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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.

How ProAct™ Connect+ Software Manages the Tasks That Matter Most for Retailers

ronchapek_2 Ron Chapek | Director of Product Management/Enterprise Software

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Today’s supermarket, restaurant and convenience store operators face an increasingly complex retail environment. A recent article in E360 Outlook Product Spotlight demonstrates how the Emerson ProAct Connect+ platform and software modules give you a sharp picture of the most critical facets of your multi-site operations. Click here to read the article in its entirety.

How ProAct™ Connect+ Software Manages the Tasks That Matter Most for Retailers

Seamlessly connect and actively manage your multi-site food retail operations

Today, consumers demand premium food quality, variety and convenience, with an exceptional, consistent shopping experience, regardless of location. Retailers need the tools that can help them quickly adapt to customer preferences and trends, ensure a high level of customer satisfaction, and ensure the quality and safety of their food — in every store within their multi-site network.

That’s why Emerson has leveraged its site management software legacy to develop the next-generation ProAct Connect+ Enterprise Software Suite.

By connecting devices and controllers to the cloud, Connect+ provides near real-time access to a wide range of critical information from anywhere in your multi-site operations to help you immediately track, evaluate and respond to issues — all from one centralized location. Backed by Emerson’s deep domain expertise in refrigeration systems, controls, facility management, data analytics, cloud connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT), Connect+ helps multi-site retailers achieve their critical customer service and business objectives faster, with less risk, by focusing on the tasks that matter most.

Core software modules address critical operational challenges

The Connect+ platform is a scalable, customizable and robust toolset of software modules that enable multi-site performance optimization by gathering and analyzing a broad range of data about many critical functions, including:

  • Data acquisition: providing secure data acquisition, storage and aggregation
  • System management: helping monitor, manage and optimize performance in key facilities, including refrigeration, HVAC and lighting
  • Advisory management: alerting your enterprise and facility managers of any issues in the network, helping them to quickly view, evaluate and respond to issues or alarm states that could impact your operations
  • Setpoint management: continuously monitoring and optimizing temperature setpoints to help drive energy efficiency and ensure food quality and safety
  • Condition-based maintenance: improving the effectiveness of your maintenance teams by providing both real-time and historic data about equipment performance, helping them detect and address potential problems before they can impact operations
  • Food quality reports: automating reporting of Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls (HARPC) food safety documentation requirements, helping you demonstrate that you are assuring consistent food quality and safety while minimizing food spoilage and waste
  • Energy management: automatically optimizing energy consumption in your systems and facilities to drive cost savings throughout the enterprise
  • Push updates: informing hundreds or thousands of connected sites and systems about important store or customer service initiatives or technical equipment update information in hours instead of days

Making high-end software easy to use

For all its capabilities, Emerson designed Connect+ to be fast, flexible and secure — and with features such as color-coded network maps, alarm visibility and intuitive navigation — remarkably easy to use.

By connecting devices and controllers to the cloud for comprehensive data management and analytics, ProAct Connect+ provides the architecture, information and intelligence to help you address today’s challenges while scaling to meet tomorrow’s demands. To learn about even more of its capabilities and the user-friendly functionality you can expect from the ProAct Connect+ software suite, read the full E360 Outlook article.

 

[Webinar Recap] Four Best Practices in Enterprise Optimization

ronchapek_2 Ron Chapek | Director of Product Management

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

For large retailers with multi-site store networks, there are significant advantages to using alarm management services and enterprise software — from reducing operational costs and preserving food quality and safety to lowering maintenance costs and improving energy efficiency. In a recent E360 Webinar, Best Practices in Enterprise and Facility Optimization, I talked with Scott Fritz, Emerson’s director of enterprise services & IT operations, about the keys to maximizing performance in these critical areas. View the webinar in its entirety and continue reading to learn more.

The process of managing assets, food inventories, service requirements and energy efficiency at an enterprise level involves a variety of stakeholders, including store managers, service technicians, alarm technicians, facility managers, energy managers and food safety managers. Companies need both the proper tools and strategies to effectively coordinate these resources and manage their collective efforts.

The following four best practices are designed to leverage enterprise software and services to help your company achieve its critical business objectives.

1. Gain a centralized view of operations. Today, multi-site retailers are tasked with managing large asset and equipment portfolios — such as aging HVAC, lighting and refrigeration systems — and an ever-increasing number of “smart” assets connected via the internet of things (IoT). Enterprise software offers a centralized view and management of these critical assets, enabling remote support, user access controls and network-wide broadcast of changes (such as refrigeration and HVAC setpoints and lighting schedules).

By optimizing facilities management and controlling setpoint data, large enterprises — such as a supermarket with 250 sites — can achieve up to $1M annually in operational labor savings.

2. Establish effective alarm management. Keeping a network of sites and their assets performing optimally requires the abilities to mitigate costly failures, save energy, and ensure food safety. But with virtually thousands of issues to sort through at any given time, this is no small task. Alarm management services allow companies to filter out the noise of countless non-essential alarms and prioritize critical issues. These timely and pertinent notifications accelerate issue resolution and prevent their potentially negative consequences.

For example, by avoiding food loss and delaying the “shrink” of perishable items, companies can save more than $2M annually.

3. Enable remote access. Service technicians and maintenance teams are running increasingly lean, with a scarcity of available new talent to replace an aging workforce. Enterprise software enables remote field connectivity to service issues via intuitive software that can be accessed on handheld computers and mobile devices. Having access to this data helps technicians evaluate and troubleshoot issues remotely — often eliminating the need for service calls (i.e., truck rolls) — while serving as a real-time training tool for new technicians.

The reduction of unnecessary truck rolls and service calls across an enterprise can save up to $1.5M annually.

4. Automate setpoint and energy management. Facilities managers are under increasing pressure to meet myriad day-to-day commitments — all while trying to achieve their profitability targets and reduce their liabilities and risks. Enterprise software with predictive analytics capabilities can help automate the compliance of critical operating parameters — such as refrigeration and HVAC setpoints — and deliver insights that facilities managers can leverage to make informed decisions.

By deploying setpoint management tools that ensure continuous commissioning of equipment and establishing processes to maintain optimal energy levels, companies can achieve up to a $2.7M reduction in annual energy spend.

By following these four best practices, companies can transform the productivity, energy efficiency and overall optimization of their enterprise operations. Emerson has the enterprise software, alarm management services and domain expertise to help large supermarket and restaurant chains optimize their multi-site store networks. View this webinar in its entirely to learn more.

 

Integrated R-290 Cases Expand Into U.S. Markets

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently asked to contribute to an Accelerate America article about the increasing use of R-290 in the U.S. commercial refrigeration market. The article featured a variety of perspectives from supermarket operators and equipment manufacturers. Read the full article (pg. 38) and more on Emerson’s perspective below.

Integrated R-290 Cases Expand Into U.S. Markets

A growing number of American retailers — including Target, ALDI US and Whole Foods Market — have been deploying self-contained, R-290 cases as spot merchandisers in hundreds of stores, many of which are mainly served by centralized rack systems. Some retailers regard these units as partial or even full-store alternatives to using a centralized rack-based system.

Obviously, this comes as no surprise to Emerson. Not only have we been partnering with R-290 equipment manufacturers for many years, we also support operators and commercial refrigeration designers alike in their efforts to utilize R-290 — and a variety of other lower-GWP and natural refrigerants — in their systems. As others have stated in the article, this trend reflects a shift in the research and development processes for some manufacturers, in that fewer emerging architectures are being designed to utilize hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases.

It’s further evidence that, regardless of the unpredictable state of environmental regulations, R-290 use in commercial refrigeration continues to gain traction. We at Emerson are seeing the use of integrated case architectures — where one or more R-290 compressors is/are housed within a refrigerated case — and the continued use of completely self-contained units as the most likely paths to wider adoption of integrated R-290 in 2019 and beyond.

While R-290 systems may have originally been born out of necessity to address environmental concerns, today they’re perceived in the market as much more than just eco-friendly alternatives. With the expansion of smaller-format stores and increasing retail urbanization, many times there simply isn’t enough space to accommodate a machine room for a traditional central system. In these scenarios, plug-and-play, low-charge, R-290 systems are an ideal fit.

The safe use of R-290, which is classified as an A3, highly flammable refrigerant, is governed globally by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and nationally by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Historically, these standards mandated that R-290 charge limits should be limited to a maximum of 150g. However, the IEC recently updated their standard (IEC 60335-2-89) to allow the use of up to 500g of A3s like R-290. This charge limit increase will enable more application flexibility for European food retailers.

It’s important to note that in the U.S., the UL standard still mandates a maximum of 150g charge limit for A3s. Even with the low charge limit of 150g, R-290 cases have proven viable options for many leading retailers in the U.S. market and abroad.

While the industry adapts to the charge limit increase, there are real-world installations that are also indicative of the safety and reliability of these self-contained, R-290 cases. Since 2013, an HEB grocery store in San Antonio has utilized the R-290 cases installed throughout the entire store as its primary refrigeration source. The designer of that architecture, who was also interviewed in the same article, stated that these cases have proved to be both safe and reliable — and have had no leaks since they’ve been installed.

Today we’re achieving more flexibility using R-290 systems with micro-distributed architectures utilizing integrated cases. They are designed to remove compressor exhaust heat via a shared glycol water loop that’s directed to the roof of the facility for heat removal. These systems typically stay within the 150g limit and enable a greater degree of scalability.

It will be interesting to see how the possibility of increasing the R-290 charge limit, as has been discussed and studied within the industry for years, might impact system design in the future. For now, R-290 seems to have a place — albeit a relatively niche one — in U.S. markets.

Transforming Data Into Maintenance Insights

ronchapek_2 Ron Chapek | Director of Product Marketing

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Today’s supermarket, restaurant and convenience store operators have an abundance of data at their fingertips. Most utilize facility management systems and controls to monitor refrigeration, HVAC, lighting and energy management. These platforms give them ability to respond to alarms that could impact customer comfort and food quality. But alarms are only the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to this data’s potential usefulness. In a recent E360 article, we discussed how operators can transform this data into maintenance insights.

While many companies spend their time tracking, prioritizing and responding to alarms that need immediate attention, owners and operators have relatively limited visibility into overall operational status. But with deeper analytics of available data, operators can look “beneath the hood” of key systems and gain access to insights that could impact them in the future — insights that could potentially transform maintenance activities from a primarily reactive approach to a more condition-based, analytics-driven model.

The difference between “urgent” and “important”

One way to visualize the role of operational analytics in maintainance activities is by prioritizing maintenance events according to their urgency or importance. Maintenance events and operational decisions can be divided into four basic categories:

  • Don’t roll a truck (no action required)
  • Roll a truck soon (plan to take action)
  • Roll a truck now (take action now)
  • Take steps to improve (address at next scheduled maintenance)

Using the iceberg analogy, urgent issues represent events that you will need to respond to immediately — those that lie above the surface. Below the surface, you’ll find issues where analytics platforms can help operators make maintenance decisions based on their potential business impacts. Analytics can help identify issues that, while not urgent, are highly important — and may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

These insights often reveal areas of improvement that could either be addressed during scheduled service intervals or when the equipment or system condition indicates the need to address a potential issue. Armed with this knowledge, operators can receive advance notice of certain performance issues that may soon impact them.

Drive performance across the enterprise

The role of analytics within a maintenance framework can be extrapolated across an enterprise to maximize its potential. 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
  • Enterprise- and store-level dashboards and prioritized notifications

For example, analytics allows for display case performance analysis based on temperature sensor data. Data may detect an anomaly in case temperature deviations that, while still within safe ranges, could indicate a larger performance issue. Instead of being notified with an urgent alarm, operators have advance notice to investigate issues at their discretion — and even preempt a potentially larger issue.

Enterprise operational dashboards can also be configured to display these insights and provide managers with visual snapshots of urgent and pending issues across their store networks — even enabling investigation into specific assets in their respective facilities.

If you’re ready to see what lies below the surface of your operational data and realize the true potential of analytics, contact Emerson to speak to one of our enterprise data analytics experts.

 

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