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Posts tagged ‘Food Safety’

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.

 

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.

Tracking Food Safety Data During the Cold Chain Journey

MattToone_2 Matt Toone | Vice President, Sales & Solutions – Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Whether you’re a convenience store (c-store) operator, quick-service restaurant (QSR), or a fast casual or fine dining establishment, ensuring food quality and safety is imperative to your success. In this blog, the third of a three-part series based on a recent E360 article, Minimizing Food Safety Risks From Farm to Fork, I explore how advanced technologies can protect food safety at every step in the cold chain.

Tracking Food Safety Data During the Cold Chain Journey

Food safety and quality are the cornerstones to any successful foodservice operation. The ability for operators to deliver on both, however, hinges in large part on an interdependent supply chain of multiple, diverse stakeholders. Yet many operators are unaware of the efforts required to maintain food safety and quality throughout this cold chain.

Until now.

The rise of internet of things (IoT) technologies is providing unprecedented opportunities to monitor, control and track the many factors that influence quality during food’s long journey from farms to customers. For foodservice operators, this means greater control over ensuring that food is safe on receipt. Exercising this power starts with understanding the cold chain and how data is collected.

The cold chain journey

As foodservice operators well know, the pressure to protect food safety is felt most acutely where customers buy or consume food. But every stakeholder in the cold chain is responsible for maintaining food quality and freshness:

  • Harvesting and processing: The cold chain journey begins at the moment of harvest, where everything from the time of day to environmental conditions affect quality. Processors use a variety of strategies, including temperature controls, to slow or halt the decay process. The pipeline of data monitoring also begins at this stage, with pulp temperature probes and temperature loggers and trackers.
  • Transportation: Whether food is shipped by land, sea or air, reputable transport companies will apply a variety of best practices and technologies to protect its quality. Independent temperature monitoring, logging and tracking devices that provide real-time communications are essential at this stage. These systems enable remote monitoring and issue alert notifications when deviations in temperatures, humidity, modified atmosphere settings and vibration occur.
  • Cold storage: Cold storage distribution centers are another vital link in the cold chain. Here, data is collected at several points to ensure that food meets documented food safety standards. Many of these facilities employ different temperature zones and use both industrial and commercial refrigeration technologies. Devices that can work across disparate systems to monitor, record and maintain proper temperatures are critical to providing temperature certainty.
  • Restaurants: From the moment they accept a shipment, operators take ownership of food safety. For this reason, they should meticulously inspect all data accrued during the product’s journey to ensure it was kept at optimal conditions. After receipt, advanced facility and refrigeration controls can help operators maintain proper temperatures and comply with food safety regulations.

Solutions to protect food safety at every step

The cold chain can involve multiple hand-offs as food makes a days- or weeks-long journey to its final destination. That’s why end-to-end solutions for cold chain technologies are so essential to protecting food safety. An unbroken chain of data, paired with the streamlining capabilities of IoT technologies, puts greater oversight of food quality into the hands of operators and their suppliers.

At Emerson, we have both the refrigeration expertise and targeted solutions for nearly every point along the food supply chain. Our growing portfolio of connected, communicating devices and enterprise management software provides the solutions and resources our customers need to achieve cold chain temperature certainty and verification throughout food’s journey.

From compression and refrigeration system technologies, to case controls and facility management devices, to temperature loggers, trackers and probing devices, to software and services — we’re a leading single-source partner dedicated to helping our customers ensure full cold chain integrity.

So if you’re ready to take your operation to the next level with advanced controls and technologies, contact Emerson 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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