesale Bakery, “Advances in cold chain technology for snack and bakery warehousing and transport.” There have been significant technological advances in recent years to enable better temperature and condition monitoring, including key offerings from Emerson. Read the full article here.

In recent years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has pressed for increased monitoring and documentation of refrigerator and freezer temperatures at every point along the cold chain to detect when cold storage temperatures fall out of the transported food’s safe range. Heightened awareness of foodborne illness as a serious health problem has driven advanced monitoring systems that trigger alarms and notify personnel should temperature conditions deteriorate.

However, these advanced systems are largely the domain of processing plants, warehouses and supermarkets, fixed locations where continuous monitoring and wireless data collection and processing are incorporated into an IT infrastructure — but they’re quickly earning industry-wide adoption.

When a food shipment is transferred to a truck, train or ship, accessing and documenting its temperature data becomes problematic and limited. Historically, food transport has been the weakest link in cold chain tracking. That’s why it’s become increasingly important to track temperature data on frozen and refrigerated food in transit to ensure food security and provide operators with end-to-end documentation.

This is where the latest advances in cold chain technology come in: the development of monitoring systems that include data loggers, i.e., electronic devices that communicate with sensors to collect data over time. When fully automated, they can eliminate the errors of manual tracking and recording information during transit, transmitting and storing continuous temperature data in real time.

Emerson Cargo Solutions is one of several companies working to fill data gaps during transit, with a suite of cellular monitors and loggers — GO Real-Time Trackers — which track and log the status of perishable products shipped across the entire cold chain, all in real time. Using cellular technology and the processing capabilities of the IoT, GO Real-Time Trackers can continuously transmit and log temperature and location data and send alerts from the loading dock to the shelf.

GO Real-Time Trackers are affordable, easy to use, and small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand, making them particularly functional for tracking and logging goods in transit. Yet they also provide global visibility to shipments while transmitting temperature data to end users’ systems via the cloud and the IoT.

To use a GO Real-Time Tracker, a worker simply pulls a tab to start the device, places it in a container or trailer, and inputs its serial number into Emerson’s Oversight Exchange Data Integration app. From there, end users have access to comprehensive and automated monitoring. Logging data is encrypted for security and transmitted cellularly to the cloud and IoT for real-time processing and analysis. With either a smartphone or tablet, a user can check shipment status and generate documentation on the go. And the real-time data and documentation that GO Real-Time Trackers are capable of collecting are extensive:

  • Maps, graphs and charts of shipments with location and temperature details
  • Shipment summary reports using GO Real-Time Tracker serial numbers
  • Current product temperatures, temperature ranges and mean kinetic temperatures
  • Trip name, current trip status, location and duration
  • Total time out of cell range, above range and below range
  • Temperature graphs
  • Alarm events

End-to-end, real-time cold chain temperature monitoring and logging with GO Real-Time Trackers provide a higher level of overall security. Users can identify and fix previously unknown problem points in the cold chain. IoT connectivity and cellular communication make it possible for apps to monitor temperatures at set parameters throughout transport. And GO Real-Time Tracker documentation provides transparency, generating comprehensive reporting to comply with regulatory agency requirements for food safety.

Tapping the Potential of IoT in the Food Cold Chain

John Rhodes_Blog John Rhodes |Group President, Cold Chain
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

In a recent Progressive Grocer article, I described how business leaders are leveraging the internet of things (IoT) and connected technologies to achieve much tighter integration along every step of food’s journey to consumers, addressing some of the most challenging problems currently plaguing the food cold chain: food safety and food waste.

Consider what’s involved in bringing food to our tables. The process typically starts at a farm; proceeds to a processing plant; enters the transportation and logistics stream; arrives at a storage or distribution facility; and is delivered to retailers. Think about the many opportunities for errors along these steps — such as time in transport, temperatures and humidity. It’s easy to see how quickly and easily food quality can be impacted. We’re often reminded that these problems can lead to food safety issues for consumers and businesses. But too often, the related problem of food waste is overlooked.

A fully IoT-connected and integrated cold chain has the potential to change that.

Mitigating the cost of food waste

According to a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 1.6 billion tons of food — the equivalent of $1.2 trillion — are wasted each year, essentially reducing total global food production by one-third. It’s a staggering amount that if left unchecked, could reach costs of $1.5 trillion by 2030.1

The study looked at the potential for loss at every stage of the food supply chain. IoT can help combat the food waste crisis at every step.

In the article, I cited one area that’s particularly problematic: fresh produce, which represents 46 percent of the total output lost each year. To illustrate how IoT sensors provide real-time tracking, monitoring and analytics of food conditions, I tracked the journey of a single strawberry from the moment of its harvest to a retailer’s shelf, showing how producers can use IoT to greatly extend perishable shelf life and improve the quality of fresh produce.

IoT can connect historically disconnected supply chain providers to make a real difference in maintaining food quality and freshness and combat food waste. Per the BCG study, “An unbroken, temperature-controlled ‘cold chain’ can help to reduce spoilage significantly.”2 By boosting the food supply chain’s efficiencies and its underlying infrastructures, the potential exists for $270 billion in food preservation gains annually. Simply put, reducing food shrinkage translates into significant bottom line increases for producers and retailers alike.

Building a more sustainable cold chain

Emerson is actively collaborating with leading cold chain providers who are embracing IoT for its potential to match fresh food with growing consumer demand. Our connected solutions draw on decades of global experience in refrigeration, controls, communication, analytics and insights. We work to track, trace and monitor critical data points, making the connections needed to ensure the appropriate handling of perishable foods from farm to table, creating sustainable solutions that are good for businesses, consumers and the global food supply chain.

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References

  1. https://www.bcg.com/en-us/publications/2018/tackling-1.6-billion-ton-food-loss-and-waste-crisis.aspx
  2. Infographic from BCG report; available upon request

 

Protecting Food on the Move

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

The cold chain in perishable food distribution is a complex and delicate thing. Just one hour out of optimum temperature range can have significant impact on a product’s shelf life. More serious cold chain lapses can pose waste, food safety and environmental issues, causing businesses and entire industries financial and reputational harm. At the E360 Forum in Houston last fall, I shared common cold chain pitfalls, real-world case studies and best practices for successfully navigating this complicated process. Read more below, then view the full E360 Forum presentation.

Those blueberries on your cereal? They’re from Chili. That orange? South Africa. Today’s food travels incredible distances to get to you. And behind your grilled salmon supper, there’s a dizzying array of complex cold chain management and monitoring that needs to happen to get it to your table — safe and tasty.

Industry experts say that from farm (or ocean) to your fork, there can be as many as 15–20 transfer points (hand-offs) in the cold chain process, encompassing trucks, containers and even planes. Each stop increases the risk of food safety incidences, spoilage and lost profits.

What’s at stake when the cold chain breaks?

Food and resource waste

One of the more frustrating things to me is the amount of time, money and resources spent producing food and getting it to where it needs to go — only to have it spoil by the time it gets to the point of sale. Think of all the work, expenses, fuel and greenhouse gas emissions it requires to get product from California to the East Coast. When there’s a break in the cold chain, all of that time, effort and money could potentially be lost.

According to Food Foolish by John Mandyck and Eric Schultz, the amount of food waste in the supply and distribution of food is staggering. They estimate that:

  • 1 billion metric tons of food is lost or wasted each year
  • One-third of food produced each year is never eaten
  • 800 million people in the world are chronically hungry

In addition, food waste has a devastating impact on the environment in terms of water waste and the creation of greenhouse gases. Mandyck and Schultz go on to say: “If food waste were a country by itself, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the U.S.”

Financial impacts

I don’t need to tell you there’s big money in each trailer transporting food commodities across the country and around the world. If there’s a break in the cold chain, the financial impacts can be painful. Check out the food value estimate per truckload:

  • Beef — $150,000 to $250,000
  • Poultry — $60,000 to $225,000
  • Pork — $80,000
  • Strawberries — $20,000
  • Bananas — $16,000

Food safety and public health

According to the CDC, about 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases. Not all issues are directly attributable to compromised cold chain processes. But with elevated temperatures, a very small situation can grow exponentially in a very short time. By properly managing temperature, you can mitigate and isolate a potential food incident before it can spread.

Conquering the cold chain

We know what can go wrong when temperatures aren’t right. But how can broken links in the cold chain be prevented? To answer that, here are a few best practices for facilitating good temperatures in transit.

  • Start with appropriate pre-cooling processes. Remove field heat from product as soon as possible, pre-cool containers, and “pulp” or take product temperature to ensure it’s at the correct setpoint.
  • Follow proper loading practices for optimal air circulation.
  • Establish and communicate proper transport temperatures; pay attention to mixed loads.
  • Employ independent temperature-monitoring devices and proper placement procedures.
  • Check temperature history and place immediately into cold storage at the distribution center.

Transport from the distribution center to the retailer needs to be closely monitored as well. In fact, this is one of the areas where we see the most breakdowns: the transfer at the final point of sale. Deliveries typically come in very late and perishables are not put into cold storage quick enough.

Baked bananas and blockchain

One of our customers recently shared a story about a load of bananas they received. The retailer was using one of our real-time monitoring devices and knew before the containers were unloaded that bananas had basically cooked in transit. Armed with real-time temperature data, they declined the shipment, saving $28,000 on two loads — loads they may have previously accepted.

Digital time and temperature loggers, real-time trackers with proactive alerts have been a part of perishable loads in transit for years. As illustrated by the story above, they have been instrumental in identifying temperature flux and allow retailers and suppliers to be more preventive and proactive.

Emerson is leading exciting developments in analytics based on aggregated data from these devices. Vast amounts of in-transit time, location and temperature intelligence are now stored in the cloud — and can be tapped for deeper cold chain insights on best routes, carriers, shipping lanes and suppliers.

Another technology getting a lot of industry buzz is blockchain. (It’s not just for cryptocurrency.) Blockchain offers an incredibly secure platform to share deep and detailed data across all the supply chain players. It lets disparate, previously siloed, entities share common, unalterable data on a common framework. We’re currently working with IBM to create food freshness applications and shelf-life predictors that could be shared across the blockchain platform. And that’s only the beginning.

To hear more best practices, cold chain success stories and even a few cautionary tales, be sure to view the full E360 Forum presentation here.

 

Regulatory Uncertainty Impacts Refrigerant Decisions

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently asked to contribute to an ACHR The NEWS article about the uncertainty surrounding the dynamic regulations governing the use of refrigerants. The article provided perspectives from several industry stakeholders, and I was happy to discuss Emerson’s views on the short- and long-term implications of the situation. Read a summary of the article below and view it here in its entirety.

For the last two years, the commercial refrigeration industry has been in a period of uncertainty regarding the regulations that govern the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP). Since the U.S. DC Court of Appeals ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not have the authority to phase down HFCs, the EPA’s role in the national HFC phase-down has been unclear.

R-22 phase-out is still in effect

For the time being, the EPA’s authority covers only the transition from ozone-depleting substances, such as the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) R-22. So, even though the HFC rules have been vacated, the EPA still has the authority to phase out R-22, which is scheduled to take place on Jan. 1, 2020.

While there’s plenty of discussion about the fate of HFCs, it would be unwise to presume that the 2020 R-22 phase-out won’t have significant impacts. In fact, it may surprise some to learn that there are still many operators with older refrigeration systems currently charged with R-22. But after Jan. 1, they must either retrofit their systems with lower-GWP refrigerants or continue to recover and reuse R-22 until their supplies run out — with the understanding that the latter choice is not a permanent solution.

HFC phase-down continues in California and other states

The absence of a federal mandate to phase down common HFCs is not deterring California from taking its own steps. Per a recent ruling by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), R-404A and R-507A are no longer allowable in many new commercial refrigeration applications.

California’s regulatory stance is a reminder that a retailer’s geographic location is an important factor in the development of their refrigerant strategy. While California is currently taking the lead on U.S. HFC reductions, there are currently

As retailers evaluate their future refrigerant options, state-specific environmental regulations will factor prominently in their decision processes. For example, operators in California are well aware of the efforts to phase down HFCs and most likely have alternative refrigerant plans in place. These operators are either planning for retrofits or trialing new alternative refrigerant architectures.

Strategies for moving forward

Fortunately for operators, component and equipment manufacturers have continued developing solutions that feature a wide range of lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives. These solutions are helping retailers align their sustainability objectives with their refrigeration architectures, and include the following strategies:

  • Retrofit using lower-GWP HFOs — Moving from R-404A to R-448A or R-449A may require adding compressor cooling and other relatively minor system changes but can help operators preserve their existing system investments. Deploying energy optimization best practices will also help them reduce indirect emissions, which lessens their overall carbon footprint.
  • Transition to a new and/or natural refrigerant system — Natural architectures offer maximum carbon footprint reductions and are considered by many as the only true future-proof solutions available today. These systems can be installed in new locations or in parallel with an existing system, allowing the retailer to slowly transition to the natural solution.

Emerson is continuing to develop a variety of alternative refrigerant solutions designed to help operators and equipment manufacturers reduce their carbon footprints. Regardless of the regulations in your specific region, we’re here to support the commercial refrigeration supply chain as it transitions to lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives.

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