Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Cold Chain’ Category

Retrofit and Remodel Strategies to Achieve Lower-GWP Refrigeration

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

Three decades ago, supermarket operators had few options for selecting environmentally friendly refrigeration strategies. Now, as they look to retrofit or remodel older systems to comply with environmental regulations or achieve corporate sustainability goals, operators face an expanding selection of refrigeration architectures driven by the transition to lower-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants. In a recent article that was published in Contracting Business, I explored several options that are available to supermarkets seeking a path to low-GWP refrigeration.

Lower-GWP refrigerant options continue to proliferate

Refrigerant selection is one of the most influential factors in a retrofit or remodel strategy, often serving as an underlying process to help operators achieve corporate sustainability goals. But refrigerant selection also dictates everything from refrigeration architecture to servicing requirements to the total cost of ownership (TCO).

As the U.S. continues to phase down the use of high-GWP refrigerants and phase out those with ozone depletion potential (ODP), manufacturers are beginning to utilize a variety of alternative refrigerants that offer varying degrees of GWP reduction. Of those that are considered both safe and approved for use, the following offer distinct advantages in support of sustainability:

  • R-448/449A (low-GWP option) — Designed as a substitute for R-404A, R-448A offers a 65% reduction in GWP.
  • R-513A (lower-GWP option) — R-513A, a substitute for R-134a, delivers a 56% reduction in GWP.
  • A2L and A3 (lower- to lowest-GWP) — Mildly flammable A2L and flammable A3 (aka R-290 or propane) refrigerants are primarily used in self-contained systems and offer some of the most significant GWP reductions, and are some of the lower and lowest GWP options currently available,
  • CO2 aka R-744 (lowest-GWP option) — Used only in systems designed to handle its unique properties, R-744 is a natural refrigerant with a GWP of 1.

Upgrading for a more sustainable future

Retrofitting or remodeling a refrigeration system to improve sustainability or comply with regulations is not simply a matter of selecting a lower-GWP refrigerant. Operators must also evaluate different refrigeration systems to determine how to meet their sustainability objectives and select a system that aligns with their operational priorities. At Emerson, we refer to this process as the Six S’s of evaluation criteria:

  • Simple — to own and operate
  • Serviceable — aligns with maintenance and operations capabilities
  • Secure — provides safe operation and data security
  • Stable — delivers reliable, dependable performance
  • Smart — is equipped with electronic controls and connectivity to provide operational data and insights
  • Sustainable — from financial, technical and environmental perspectives

In terms of retrofits and remodels, the following architectures are emerging as the leading options for meeting the wide range of operator preferences:

  • Retrofit to R-448A/R-449A in existing centralized direct expansion (DX) systems — Replacing R-404A with R-448A allows operators to achieve significant sustainability improvements while preserving their existing system investments.
  • Remote/outdoor condensing units (distributed) — Remote condensing units offer installation flexibility and reliability while using low-GWP R-448A. They are ideal for small, urban store formats or for large supermarkets deploying new refrigeration capabilities outside of their existing DX systems.
  • Distributed systems — Operators can install multiple mini-racks or scroll packs in proximity to different refrigerated sections of a store. Using R-448A in this architecture can significantly reduce overall refrigerant charge while providing increased system reliability and energy efficiency.
  • Macro-distributed systems (self-contained) — Used in large cases that integrate a single compressor, refrigeration circuit and electronic controls present a simple, flexible, stand-alone option for retrofits and remodels. This approach can be scaled from one to multiple units.
  • Distributed scroll booster — This emerging distributed architecture uses low-pressure, lower-GWP R-513A for low- (LT) and medium-temperature (MT) circuits. A distributed scroll booster delivers improved energy efficiency and high reliability without added service complexities.
  • CO2 transcritical booster — A CO2 transcritical booster system is an environmentally friendly alternative to high-GWP, centralized DX systems. While this architecture uses the refrigerant CO2 (R-744) for LT and MT loads, its unique performance characteristics increase both system complexities and TCO.

Ready to meet current and future needs

The decision to retrofit or remodel a refrigeration system must be made with a long-term perspective. Operators should expect to get 20 to 30 years of service from their refrigeration systems with proper maintenance and care. But the uncertainty caused by shifting environmental regulations, changing consumer expectations and ever-evolving technologies can complicate the planning process.

Emerson is committed to providing operators with the tools and insights to meet this challenge head-on. We offer an array of compressors, condensing units, case controls and facility management technologies that can help operators to meet sustainability goals, comply with evolving regulations, and reduce the total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) of their refrigeration systems. We are also creating solutions that enable operators to make the transition to lower- and lowest-GWP refrigerants in ways that support their sustainability initiatives and long-term goals.

To learn more about how Emerson compressors and refrigeration technologies support different remodel and retrofit scenarios, read the full article.

 

Highlighting Cold Chain Best Practices During National Food Safety Education Month

         Greg Polce | Vice President of Marketing – Cold Chain

          Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) designates September as National Food Safety Education Month. Their goals are to raise awareness about how to prevent food poisoning and educate the population on best practices for keeping food safe. At Emerson, we’re committed to protecting and preserving food safety throughout the various links within the food cold chain. To help in the CDC’s efforts to raise awareness, we would like to highlight some of the key areas where our cold chain tools and technologies are playing integral roles in this important mission.

 

Ensuring a safe food supply chain is essential for supporting human health and well-being. Supermarkets, restaurants and convenience store (C-store) sectors rely on a safe and effective food cold chain for their reputations. Consumers place food safety and quality among the most important factors when selecting a location in which to dine or shop.

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought more public awareness to the topics of food safety, handling standards and best practices. Not surprisingly, the CDC has reported a lower rate of foodborne illness outbreaks since the beginning of the pandemic — likely attributable to the renewed emphases on proper hand washing, hygiene and surface sanitation procedures. But to achieve comprehensive food safety, it’s also important to combine safe handling protocols with robust temperature management during the transportation, cold storage and preparation phases of the food cold chain.

Let’s look at some of the ways Emerson can help to monitor temperatures during these key steps.

Harvesting and processing

The freshness and safety of perishable produce and proteins can be protected by controlling temperatures via flash cooling/freezing, temporary staging in storage coolers, and pre-cooling shipping containers. Emerson provides pulp temperature-probing devices to measure internal product temperatures during the staging and loading processes. Our real-time temperature monitoring and tracking devices can be placed inside a shipping container to provide location, temperatures and other environmental conditions of in-transit perishable shipments.

Transportation

The cold chain journey can last anywhere from days to weeks — by truck, sea and/or air — and shippers should be able to ensure an unbroken chain of temperature certainty throughout. Transport containers must be equipped to maintain strict temperatures and provide visibility to internal conditions. Emerson’s field-tested compression technologies are built to withstand the rigors of the road to help stakeholders keep transport refrigeration systems at specified temperature ranges. Our complete line of temperature monitoring, logging and tracking devices — combined with our cloud-based software portal — enables live remote monitoring and alert notifications based on user-defined parameters.

Cold storage distribution centers

Upon receipt at cold storage facilities, quality assurance (QA) personnel must inspect product conditions according to their Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and/or Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventative Controls (HARPC) plans. Typically, this process starts by taking pulp temperatures and reviewing trip data from Emerson’s logging and tracking devices to validate that product was held at proper temperatures throughout the journey. After inspection, handlers must promptly transfer perishable cargo into a designated cold storage temperature zone.

Within these cold storage facilities, Emerson’s compression and refrigeration technologies help operators to establish and maintain proper temperatures in various cold storage zones. Our robust facility monitoring solutions help operators to remotely oversee conditions, ensure proper temperatures, and automatically record temperatures for use in HACCP reporting.

Grocery stores

Store operators take ownership of food quality and safety when perishable shipments are unloaded in supermarkets. This starts by checking pulp temperatures and trip data logs and continues with the prompt transfer of perishables into designated cold storage coolers or freezers. Once in cold storage, Emerson’s Lumity™ E3 supervisory control platform helps retailers to monitor perishable temperatures and optimize food quality.

For decades, the supermarket industry has relied on Copeland™ compression and refrigeration technologies as the collective foundation for their cold storage capabilities. Today, we’re developing sustainable refrigeration solutions with variable-capacity modulation to improve reliability, temperature precision and energy efficiencies in a variety of refrigeration architectures.

Restaurants

Restaurants assume responsibility for both the cold storage of perishable products as well as the safety concerns associated with food preparation. Staff must be trained in safe cooking best practices, such as those provided by the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe® certification course. Cook-and-hold procedures should also follow established HACCP/HARPC plans, with a dual focus on the prevention of bacterial growth and maximizing food quality/safety.

Emerson provides a wide range of technologies to automate data collection and reporting necessary to implement best practices and meet local health inspection requirements:

To learn more about how Emerson is helping to protect food quality and safety throughout the food cold chain, please view this infographic.

 

[Webinar Recap] The Journey to Data-driven Refrigeration Insights

Charles Larkin | Director of Data and Analytics, Cold Chain

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

The utilization of data analytics and data science techniques is rapidly expanding throughout the commercial refrigeration sector. From the implementation of food safety programs to the identification of potential equipment performance issues, operational data can be transformed in a variety of ways to drive operational improvements and business outcomes. In our most recent E360 Webinar, I explored some real-world examples of how our analytics team is helping leverage data to drive improvements in their quality control (QC) initiatives.

When considering the role of data analytics in commercial refrigeration, it is important to understand that data should be viewed as an entry point for discovering larger issues and digging deeper to find root causes. Historically, the management of food safety QC programs has relied on paper-based recording and tracking methods, but these can be cumbersome to maintain, inaccurate and difficult to transform into usable insights. In addition, refrigeration data can be very complex and difficult to interpret and our industry is just beginning to unlock the potential uses of data in these applications.

Thankfully, modern data science techniques and machine learning algorithms are helping to deliver insights that uncover issues previously hidden from food service and food retail operators. Here are a few examples that I discussed in the webinar.

Descriptive analytics of QC programs in foodservice

Traditional hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) programs are paper-based checklists that do not easily yield valuable insights. In addition, the process of manually checking the temperatures of coolers, freezers and food (pulp temperatures) — and physically recording all of this data — is labor-intensive, inefficient and often inaccurate.

By leveraging cloud-connected sensors, we are able to digitally record HACCP temperature data and present that information in the form of easy-to-digest descriptive analytics. Through intuitive visual dashboards, foodservice operators can see their HACCP compliance checklist rates — per store or operation on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. By doing so, they can then easily identify patterns that indicate areas of improvement.

Diagnostic analytics of refrigerated shipping container performance in marine transport

Applying data science to the process of measuring condensing unit performance in a refrigerated shipping container has allowed us to leverage more diagnostic analytic capabilities for our customers. These containers are at sea for extended periods of time, typically carrying high-value perishable shipments, so it is critical for operators to continually monitor refrigeration performance, identify issues early and make the necessary equipment or process corrections.

Performance data patterns in refrigeration units can be unpredictable, chaotic and difficult to interpret. By capturing this data over extended periods of time and processing it through advanced analytics techniques, we are able to identify patterns in condensing unit system health and make recommendations. For example, our analytics teams can diagnose when system health begins to decline so the operator can take proactive steps to fix potential issues before they become larger ones. When used across a fleet of shipping containers, we are also able to reframe this data into dashboard views to indicate which containers have issues that need immediate attention at any given time.

Prescriptive analytics in food retail

As we move these concepts into the retail space, we are applying similar techniques used in our food service and marine examples in an environment that can be significantly more complex — with diverse refrigeration systems, compressor racks and display cases to monitor. We are finding ways to make operational data simple for food retail operators to consume and to give them tools to identify precisely when and where they are having temperature excursions or performance issues.

Through a combination of performance dashboards and live alarms, we are able to help our customers assess the health of key assets and identify temperature deviations. This allows them to see which cases were having product deviations and begin the process of figuring out root causes (such as set point changes, defrost effectiveness or myriad other factors). From an enterprise view, these insights give large retailers the ability to monitor and analyze performance across multiple sites and examine why different stores have variations in performance characteristics.

Effective data analytics also provide more insight into which alarms are most indicative of critical performance issues. As a result, we can deliver a reduction in total alarms — on display cases and product temperature probes — which simplifies food retail operations and improves the overall likelihood of maintaining the desired temperatures.

To learn more about how data analytics can uncover insights in your operation, please view this webinar.

 

 

 

Addressing Increased Consumer Focus on Safety and Freshness

Doug Thurston | Vice President of Sales

Cold Chain-Digital Solutions at Emerson

Half of all U.S. consumers worry about the safety of fresh and frozen foods during transportation to stores. That’s the big discovery from a recent Emerson study.[i] Half of consumers also decide where to shop based on the quality and freshness of their foods.

  • 62% agree better technology has a role to play in keeping their food safe to eat.
  • 56% say better data is needed to track proper food safety practices from farm to table.
  • 51% are less likely to shop from stores that aren’t using — nor having suppliers use — the latest technologies available to keep their food safe.

That’s a wake-up call for food retailers who have not yet made ensuring food quality and safety among their top priorities. Across the United States, grocery stores and supermarkets play vital roles in food production and the supply chain. They’re uniquely positioned to coordinate an interdisciplinary focus on cold chain management, from supplier partners to monitoring shipping logistics.

Starting point: Establish proper temperatures

Effective management of the retail food cold chain often begins with ensuring proper harvesting times in consultation with preferred produce providers and establishing the temperature setpoints for each commodity type.

Respiration rates of harvested produce can be impacted by the setpoints; produce cooling processes can also place excess strain on food products. For example:

  • Pulling heat from products picked in 90 °F heat down to a 33 °F transport temperature is not ideal.
  • The goal should be to limit the variance between picked and storage temperatures.

This is also why it’s extremely important to be able to monitor temperatures in produce pre-cooling sheds.

The age of harvest fields is another consideration. Late-season fields experience excess crop strain; thus, extra efforts must be taken to reduce these impacts after harvest.

Ensuring food safety compliance

Food retailers already are shifting to more proactive prevention in order to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This federal law gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to mandate comprehensive, science-based and preventative controls governing the safe storage, handling and preparation of food throughout the supply chain.

Grocers can take additional steps to help ensure compliance, such as:

  • Establishing a corporate food safety specialist and placing quality control (QC) experts in distribution centers (DCs) and/or logistics operations
  • Investing in technologies that enable the continuous collection of data related to food safety and providing the necessary documentation to validate these initiatives on request

Keeping up with e-commerce fulfillment

Not only did COVID-19 permanently reshape consumers’ buying habits, retailers’ responses to new consumer behaviors also introduced food safety challenges. Chief among them are:

  • Chilled fresh and frozen goods for click-and-collect fulfillment must be kept within their optimal temperature ranges throughout in-store picking, order staging and customer pickup.
  • Direct-to-consumer deliveries have the added responsibility of maintaining temperatures in delivery vehicles.

In both new fulfillment models, grocers must make extra efforts to mitigate improper handling or cross-contamination risks.

What’s next: Steps to enhance safety and quality

Meeting these new customer expectations can require additional effort and investment. This is not a time to bend food safety rules or skip best practices to save money. Cutting costs almost always backfires by creating shrink and introducing potential safety risks.

Instead, grocery retailers can take steps to help ensure better food safety and quality. Start by establishing a temperature-monitoring program. Maintaining tight temperature setpoint control for all types of fresh and frozen commodities is a key factor in preserving freshness and enhancing safety.

Retailers also should plan for any scenario that can occur during fresh and frozen food’s journey from farm to fork. Without that planning — and coordination by retailers with their food providers and shippers — the likelihood of shrink and food safety risks will only increase.

 

[i] Emerson, “Emerson Survey: New Food Safety Technologies Rising in Importance for Consumers,” December 1, 2020, https://www.emerson.com/en-us/news/corporate/food-safety-survey-2020 (accessed May 17, 2021).

Nine Best Practices for Ensuring Food Safety and Quality

Doug Thurston | Vice President of Sales

Cold Chain-Digital Solutions at Emerson

Food retailers have long focused on ensuring food quality and safety; now consumers are increasingly concerned about these issues as well. In a recent Emerson study of 1,000 U.S. consumers, 51% said they:

  • Worry about the safety of fresh and frozen foods during transportation to stores
  • Would be less likely to shop from stores that aren’t using the latest technologies throughout their supply chain to help ensure food safety

So the challenge for retailers has become how to meet these consumer expectations while also protecting their brand reputations. The solution? Adopt best practices that enable them to maintain strict temperature adherence for fresh and frozen products at every step of the food supply chain.

Preserving Quality and Minimizing Loss

Delivering poor-quality perishable products or past-ripe produce only erodes customers’ loyalty and gives them a reason to switch to different brands — or shop at a competitor’s grocery store. So temperature control for quality (TCQ) initiatives throughout the cold chain are critical to maximizing freshness and minimizing shrink.

If produce becomes too ripe — from poor temperature control or time-of-harvest conditions — it will naturally have a shorter shelf life. Pre-conditioned fruits such as avocados should be carefully monitored to ensure they are continuously kept at the correct temperatures.

Maintaining Proper Temperatures for Safety

Keeping shipping temperatures at precise setpoints throughout the journey from farm to fork is critical to ensuring that food is safe to consume and also preserving perishable food quality. Temperature control safety (TCS) initiatives are mainly concerned with the safe shipping of fresh and frozen meats, seafood, select produce and dairy products. If temperatures deviate from safe ranges or become too warm:

  • The safety of fresh and frozen meat along with seafood will degrade
  • Product will purge (or release water) initially, then begin to grow and spread bacteria, which increases the risk of foodborne illness

Cross-contamination can also occur when meat, seafood and produce are stacked together closely within a transport shipping container or arranged on a stack of pallets — which increases the potential for foodborne illness outbreaks and customer injuries. Improper sanitization procedures between loads can also lead to cross-contamination.

Nine Best Practices for Perishable Food Transport

So how can grocery retailers ensure food safety and quality?

A holistic approach that considers key factors at every step of the perishable supply chain must be followed along with careful coordination among producers and shippers. Here are nine best practices for retailers to adopt from inbound harvest and transport to outbound shipping and receipt from distribution centers (DCs):

  1. Pre-cooling: Stabilize product temperatures with a process after harvest and prior to loading in refrigerated shipping containers.
  2. Transport refrigeration: Ensure proper refrigeration and insulation of reefer trucks and trailers.
  3. Inspection: Visually inspect trailers between loads to ensure a clean and contaminant-free space.
  4. Temperature stability: Maintain continuous setpoint temperatures throughout a trip; do not permit the use of fuel-saver mode or starting/stopping of refrigeration.
  5. Calibration: Annually calibrate the thermistor(s) of reefer trucks and/or trains.
  6. Loading: Correctly load pallets to enable proper airflow and consistent temperatures from the front to the back of trailers.
  7. Load transfer and receipt: Do not allow trailers to sit in receiving docks for extended durations, especially in warm regions; limit opening of trailer doors to maintain holding temperatures.
  8. Avoid mixed loads: Avoid trying to save fuel costs by mixing loads with a combination of fresh and/or frozen products with different ideal temperature setpoints.
  9. Data logging: Enable the automatic capturing and recording of trip temperature data for reporting and verification of quality assurance and to help resolve disputes or questions over rejected loads.

Pick an Expert Partner for Cold Chain Management

Protecting consumer safety is an ethical prerequisite for food retailers. At the same time, it’s important to remember that it only takes one incident to permanently impact your business reputation and potentially incur the significant financial impacts of fines and litigation. That makes it imperative for retailers to clearly understand everything that contributes to food quality and safety throughout the food supply chain. Then, they should partner with an expert to help them deploy the modern tools and technologies needed to address the many challenges associated with perishable cold chain management.

 

%d bloggers like this: