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A Convenience Store Evolution

Paul Carlson_Blog Paul Carlson | Vice President/General Manager Foodservice
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Convenience stores are evolving, placing more focus on customer preferences and better food offerings, which is causing operators to rethink their energy use strategies. Read the full article here.

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You’ve probably noticed how much convenience stores have changed in recent years. Rather than a quick pitstop for gas, coffee and lottery tickets, these stores now include both fresh and frozen food offerings. Leveraging more choices and conveniences with a strategy that keeps customers in the store longer results in a higher chance they’ll make additional purchases.

This evolution doesn’t come without new challenges. With convenience stores shifting focus toward new food offerings and placing emphasis on the customer experience, store operators must determine how to efficiently manage energy consumption while still meeting food safety and customer comfort demands.

Enter building management systems. These central systems control and monitor a building’s mechanical and electrical equipment, such as refrigeration, lighting and HVAC. They’ve been used by supermarkets for two decades now — some even reduce energy costs by tens of thousands of dollars every year. Convenience stores have the same opportunity.

Today, installing energy-efficient equipment is just one piece of the energy management puzzle. Replacing manual equipment controls with thermostats and digital “smart” controls can help avoid excessive energy use and costs and improve management of store environments:

  • Refrigeration: Digital refrigeration controls enable the ability to monitor cases and product temperatures to cycle compressors accurately within a tighter control range. Case controllers prevent excessive compressor cycling and can automatically adjust temperatures overnight to save energy while still maintaining food safety standards.
  • Lighting: Advanced lighting controls remove the human and mechanical elements, and instead manage interior store lighting using a variety of more dependable inputs, including ambient lighting levels, light sensors, motion detection, occupancy schedules and occupancy triggers such as security systems.
  • HVAC: HVAC controllers can cycle rooftop fans according to discharge and return air temperatures, helping to both reduce compressor runtime and strike a better optimized balance between customer comfort and energy efficiency.

But these benefits don’t end at controlling individual systems. Linking systems together and scheduling/operating equipment with the full knowledge of other systems in the store, building management systems can operate at enhanced efficiency levels. For example, reducing electricity use is one vital factor that can ultimately lower your total costs by cycling lighting, refrigeration and HVAC equipment in the most efficient manner. Building management systems can also stagger multiple systems so they are not starting at the same time, reducing a store’s energy demands.

Energy-efficient equipment operation is only one aspect of a building management system. Another is the ability to collect a wide range of data, which convenience store operators can use to gain more visibility into store operations. This data grants operators insight into where to target improvement initiatives and allows for more informed decision making that is backed by clear data.

Building management systems also allow facility managers to proactively monitor equipment performance to potentially identify issues before they become significant problems, which could result in expensive repairs, product losses and equipment downtime.

As convenience stores evolve, it’s vital that their systems and energy strategies evolve too. Building management systems help facilitate enterprise management; optimize, standardize and monitor store efficiency; and generate a wealth of valuable data that can be used to drive down operating costs.

 

Refrigerant Leak Detection and Regulatory Update

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Proper refrigerant leak detection is essential for retailers, potentially saving them thousands of dollars annually and helping to meet regulatory requirements. For the full article, click here.

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Refrigerant leaks can cause both economic and environmental disruptions for retailers. Today, the average supermarket has two to four refrigeration racks charged with approximately 3,500 pounds of refrigerant. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GreenChill research, about 25 percent (875 pounds) of that refrigerant is lost each year due to leaks. At $7 per pound, this loss equates to an annual expense of about $6,100 — more than $600,000 annually over a chain of 100 stores. And that’s just the financial aspect. In the same 100-store example, nearly 70,000 pounds of refrigerant are leaked into the atmosphere.

Introduced in the 1990s to address emissions of ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants used in stationary refrigeration and air conditioning units, Section 608 of the Clean Air Act was revised in 2016 to include hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. This revision also introduced more stringent requirements for repairing leaks in larger appliances as well as new record keeping, reporting and disposal mandates.

Per the 2016 revision to Section 608, the next iteration of these requirements will take effect on January 1, 2019, and include the following changes:

Lower leak thresholds. The new thresholds are 30 percent (from 35 percent) for industrial process refrigeration (IPR), 20 percent (from 35 percent) for commercial refrigeration equipment (CRE), and 10 percent (from 15 percent) for comfort-cooling equipment.

Required inspection and monitoring. Section 608 now requires quarterly/annual leak inspections or the use of automatic, continuous monitoring devices for refrigeration and air conditioning equipment that have exceeded the threshold leak rate.

 New reporting requirements. Owners and operators must maintain hard or electronic copies of reports documenting the full charges of appliances and the types of automatic leak detection systems used. For chronically leaking appliances, owners/operators must also submit reports if their systems contain 50 or more pounds of refrigerant and leak 125 percent or more of their full charge in one calendar year.

 Disposal requirements. Technicians must keep a record of refrigerant recovered during system disposal from systems with charge sizes ranging from 5 to 50 pounds.

With all of these revisions on the horizon, it’s important to note that the EPA takes enforcement very seriously. The consequence of noncompliance can be significant: the agency is authorized to assess fines of $37,500 per day for violations.

We recommend that companies implement effective refrigerant leak detection programs to minimize refrigerant leaks and plan a response strategy in the event of a leak. Direct leak detection technology includes fixed or portable monitors installed on-site, which detect the concentration of refrigerants in the air. These can be set close to the anticipated leak airstream, in enclosed spaces and in areas near the floor where leaked refrigerants collect.

 The renewed regulatory focus on reducing refrigerant leaks has caused retailers to put more emphasis on developing efficient and effective leak detection strategies. Leak detection programs not only allow retailers to stay on top of regulations; they can potentially save costs associated with lost refrigerant, the degradation of refrigerated system performance and food loss.

Podcast Recap: Talking the State of Commercial Refrigeration With ACHR News

This blog summarizes a discussion I had as a guest on The NEWSMakers podcast, which is produced by ACHR News. Click here to listen to the podcast in its entirety.

benpicker Ben Picker | Product Manager – Copeland Condensing Units

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I recently sat down with the staff of The NEWS to record an episode of The NEWSMakers podcast, where we discussed the state of commercial refrigeration and its role within the larger food supply chain. Our conversation covered a wide range of topics, from regulations and changing consumer preferences to the Internet of Things (IoT) and cold chain temperature monitoring. What follows is a summary of that conversation.

Beyond Iot to digital transformation in the modern supermarket

Regulatory landscape

The impacts of federal and state regulations continue to be felt. While recent rulings have vacated some of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) previous refrigerant regulations, California is not only maintaining those guidelines, it’s introducing additional mandates for more stringent requirements when dealing with hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant use, charge limits and leak detection. Department of Energy (DOE) energy-efficiency regulations remain in effect and are driven by equipment class and size; it’s important for manufacturers and end users to understand how these energy targets impact their specific applications. In addition, there are standards to ensure the safe operation of equipment and preserve food safety.

Changing consumer demands

The market has changed dramatically in recent years, primarily driven by shifting consumer preferences. Some examples include: convenience stores evolving to provide higher-quality, fresh food items; fast-casual restaurants offering home delivery; and grocery stores adding Click and Collect, online shopping options. These business models are placing new pressures on retailers to consistently provide the highest-quality products. If a consumer has a bad experience, then word of mouth quickly spreads, which may damage the offending store’s reputation.

IoT impacts

The prevalence of electronic controls and equipment connectivity via IoT is influencing the entire HVACR industry. In commercial refrigeration, controls are being developed and utilized to meet regulations and ensure product safety and quality. Cold chain technology is now available to monitor and track the condition of food in real time — from the farm to the storage facility to its retail destination — to determine if correct temperatures are maintained. This connectivity helps businesses make real-time decisions. If they see temperatures drifting out of preferred ranges, they can divert shipments to the nearest retail location or recall them altogether.

The abilities to monitor equipment and see its performance at any given time are also impacting maintenance procedures. With modern controls, it’s now possible to monitor system health and detect trends well in advance of a potential failure. This allows end users to better schedule their maintenance activities and prevent equipment failures — especially ahead of peak sales opportunities, such as holiday weekends or new product introductions or menu items.

Security concerns

Anytime you’re creating an unsecured internet pathway to sensitive information, there’s always a concern. But there are options to avoid these challenges. One simple solution is built-in cellular modems on equipment, allowing each piece to act independently from the system containing information. It’s also important to understand that different applications may require different solutions, depending on which services are available in a particular location. We recommend consulting with a network security professional within your region to develop a program that best suits your individual needs.

Emerson’s response to cold chain challenges

Emerson is looking at the cold chain from a holistic perspective — from the time food leaves the farm to when it hits the fork — and we’ve reorganized our entire organization to support the various affected stakeholders. Through strategic acquisitions and the continued development of new technologies, we can monitor and preserve food quality along every step of food’s journey. We’re making IoT-enabled, smart equipment to allow customers to diagnose the health of equipment and see its historic and real-time performances. And, we have comprehensive services that provide enterprise-wide monitoring of mission-critical systems across a network of stores, prioritizing alarms and fixing potential issues before they become problems.

 

A Digital Transformation in the Cold Chain

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

Integration of digital technology has dramatically changed the cold chain landscape. This blog summarizes my recent article, “Digital Transformation Helps Drive Tighter Cold Chain Integration”. Read the full article here.

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Digital technologies, data mining and analytics tools are dominating the modern economy, transforming nearly every aspect of how we operate. Businesses are beginning to realize the power of data and how it can be used to improve the customer experience, grow market share and improve operational performance — all culminating in what’s commonly being referred to as the digital transformation. This transformation has the potential to bring significant benefits to several areas of the industry, including food safety, energy conservation and refrigerant management, to name a few.

Today, retailers have access to more data than ever before, allowing for new opportunities to innovate and implement more comprehensive management in the cold chain. Rather than narrowing focus onto one section of the business, operators can now think across entire enterprises and supply chains for broader insights and deeper intelligence into how their stores are operating and learn where they can improve and innovate.

One factor that makes this transformation so interesting is the amount of commitment industry leaders are putting into developing deeper, stronger relationships with their customers, rather than using the newfound data to exploit sales opportunities. Customers have rewarded this dedication and innovation with increasing loyalty — which translates into better sales.

A recent example of the potential data has to help solve problems in the cold chain was the concern surrounding an outbreak of foodborne illness from romaine lettuce purchased at grocery outlets. After customers got sick and the story hit the 24/7 news cycle, many demanded to know where the contamination had occurred. In this case, technology and data were essential in tracking the instance of contamination to a specific farm. But this example is just the tip of the iceberg.

A similar, data-driven approach can allow retail stores to reduce their energy costs during peak demand periods. By connecting building management systems (BMS) to the local energy provider, companies can limit or avoid “peak time surcharges” that are assessed when the greatest amounts of energy are required. The BMS receives notices from the utility when demand reduction opportunities arise and, through a demand response program, retailers can automatically shut down non-essential equipment and optimize energy use.

The amplitude of data available from this digital transformation is ushering in an intriguing period in cold chain history. At Emerson, we see this happening not in grandiose, intangible, all-consuming approaches, but in the expansion of existing, proven technologies coupled with the use of emerging digital assets to create new insights.

As the iterative development of connected, adjacent systems accelerates and becomes more powerful, there will be opportunities to revolutionize how companies operate. We at Emerson are here to help you make this critical cold chain transition a reality for your business.

 

Innovative Solutions for Cold Chain Application

Devin Hwang | Business Development Manager, Cold Chain, Northeast Asia
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions
Innovative Solutions for cold chain application

Every step in the cold chain presents a significant challenge to the overall quality of your perishable goods. One minor error at any stage could mean the difference between safe and wasted shipment. Emerson combines the experience and expertise to provide solutions that help ensure end-to-end quality, which does not come at the expense of your system’s performance and satisfaction.

At our Emerson Connect event in Kaohsiung, Taiwan last month, key players in the Taiwanese cold chain and retail industry, together with our partner Sunland, took part in the discussions to learn more about our innovative products and solutions.

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Join us at our next Emerson Connect Innovation event in Bangkok, Thailand as we showcase our latest products and solutions to meet your cold chain and retail needs, including:

Wholesalers, OEMs, Consultants, and contractors are highly encouraged to join us.

Our next Emerson Connect Innovation will be held on July 19, 2018, at the Grand Ballroom III of Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel, 2 Charoen Krung Road Soi 30 (Captain Bush Lane), Siphya, Bangrak, Bangkok.

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