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Leveraging Predictive Maintenance in Commercial Refrigeration

JimMitchell_Blog_Image Jim Mitchell | Technical Manager of Customer Success

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Predictive maintenance is showing big promise in the HVACR market. I recently provided input for an article for ACHR The News that discusses how predictive maintenance technology is being used in the commercial and residential markets. You can read the full article, “Predictive Maintenance Brings New Potential to HVACR Service Market,” here.

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HVACR systems are becoming smarter and more connected using internet protocol (IP) networks and the industrial internet of things (IIoT). These allow the real-time monitoring of equipment, or predictive maintenance, which gathers data points from equipment to keep tabs on system performance in order to help reduce the likelihood of failure.

For HVACR contractors, this means identifying a problem before it causes a larger issue, so that maintenance can be done to prevent equipment negatively impacting food quality and safety or other operational imperatives. For instance, a refrigeration rack alarm may indicate an issue that can be addressed, preventing operational issues that could have a negative impact on multiple cases of perishable product or thousands of dollars in-store merchandise.

How it works

Drawing from a combination of equipment sensors and control system data, performance analytics can provide store operators and enterprise managers deeper insights for:

  • Real-time and historic operating conditions in their facilities and systems
  • Pressure, temperature and energy data to compare to established benchmarks for a single store, stores within a region or enterprise-wide
  • Enterprise-level and store-level dashboards and prioritized notifications

 

For an example of how this differs from a rack alarm scenario, let’s look at a display case analysis based on temperature sensor data. Performance analytics may detect an anomaly in case temperature deviations which, while still within safe ranges, could suggest the presence of a larger performance issue. Instead of being notified with an urgent alarm, operators can be alerted on their operational dashboards. This insight gives them an opportunity to investigate the issue at their discretion, and even potentially pre-empt a potentially larger issue. It’s important to keep in mind that timing is key.

This is also an example of how operational dashboards can help retailers to align maintenance and operational activities around performance. Today’s facility management dashboards typically break down the urgency levels of maintenance issues, as previously noted. By extending these dashboards also to include performance analytics, end users can gain a much deeper understanding of how their systems are performing and operators can take pre-emptive actions where they deem appropriate — not just respond only to systems where urgent problems are already present.

Equipped with this information, operators can receive advance notice of certain performance issues that may soon impact them — on which systems or pieces of equipment, and in which stores. Enterprise views quickly provide managers with visual snapshots of urgent and important issues across their store networks, while enabling investigation into specific assets in their respective facilities. Whether you’re a maintenance technician or an enterprise manager, operational dashboards help allow you to focus on those specific maintenance activities which may potentially impact performance in the near future.

A change in approach

Commercial refrigeration systems consist of many connected components — often originating from multiple vendors — designed to meet a wide variety of applications, ranging from coffin-style display cases to walk-in freezers. Industry macro trends further increase this complexity, including the adoption of new refrigerants and the migration from centralized to decentralized and stand-alone systems. Commercial contractors will need to do more than simply install connected sensors and devices; they will need to change their approach toward commercial refrigeration, including the ability to combine new technologies with deep experience within the context of widely varying system requirements.

Rather than focusing only on what is happening at any given moment in a location — whether that’s a low- or high-priority alarm — analytics can help operators gain deeper insights into issues that could have future operational impacts. Access to these insights helps operators transition to a condition-based, analytics-driven approach — one where they can take proactive steps, perform preventive maintenance, use resources more efficiently, and stop smaller issues from becoming larger problems — instead of a more reactive approach.

What to watch for

IIoT features new technologies that will likely result in operators being able to deploy interconnected devices more widely, potentially at a lower initial cost. These offerings may drive value for operators by causing significant energy savings, lower maintenance and service costs, and improved operator experiences.

At Emerson’s innovation centers and in customer field trials, we are working with our customers to tackle the challenges related to predictive maintenance head on. By modeling refrigeration applications, we have helped our partners take a more methodical, deliberate approach to predictive maintenance. Our goal is not simply to throw more IIoT at the problem, but to help provide true insights from the data while leveraging our deep intellectual capital and experience in the commercial refrigeration space. We believe this helps us deliver the transformative value that predictive maintenance represents. By doing so, we can be a part of simplifying the complex and uncover insights that are representative of the industry’s most common refrigeration scenarios.

For example, a typical refrigeration system or rack has alarms that identify current issues only, and slow leaks often can be difficult to discern from normal fluctuations. But with a machine-learning supervisory app, multiple models can account for variable operating envelopes with up to ~90% accuracy and identify leaks as many as 30 days before physical detection devices.

While it is difficult to predict five years in the future accurately, it is safe to assume that with the adoption of 5G technology and other advances in component miniaturization and cost reduction, solutions will continue to get smarter. With a flood of data occurring at both the enterprise level (reporting) and the device level (gathering data), we will need more intelligence in interpreting this information in order to help deliver better, more accurate results.

In the meantime, one thing that contractors can do is avoid the rush to recommend IIoT implementation that can result in applications which can create more “noise” — i.e., a barrage of events to monitor and triage — and trigger false errors or events that identify issues too early (or too late).

 

 

Information in this article was first published in ACHR The News, March 16, 2020.

Strengthening the Cold Chain With Connected Technologies

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Maintaining food quality and safety is a primary challenge facing retailers who rely on the global cold chain to fulfill the growing demand for fresh food offerings. New technologies are emerging to provide improved visibility and traceability of perishable items, help stakeholders communicate, and ensure adherence to food safety best practices and/or regulatory requirements. I recently contributed to an article by Progressive Grocer which speaks to the importance of leveraging these technologies to achieve those goals and maintain an unbroken cold chain.

With the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent announcement of its New Era of Food Safety initiative, the technology that provides traceability and other key services is becoming more important than ever. This rapidly advancing technological toolset includes internet of things (IoT) condition sensors, temperature-sensitive flexible barcodes and blockchain. Combined, these tools are helping growers, shippers and retailers help ensure the freshest and safest possible product for consumers.

As I stated in the article: “This is especially critical with the global demand for year-round access to perishable products. Achieving this feat can require fresh produce to be transported by land, sea and air, encompassing the point of harvest, processing, cold storage and distribution — all before it ever begins the last-mile delivery to a store or restaurant.” In fact, a perishable shipment may be subject to as many as 20 to 30 individual steps and multiple changes of ownership before it reaches its destination.

Gaining visibility with IoT monitoring and tracking infrastructures

To better manage the sheer complexity of this cold chain journey, stakeholders are leveraging connected IoT monitoring technologies and tracking infrastructures. Operators now have better potential visibility into each step of food’s journey — even the possibility for comprehensive cold chain traceability. These tools — such as Emerson’s GO Real-Time Trackers and GO Loggers combined with our cloud-based Oversight online software portal — are giving stakeholders at each point the abilities to monitor and track a variety of conditions necessary for preserving food quality, including: temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, lighting and much more.

As I pointed out in the article, one of the key values of this technology is the ability to receive email or text notifications in real time when an in-transit shipment falls out of the ideal temperature range: “This allows suppliers to correct the issue promptly with the carrier or even reroute the shipment to a nearby location and preserve that perishable cargo.” Retailers and growers can also track these in-transit shipments to monitor delivery timelines and ensure that carriers are following proper shipping routes. Retailers rely on these devices to help them validate produce quality on receipt and monitor all their suppliers to ensure they’re meeting the freshness standards that their customers demand.

With Emerson’s connected monitoring and tracking infrastructure, data from our GO Real-Time Trackers and GO Loggers is pushed to the cloud and presented in Oversight, giving our customers both visibility and analysis of critical cold chain information with which to make better supply chain decisions.

End-to-end cold chain certainty

Of course, Emerson also provides the critical refrigeration components, controls and compressors to help retailers ensure optimal refrigeration temperatures in their refrigerated cases, walk-in coolers and freezers. Our advanced facility and asset monitoring systems provide real-time access to the critical information that retailers need to track, triage and quickly respond to issues that could potentially impact food safety and quality. What’s more, our automated temperature monitoring and recording devices help operators eliminate the need for time-consuming manual documentation — giving them the abilities to access on-demand reporting as needed for food safety compliance purposes and provide historical cold chain data.

 

Why Refrigerant Leak Repair Still Matters

Jennifer_Butsch Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Proactive refrigerant management isn’t just good for the environment. It is also sound business practice. I was recently interviewed by ACHR’s The News magazine on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) partial rollback of Section 608 provisions for appliance leak repair and maintenance. You can read the full article here  and more on our perspective below.

Why Refrigerant Leak Repair Still Matters

In February, the EPA eliminated leak repair and maintenance requirements on appliances containing 50 or more pounds of substitute refrigerants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). As a result, equipment owners are no longer required to:

  • Repair appliances that leak above a certain level
  • Conduct verification tests on repairs
  • Periodically inspect for leaks
  • Report chronically leaking appliances to the EPA
  • Retrofit or retire appliances that are not repaired
  • Maintain related records

But just because these leak repair provisions are no longer required doesn’t mean food retailers should ignore these best practices. There is a price to pay for refrigerant leakage that extends far beyond environmental damage. Detecting, repairing and even proactively reducing refrigerant leaks will help operators avoid a variety of associated costs.

The high cost of refrigerant leaks

The rollback of legal penalties for refrigerant leaks does not change the math on the operational costs. An average food retail store leaks an estimated 25 percent of its refrigerant supply each year, which can quickly add up to thousands of dollars in lost refrigerant. In addition, retailers must consider the maintenance and equipment costs. Persistently low levels of refrigerant can cause:

  • Excess compressor wear and tear
  • Reduced compressor and system capacities
  • Premature system failures
  • Double-digit efficiency losses

Left unchecked, even minor leaks can eventually lead to equipment failure. When this occurs, emergency repair costs are often only the tip of the iceberg. Operators may also be looking at revenue loss from food waste, business disruptions and reputational damage.

Proactive refrigeration management

So what can operators do to prevent leaks, even in the absence of federal requirements?

In the near term, they can — and should — implement rigorous leak detection and repair programs. Refrigerant leaks can occur anywhere in a system. Thus, an effective refrigerant leak detection program will combine monitoring, detection and notification.

Multiple technologies are available to support these efforts, including active and passive devices for monitoring and detection. Internet of things (IoT) capabilities allow for remote monitoring, enabling operators to focus on more pressing tasks. And with the integration of data analytics platforms, operators can uncover trends, identify persistent problem areas, and make informed choices about equipment upgrades and replacement options.

Over the longer term, operators can adopt refrigeration architectures that reduce the potential for refrigerant leakage in the first place. Legacy, centralized direct-expansion rack systems are high leak-rate offenders. That shouldn’t be a surprise; with thousands of feet of pipe, hundreds of joints and large refrigerant charges, there are many opportunities for leaks to occur.

In contrast, distributed micro-booster, indoor distributed and outdoor condensing unit (OCU) architectures experience lower leak rates by design. As an added benefit, they offer more options for lower-GWP alternative refrigerant use. This is a crucial advantage for operators who want to position their business for future regulations.

Sustainable best practices

The EPA’s Section 608 leak repair provisions were good for the environment. They are also part of a larger body of best practices for optimizing HVACR equipment. As states take the lead in adopting standards for leak detection and control, operators may find the rollback of these regulations to be short-lived.

Emerson is proud to take a lead in developing sustainable and cost-effective refrigeration systems and supporting technologies. Operators and original equipment manufacturers count on us to deliver strategies and solutions that anticipate emerging trends and regulations. From pioneering refrigeration architectures to refrigerant leak detection tools, we are committed to providing operators with the capabilities to meet their sustainability and operational goals today and into the future.

 

 

 

Emerson’s Transportation Solutions Business Compliant With DCSA’s New IoT Recommended Standards

Brian_Robertson Brian Robertson | Vice President, Sales & Support

Emerson Transportation Solutions

Worldwide connectivity helps keep the global food chain intact. According to The Economist, four-fifths of the planet’s 8 billion mouths are fed in part by imports. Fleets in the air, on the sea and on the road connect tens of millions of farms to hundreds of millions of shops and kitchens.

Transportation Solutions

Emerson’s Transportation Solutions business has a proven reputation for tracking this freight, regardless of where it is within its journey. The world’s leading shipping companies, truck lines and refrigerated container manufacturers count on these refrigeration products and monitoring solutions. Building upon the smart communications it provides, Emerson’s Transportation Solutions business now supports Digital Container Shipping Association’s (“DCSA”) new internet of things (“IoT”) connectivity standards for shipping containers. DCSA is a nonprofit group founded by major ocean carriers to digitize and standardize the container shipping industry.

These recommendations focus on ensuring interoperability within the industry on the standardized methods for communications of IoT devices on container to IoT gateways at sea and on land. These universally adaptable standards align internal radio communication protocols for IoT gateways, addressing the network connectivity requirements for reefer containers, dry containers, and the RFID registration of these containers.

With these recommendations in place, carriers and supply chain participants will be one step closer to providing customers with an uninterrupted flow of relevant information regarding the whereabouts of containers and the status of their contents at any point along their journey.

For more information, visit https://dcsa.org/.

[Webinar Recap] Digital X-Line Enhances Proven Condensing Unit Platform

Julie Havenar | Product Manager – Condensing Units
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

For decades, fixed-capacity outdoor condensing units (OCUs) have been a popular architecture choice for foodservice and food retail applications — providing refrigeration for walk-in coolers, display cases and food preparation tables. With recent advances in digital compression technology to enable variable-capacity modulation, modern condensing units offer an even more compelling alternative to traditional centralized architectures. In our recent webinar, I discussed the many benefits of taking a decentralized approach to refrigeration, specifically by using Emerson’s Copeland™ Digital Outdoor Refrigeration Unit, X-Line series.

[Webinar Recap] Digital X-Line Enhances Proven Condensing Unit Platform

First, it’s important to review the many reasons why fixed-capacity condensing units have experienced wide industry adoption. Their simple architecture — with one dedicated condensing unit per evaporator (or refrigeration fixture) — makes them extremely easy to implement and a flexible option for load expansion or facility retrofits. By locating the condensing units outside the store, this approach also removes heat and mechanical sound from the shopping environment. In addition, their air-cooled design removes the need for water loops while eliminating excess cost and unit cooling.

But there is always room for improvement. So, we reached out to our customer base to gather feedback about their pain points when using these fixed-capacity OCUs. Common challenges included: the use of mechanical controls; lack of remote communications, onboard diagnostics and system protections; limited mounting/installation options; single speed (on/off) fan cycling; single unit required for every load with each unit individually wired.

Overcoming these challenges became the basis of our Copeland™ Outdoor Refrigeration Unit, X-Line series launched a few years ago. X-Line offered the following improvements:

  • Slim, lightweight profile — can be wall-mounted or mounted on rails
  • Quiet — can be located near entrances, patios or residential areas
  • Energy efficient — Copeland scroll compression, variable-speed fan motor control, large condenser coils and enhanced vapor injection (on low-temp, fixed-speed only)
  • Connectivity — communicates with facility management systems, such as Emerson’s XWEB, Site Supervisor and E2 platforms
  • Protection — electronic controls enhance reliability; on-board diagnostics enable fast setup, troubleshooting and alert codes
  • AWEF-compliant — meeting DOE (Department of Energy) regulations

Digital modulation addresses additional customer challenges

With the introduction of the digital X-Line, Emerson was able to address another key customer challenge — requiring a separate condensing unit for each refrigeration load — while enabling variable-capacity modulation from 100% to 20%. The digital X-Line utilizes multiplexing technology to connect multiple fixtures to one condensing unit and detects the required refrigeration demand from each fixture. So, if the digital X-Line were servicing multiple evaporators and only one was calling for cooling, the digital X-Line can run at less than 100% capacity and match the exact load capacity requirement at that moment. This means that operators will need fewer condensing units to meet their refrigeration demands — potentially reducing the equipment footprint.

Other installation benefits include:

  • Simple and quick commissioning — requires only three setpoints: refrigerant, time clock and suction pressure
  • Reduced refrigerant charge and line sets — up to 50% reduction with the option to utilize lower-GWP alternatives
  • Reduced costly call-backs — advanced diagnostics help contractors set it up right the first time

From an operational standpoint, the digital X-Line is designed to deliver continuous performance improvements that impact food quality/safety, energy efficiency and servicing, such as:

  • Tight temperature precision — digital, variable-capacity modulation enables precise control over case temperatures to maximize food quality and safety
  • Energy efficiency gains — larger condenser coils, electronic controls and digital compression (which reduce large amp draws from excessive starts/stop) deliver substantial energy efficiency savings
  • Advanced diagnostics and protection — onboard controls alert end users of faults and KPIs, simplify troubleshooting and provide compressor protection

It’s also important to point out that the digital X-Line maintains the platform’s ultra-quiet operation, which allows the units to be installed nearly anywhere without disrupting customers or neighbors.

Whether you operate a convenience store, restaurant, supermarket or cold storage facility, the digital X-Line provides operators with a state-of-the-art OCU solution that’s ideal for meeting today’s challenging refrigeration requirements. To learn more about the benefits of the digital X-Line in these applications, view this webinar in its entirety.

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