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Posts from the ‘Supermarkets’ Category

How to Create the Perfect Climate in Supermarkets

ronchapek_2 Ron Chapek | Director of Product Management/Enterprise Software

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I recently participated in an article for Winsight Grocery Business, which discussed the importance of keeping refrigeration and HVAC systems in harmony. Click here to read the full article.

How to Create the Perfect Climate in Supermarkets

Refrigeration and HVAC costs are among the biggest operational expenses a supermarket faces. The reasons? People create warmth. Refrigeration creates cold. Humidity creates wetness. And in supermarkets, HVAC systems constantly struggle to maintain the right temperature and humidity for people, equipment and products. With proper management and planning, supermarket operators can balance these factors and even optimize HVAC and refrigeration systems to work in coordination with each other.

 The battle between HVAC and refrigeration

In most buildings, the job of an HVAC system is to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature for customers and staff. But HVAC systems face unique challenges in supermarkets. Coolers, refrigerated display cases, freezers and other units (particularly those without doors), pour cool, dry air into stores. This isolated cold air stresses HVAC systems year-round, as they have to increase heating during winter — burning a lot of energy — while leaving uncomfortably cold spots, even in summer. Your refrigeration equipment alters an HVAC load in ways most systems aren’t designed to handle.

Adding doors or replacing open units can reduce both the load and energy costs. But adding doors creates a different problem: they often fog up — which forces shoppers to open the doors to see what’s inside — defeating the whole purpose of having a door. Fog and frost occur when humid weather, steamy shoppers and chilly air collide.

A foggy situation

Door fogging is a symptom of a very tricky problem: keeping in-store relative humidity (RH) at the proper percentage. If humidity is too high, doors fog over and cooling coils frost up, forcing units to overwork. If the humidity gets even higher, water can condense on floors, walls and even dry-goods packaging. But if the RH is too low, the overly dry air can shorten the shelf life of fresh produce or wilt it.

Moisture, relatively

Almost all the humidity inside a store comes from moister outside air, and it’s up to HVAC systems to lower that humidity to a slightly dry 45 percent RH — and that’s not easy.

The simplest way to do this is to super-chill incoming outside air, because as air cools, its humidity drops. But this wastes energy in two ways: it increases the refrigeration load on the HVAC and can chill the entire store. So, the air first has to be reheated before entering the store, producing yet another energy expense.

Another option to use a desiccant system in the HVAC unit to remove moisture. These systems are effective and reliable, but they require a lot of energy, especially for large spaces like supermarkets.

Harvest-free heat

The article describes a simpler, cheaper solution. The compressors on your refrigeration equipment generate a lot of heat as they compress refrigerants. This excessive heat is usually vented outside the building, wasting a source of free heat. Today, systems can recycle, treat and mix this hot air to create ideal store temperatures and RH — at much lower overall costs.

Advanced systems harvest excess hot air in various ways. Some use the hot vented air instead of the HVAC heater to reheat super-cooled, dehumidified air and reduce reheating costs. Some systems use heat exchangers to recycle the vented hot air to heat a supermarket during cold weather. “Single-path” systems super-chill a limited volume of humid outside air to dry it, then mix it with uncooled air to produce just the right temperature/RH mix. Another system uses two cooling coils, one to cool the hot air as it’s being vented outside, so it can mix with outside air to reach optimal temperature and RH. The incoming air needs little heating or cooling as it reaches the second coil, which greatly reduces the workload on the HVAC system.

Instead of adding to your HVAC system’s workload, your refrigeration equipment can actually help reduce the load, lower your costs, and create the ideal climate for shoppers, employees and facility managers.

 

How to Transition Into the Future With HFO Blend Refrigerants

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently interviewed for an article in the ACHR News, “HFO Sightings: Refrigerant Retrofits Becoming More Common in Supermarkets,” which discusses steps that can smooth a supermarket owner’s transition to sustainable and compliant HFO blend refrigerants.

How to Transition Into the Future With HFO Blend Refrigerants

What refrigerant changes are coming, and which should you choose?

The R-22 refrigerant is in its final days, and will be officially phased out at the end of next year. There’s also a good chance that hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants will also be phased down in the U.S. in the years ahead, as their use continues to be limited in different countries and regions around the globe. Many supermarket owners see the writing on the wall and are starting to transition to lower-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants — particularly if they are uncertain about counting on the availability of HFCs or concerned about a potential rise in the cost of these refrigerants. Others simply seek to transition to more eco-friendly refrigerants that align with corporate sustainability objectives.

That is why many store owners are choosing to retrofit their existing equipment to use hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) blends, which compare well with HFCs in terms of performance but offer advantages in the forms of energy efficiency, environmental-friendliness and future availability.

However, HFO blends are not drop-in refrigerants. Equipment usually has to be modified before it can be used. Not all equipment is equally easy to retrofit, and not all HFO blends are the same. The ACHR News article lays out clear guidelines to help you navigate among HFO blend options and retrofit processes.

No two retrofits and no two refrigerants are alike

As I point out in the article, HFOs have very different characteristics than HFC or hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants. Some HFOs are classified as A1 (non-flammable) while others fall into the A2L (mildly flammable) category; many have temperature glide characteristics to consider. In addition, many HFO blends have been developed to replace specific HFC refrigerants — for example, R-448A and R-449A are designed to replace R-404A — and there are small capacity and efficiency differences that may vary based on the specific refrigeration application. That said, with the right RFO blend and the right modifications, many systems will continue to operate reliably for years after the retrofits. The age and condition of the equipment should determine if they are good candidates for a refrigerant retrofit.

Making the change

If you are interested in transitioning to an HFO blend, it’s essential to find out if your equipment is compatible with a given blend. There are specific HFO blends designed to replace the most common HFCs, depending on the type of equipment and the refrigeration application. However, not all HFCs can be replaced with an HFO, and in some instances, equipment may require major modifications.

For that reason, you need to consider the specific characteristics of each refrigeration application, the replacement HFO blend, and their impact on system performance to make sure you continue operating within your equipment’s design specifications. For example, a new blend could cause a higher discharge temperature, which could require investing in supplemental compressor cooling. That’s why you should consult with the equipment manufacturer and your refrigerant vendor about compatibility before making any transition.

Manufacturers such as Emerson conduct stringent R&D and testing of RFO blends in their compressors and other components before they are deemed “ready to use” in a retrofit. Because you may be changing the refrigerant for which the units were initially designed, you should also ask about the status of your warranties and the potential impacts before commencing a retrofit.

When you’re ready, the ACHR News article provides a more detailed guide to the retrofit process for you and your refrigeration contractor, from evaluating the system type, design and application for a compatible HFO blend, to charging a unit with its new refrigerant and fine-tuning the equipment.

Retrofitting the future

As regulations surrounding refrigerants continue to evolve, most retailers recognize that moving to HFO blends is one of their best long-term solutions for a large installed base of refrigeration equipment. With a range of safe and environmentally sustainable HFO blends available as replacement refrigerants for HFC-based systems, converting your systems to low-GWP HFO blends is the quickest and cheapest way to achieve a large overall reduction in your future carbon footprint.

Supermarkets Embrace IoT Revolution

ronchapek_2 Ron Chapek | Director of Product Management/Enterprise Software

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Grocery store chain owners and managers are embracing Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to monitor the performance of their refrigeration equipment. I was recently interviewed by ACHRNews (the News) to discuss how IoT is transforming supermarket operations; this blog is a summary of that article.

Supermarkets Embrace IoT Revolution

When it comes to refrigeration equipment, supermarket operators are primarily concerned about reliable performance. With an aging generation of qualified contractors retiring and a growing shortage of trained technicians to replace them, ensuring reliable performance is becoming more difficult. It’s not surprising that as a result, grocery store owners and managers are embracing the potential of IoT to proactively monitor the performance of refrigeration equipment.

IoT is helping to fill the technician void by allowing store managers to take immediate action when refrigeration problems arise. Unplanned downtime can be extremely costly, and IoT gives operators the ability to head off issues before they become potential emergencies.

With IoT, supermarket managers are equipped with the knowledge to make quick repairs and prevent future errors, both of which deliver critical benefits that directly impact a store’s profitability and brand reputation:

  • Increased refrigeration system uptime
  • Reduction in revenue and inventory losses
  • Assurance of food safety and quality

Emerson’s ProAct™ Enterprise Software and Services is a leading example of robust IoT technology at work. Utilizing our Site Supervisor facility management controller and connected refrigeration equipment via sensors to cloud-enabled data analytics, ProAct provides alert and setpoint management while allowing grocers to take a more reliable, cost-effective, condition-based maintenance approach to refrigeration — and seamlessly transition to complete facility management of critical systems in individual stores and across the enterprise.

In this way, IoT uncovers deeper insights into how a facility is running, giving store managers the tools to take proactive measures to ensure reliability, maximize energy efficiencies, and consistently deliver optimum food quality and safety.

From an enterprise perspective, IoT allows store operators to compare trending and historic performance data at multiple sites to better optimize a grocery chain’s complete store network. Operators can also evaluate equipment upgrades and retrofits to determine which systems deliver the best performance and determine if there are any opportunities for cost savings.

Having access to preventive maintenance and predictive failure alerts is beneficial to store owners and contractors alike. Instead of performing preventive maintenance at pre-determined time intervals, IoT triggers maintenance activities based on actual system performance — giving contractors critical information to help them decide when to perform service before failures occur.

Connected refrigeration equipment also helps operators and contractors identify other indicators of asset health, including: spikes in energy use, increased compressor vibration and excessive noise — all signs that equipment could soon be at risk for failure. Not only can IoT prevent costly refrigeration downtime, it can also reduce the need for expensive emergency service calls.

For the newer generation of service contractors, IoT provides a plug-and-play capability that helps overcome their knowledge gap. With the abilities to collect and store all system-related information, IoT helps replace contractor reliance on the intelligence passed down from older contractors who are approaching retirement.

Learn how IoT and ProAct Enterprise Software and Services can help transform the efficiencies of your supermarket operations

New Research: The Six S’s of Supermarket Refrigeration System Selection Criteria

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson recently completed a research study of leading food retailers to better understand their refrigeration system selection criteria. This blog is a synopsis of those findings.

Copeland

For several years, we’ve seen an evolution of the traditional supermarket concept, driven by a convergence of multiple market influences which include:

  • The migration to urban areas
  • Smaller store footprints
  • Renewed focuses on safety and freshness
  • Greater need for merchandising flexibility
  • The proliferation of omnichannel fulfillment models
  • The lack of qualified service technicians
  • Energy-efficiency goals and sustainability initiatives
  • The internet of things (IoT)
  • Ongoing regulatory uncertainty

Amidst these many changes, refrigeration systems have also evolved to align with modern supermarket operator preferences. To better understand how these preferences are impacting selection criteria, we recently completed a research study of several leading food retailers. We asked them which factors they feel are the most important when considering the implementation of new refrigeration systems.

We compiled results into six key categories, which we refer to as the six S’s of selection criteria. The following is a summary of those findings:

  1. Simple — Operators are seeking to minimize complexities by using systems that are easy to understand and diagnose. Many associate system simplicity with reliability and believe it can be achieved with fewer moving parts, traditional system architectures and proven refrigeration strategies.
  2. Serviceable — Technician familiarity is important to facilitate ease of service and maintenance activities, and to ensure the availability of parts and refrigerants. Engine rooms should be located away from customers and be relatively easy to access.
  3. Secure — Maintaining customer, employee and technician safety while preserving food quality and safety are always top priorities. With many operators now integrating IoT technologies for more effective facility and enterprise management, securing proprietary operational data is also critically important. Operators seek system architectures that can address these multifaceted safety and security concerns.
  4. Stable — Grocers consistently cite system stability and reliability as primary selection criteria. Systems should be capable of maintaining consistent temperatures, delivering predictable performance, and working according to design specifications.
  5. Smart Electronic controls, system connectivity and integration with facility management services via IoT are becoming more important to modern supermarket operators. They’re evaluating self-monitoring systems that give store managers immediate access to issues, allowing them to take prompt actions to protect shoppers, preserve their brands and prevent unnecessary service calls.
  6. Sustainable — For those supermarket operators driven by corporate sustainability objectives or regional regulatory requirements, the push toward lower-GWP refrigeration strategies is continuing in earnest. Sustainability also speaks to the long-term economic viability of the refrigeration selection, as operators must factor in the total cost of ownership throughout the lifecycle. Reducing energy consumption to minimize operating costs is a concern shared by all.

As refrigeration technologies evolve in response to changing market dynamics, look for emerging system architectures that align with these selection criteria. Emerson is addressing the six S’s of supermarket operator concerns by innovating new systems that blend pieces of proven architectures — borrowing from what has worked in the past and improving upon existing technologies. Stay tuned for more information on these new system strategies in the months to come.

Beyond IoT to Digital Transformation in the Modern Supermarket

Ed_McKiernan Ed McKiernan | President, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Accelerate America recently published an article about how the Internet of Things helped a New York- based supermarket, Price Chopper, facilitate data acquisition and operate more efficiently. This blog provides additional perspective on that article and the evolution from IoT to true digital transformation.

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It’s nearly impossible to discuss best practices within the supermarket industry without bringing up the subject of the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is a network of electronically connected systems and devices (refrigeration cases, ovens and other facility systems) enabling cross-platform data sharing through embedded electronics, sensors, software and network connectivity.

IoT-connected facility technologies can remotely monitor store equipment which, in turn, provides system data and equipment analysis. This can then be used to generate reports and create an operationally efficient ecosystem of devices and machinery.

Initially, these connected technologies were used to set up operating alerts and alarms that indicated system faults or equipment failure. Then, after more sophisticated sensors and controllers were engineered, the focus shifted to advanced analytics, which allow facility managers to predict system failures and other problems hours or even days in advance. As a result, retailers have improved system reliability and energy efficiencies while preventing costly equipment failures.

Beyond facility and asset management, IoT-based technologies are applied every day throughout the food supply and distribution chain. From the farm through processing, transportation, distribution and — ultimately — retail outlets, a broad range of connected technologies helps extend and ensure food safety. They validate and manage temperature, humidity and other conditions, track transportation time and location, automate record-keeping and improve other handling processes. This sophisticated cold chain management helps maintain fresh food to the point of consumption, reduces food waste, improves food safety, and drives compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and other regulations.

Now, the challenge is to move from the functional benefits of IoT to the true digital transformation of businesses. In this emerging state, businesses rely on IoT as a foundational element for rethinking and reinventing their processes, while also redesigning their physical presences.

Price Chopper, a supermarket chain based in Schenectady, N.Y., is a real-world example of how food retailers are engaging in this transition. An early adopter of IoT solutions, Price Chopper installed electronic expansion valves (EEVs) on its case controllers, then deployed multiple temperature, pressure and valve sensors to gather data on EEVs, defrost, lighting and fans. The data revealed opportunities for energy optimization and provided Price Chopper’s facility managers with performance insights to predictive analytics.

The success of this effort prompted Price Chopper to install sensors in every energy-consuming load in its stores — including refrigeration, lighting, ovens and ventilation systems — and link them to a building control system. The initiative produced a tremendous amount of data, which allowed managers to fully optimize energy efficiency while quickly alerting them of servicing leaks and other malfunctions.

Executive leaders at Price Chopper have indicated that they’re planning to extend their IoT initiatives with the goal of meeting the organization’s other operational objectives.

To learn more about how supermarkets are leveraging the power of IoT, read the full article here on pages 26–27.

As you read the article, think about how foundational IoT can enable a reinvented approach to the grocery environment: transforming consumers’ shopping experiences, building customer loyalty and creating new business opportunities. Can facility and system data be consolidated with and correlated to other information within the retailer’s domain? If so, how could that be used to create new operational insights and profit opportunities? What data can be harvested from food’s long journey to stores, combined with store traffic information, and blended together with consumer preferences or menu trends to attract shoppers more frequently to their favorite retailer?

Those are among the possibilities as we move from foundational IoT to true digital transformation of retail.

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