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Posts from the ‘IoT’ Category

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.

Three Trends Shaping the Commercial Refrigeration Sector

DaveBersaglini Dave Bersaglini | Vice President & General Manager, Refrigeration

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

HVACR Business recently invited me to participate in an executive roundtable on the evolution of the commercial refrigeration sector. You can read the full article here and more on our perspective below.

Three Trends Shaping the Commercial Refrigeration Sector

Three Trends Shaping the Commercial Refrigeration Sector

The commercial refrigeration sector is experiencing a period of innovation unlike any other in its history. Regulatory pressures, changing consumer habits and the growing demands for more efficient and sustainable technologies are transforming the market. Business owners and supermarket operators have a tremendous range of environmentally friendly, operationally efficient and — perhaps most importantly — regulatory-compliant solutions from which to choose.

But in order to do this, operators must navigate an ever-growing pool of refrigeration solutions, strategies and technologies. Keeping current on emerging technologies and consumer trends while anticipating future regulatory requirements are the keys to getting the best return on this long-term investment.

More choices

Without a doubt, the greatest challenge for original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and operators alike is transitioning to the future of refrigeration systems. New refrigeration equipment, components and technologies are coming online in response to global demands for lower-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants. In addition, more flexible refrigeration architectures are being launched to satisfy the move toward smaller retail footprints.

As a result, operators are facing a proliferation of refrigeration scenarios, each posing its own set of advantages and drawbacks. Decisions must be weighed against a host of factors, such as environmental impact, total cost of ownership, long-term viability and the ability to adapt to evolving consumer behaviors and potential future regulations. Education is key here; contractors and manufacturers will need to step up and help retailers explore and identify the options that will best satisfy their needs.

More connected

Automation and internet of things (IoT) technologies will increasingly play roles in this sector. System electronics are helping to manage refrigeration cycles and system operations, while compressor protection and diagnostic capabilities are simplifying service and maintenance processes. These connected components will provide operators with unprecedented visibility into critical facility systems that extend beyond refrigeration to include air quality, lighting and energy management. Supported by user-friendly platforms that integrate these key systems, operators will be able to more efficiently manage and optimize facility and energy performance.

More complex

The shift to lower-GWP refrigerants and the growth of new technologies pose a unique set of challenges to contractors. Extensive training on the proper procedures for recovering and servicing new and natural refrigeration systems, such as CO2-based systems, will be imperative. Contractors will also need to increase their knowledge of the landscape so they can align their customers’ goals with the available equipment options. This may require higher upfront costs, but they will pay off in the long term as today’s innovations become the norm.

Ready for the future

At Emerson, we are at the forefront of environmentally friendly and financially viable refrigeration systems and supporting technologies. Moreover, we’ve taken a proactive approach to contractor education, providing a wealth of options to help technicians increase their skills and expand their knowledge base to better serve customers.

At every step, we strive to help operators make informed decisions to maximize their investments. After all, commercial refrigeration systems can — and should — be in service for decades. And with no end in sight to the dramatic changes that are shaping the industry, operators need solutions that can adapt to and grow with the next generation of technologies and system architectures. Our approach to total refrigeration system sustainability is designed to deliver solutions that satisfy operational and sustainability objectives today, while anticipating the needs of tomorrow.

 

Three Ways Restaurant Operators Can Realize the Full Potential of Connected Controls

SteveWeiss_2 Steve Weiss | Vice President, Business Development

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Food safety and quality are critical to foodservice operations, which is why the business case for kitchen connectivity tends to prioritize both. But operators who limit their use case to these factors are overlooking the potential advantages connected controls offer to their bottom line. As I explained in a recent E360 Outlook article, standard (parametric) and embedded (custom) controls with internet of things (IoT) capabilities can also serve as a catalyst for improved operational efficiencies.

Three Ways Restaurant Operators Can Realize the Full Potential of Connected Controls

The integration of standard and embedded controls is common on both the hot and cold sides of kitchen operations in order to regulate temperature and optimize performance. So it’s not a major leap to expand the application of IoT technology to reduce energy, labor and maintenance costs. Here are three ways operators can derive greater cost savings from their connected controls.

1: Reduce energy costs on the cold side

On the cold side, standard controls are typically used in a “set it and forget it” fashion. Yet advances in refrigeration control technology provide for much greater functionalities. Operators can gain real-time insights into system performance and receive alerts when temperature deviations or equipment malfunctions occur. As a result, they can address issues immediately — before they become a drag on system performance, drive up utility bills, and put food quality at risk.

Consider the repercussions of leaving a walk-in door open. This simple act can cause a chain reaction that, at best, reduces the system’s efficiency but at worst, puts the entire inventory at risk. Connected controls can issue an alert when this occurs, allowing an operator to immediately address the oversight.

2: Automate manual processes on the hot side

Embedded controls can also be connected to transform the hot side of a kitchen, such as automating kitchen preparation and implementing important checks on food safety for regulatory compliance. In connected kitchens, these controls can also collect and log Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) data, minimizing manual steps and improving documentation accuracy.

Large foodservice operators can also use their connected controls to digitally push menu changes from corporate headquarters to stores across their networks. By reducing a complex, labor-intensive process to a few simple steps, these stores can cut labor costs while guaranteeing that their menus and recipes are updated quickly and consistently.

3: Build a more effective maintenance program

Connected kitchens can also provide operators with centralized control of their entire store network — from kitchen equipment to HVAC and lighting systems. With the capabilities afforded by IoT, cloud storage and analytics software, operators can monitor system performance from their hand-held devices. And just as important, they can leverage the insights available at their fingertips to create proactive or condition-based maintenance programs. In this scenario, issues can be detected, anticipated and resolved before they disrupt operations or lead to costly truck rolls.

Getting the most out of your controls

Most refrigeration equipment manufactured in the past seven years is connectable. So for operators, the question shouldn’t be “Can we do this?” but rather, “What do we want to accomplish?” By shifting the conversation to desired outcomes, operators will be better able to make the right strategic investments to gain their desired return.

The key for operators is understanding that there is no “one size fits all” solution for attaining a connected kitchen. The IoT infrastructure should be built to deliver on your desired outcomes, rather than forcing your business objectives to conform to the system architecture. At Emerson, we’re helping restaurant operators of all sizes gain the full potential of connected controls so they can better tackle their most pressing market challenges. Learn how you can get connected by contacting an Emerson representative today.

Automating the Commercial Kitchen: Making the Business Case for Long-Term Value

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

In 2019, Emerson hosted an in-depth E360 panel discussion on automating the commercial kitchen. The panelists, a cross-section of industry experts, proposed valuable insights on the potential that automation and connectivity offer commercial restaurants. In the second article of this three-part series, I summarize their thoughts on building the business case for internet of things technologies and tackling common challenges. You can read the full article here.

Automating the Commercial Kitchen: Making the Business Case for Long-Term Value

Internet of things (IoT) technologies are steadily making inroads in the commercial kitchen landscape. And that’s posing a set of challenging questions for quick-service restaurants (QSR) eager to benefit from the cost savings and improved quality control that a connected kitchen can deliver.

For this reason alone, building a sound business case for IoT technologies is critical. The process is an excellent opportunity to tackle difficult questions at the front end to avoid costly pitfalls during — and after — implementation.

Ensuring data is actionable

As we discussed in our first article in this series, IoT technologies offer tremendous potential to reduce labor costs and improve food safety. But before QSRs invest in new technologies, they must first ask how serious their operators are about actually using data.

This is one of the most important questions to ask, because applicability must always be the defining feature of every IoT investment. As more equipment comes online and the number of data points expands, store managers will have access to a staggering amount of data that they don’t have the time or skillset to interpret. To be useful, the data must be paired with simple alerts or other actionable information that operators can quickly and easily act upon.

Determining data ownership

As they build their business cases, QSRs must also determine who will own the data. Most often, this will be the foodservice corporation, the franchisee or the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Issues can arise when the owner of the data doesn’t see much advantage in sharing with others.

However, making the data accessible to all three parties may prove beneficial to each. Sharing information between the corporation and the franchisee could identify new avenues for cost savings. OEMs could use the information to make ongoing improvements to their equipment. And opening up access to source and derived data could lead to a reduction in service calls and lower service warranty costs.

Simplifying the user experience

The user interface is another consideration that QSRs need to factor in early on. Most QSRs source their equipment from multiple manufacturers, which makes uniformity a challenge. Any efficiencies captured through connected equipment could potentially be undone if operators are forced to log into and navigate multiple interfaces in order to access data.

Some QSRs, such as Wendy’s, are creating custom interfaces which share a common look and feel. This allows employees to share the same user experience, no matter which equipment interface they are accessing. Conversely, QSRs can opt to invest in a common interface that consolidates data for all equipment types and brands in one place, under one login.

Room for improvement

One area that still needs refinement is servicing. IoT technologies should be providing technicians with a trove of information. Yet whether it’s because the data is too siloed or because IoT is relatively underdeveloped in commercial kitchens, the benefits to servicing are falling short. Still, as the technology matures, productivity gains for servicing and maintenance will come to light as well.

Emerson’s product development expertise is moving the industry closer to a true plug-and-play approach by simplifying connectivity and developing application program interface (API) strategies. Our goal is to provide intuitive, streamlined access and information that operators can act upon so they can achieve their business objectives, protect their brands, and drive greater cost savings.

In the next and final article in this series, we’ll delve into the future of automation in the commercial kitchen and dig into the emerging challenges of data security and connectivity protocols.

Automating the Commercial Kitchen: Enhancing Productivity and Food Safety

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

In 2019, Emerson hosted an in-depth E360 panel discussion on automating the commercial kitchen. The panelists, a cross-section of industry experts, proposed valuable insights on the potential that automation and connectivity offer commercial restaurants. In the first article of this three-part series, I summarize their thoughts on how automation is shaping labor efficiency and food safety. You can read the full article here. 

Automating the Commercial Kitchen: Enhancing Productivity and Food Safety

Automating the commercial kitchen is not a new concept. But as the adoption of internet of things (IoT) technologies accelerates, commercial restaurants are looking at a future where automation will more effectively deliver on their top priorities: reduced labor costs and improved food safety. The key for quick-service restaurants (QSR) will be investing in solutions that actually address what matters most to their operations.

 

Driving greater labor efficiencies

Thus far, the foodservice industry has had great success with using automation to enhance human labor. In the near future, the goal of automation will be to begin to replace human labor. Connected equipment and related technologies hold the potential to not just eliminate steps, but to automate manual processes. As a result, QSRs will be able to shift from saving minutes here and there to reducing their actual headcount.

That’s not to say that the entire labor force will be replaced by touch screens and robots anytime soon. Rather, automating repetitive processes and universally undesirable tasks will enable employees to focus on higher-value activities. Enterprising QSRs could even use automation to improve employee satisfaction and retention by integrating incentives into everyday tasks.

Improving food safety

Automation will increasingly play an omnipresent role in food safety. This is welcome news for QSRs complying with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). For example, by automating food temperature documentation, QSRs will have greater confidence that the work is done correctly and consistently.

To fully benefit from automation, QSRs will need to integrate both hot side and cold storage areas. Doing so will provide operators with a real-time, end-to-end view of food safety, from storage to preparation to delivery to customers. Over time, the aggregated data can be used to further improve efficiencies and identify energy management cost savings.

Staying focused on long-term value

As the evolution of the commercial kitchen comes into view, it’s easy to get swept up in the possibilities and promise of emerging IoT technologies. But QSR operators need to look beyond the novelty and focus on real-world applicability.

A new high-tech solution may promise to improve operations through automation. But will it promote or detract from the customer experience? Will it deliver long-term, sustainable labor savings or just reallocate existing staff to different assignments? Above all, will it actually mitigate the risk of fines, bad press and reputational harm resulting from a food safety issue?

Likewise, operators need to determine what they will do with this abundance of data. The information is useless if it’s not attached to an actionable plan. And that means humans cannot be completely removed from the equation — yet.

At Emerson, we’re asking these questions on the front end to derive valuable business outcomes from all automation and connectivity initiatives. Our goal is to help operators capture the real-time data they need to ensure that food is safely stored, prepared and cooked. Our Cooper-Atkins solutions support critical food safety initiatives by automating temperature monitoring throughout the cooking and preparation processes. And as more of these processes are automated, QSRs benefit from enhanced productivity on the human side.

In our next article, we’ll delve into the business case of IoT technologies and the challenges involved with data ownership, user interfaces and servicing.

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