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Supermarket Food Safety: Emerson Cold Chain Solutions

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development

Manager, Food Retail

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Providing consistently safe and high-quality food in supermarkets is important to each stakeholder in the food retail supply chain. From farm to fork, grocers depend on their cold chain suppliers to collect, share and report on the handling and shipping practices that contribute to food safety. In the first blog based on an article in PerishableNews.com, we examined food retail market trends and risk factors impacting food safety and quality. In this companion blog, we will explore how Emerson is helping food retailers and stakeholders address these challenges at nearly every step of the food supply chain.

Harvest and processing

The potential decay of perishable produce starts the moment it is picked, but this can be stunted by controlling temperatures and the ambient environment via: flash cooling/freezing; temporary staging in storage coolers; and pre-cooling shipping containers. Shipping containers may be modified with ripening agents, and processors often measure the levels of ethylene, a natural gas that can accelerate ripening.

Emerson provides temperature-probing devices that can be used to measure internal “pulp” temperatures prior to and during the staging and loading processes. Our real-time temperature monitoring and tracking devices can be activated inside a shipping container to immediately begin monitoring location, temperatures and other environmental conditions of in-transit perishable shipments.

Transportation

Food’s journey to supermarket shelves can last anywhere from days to weeks — by truck, sea and/or air — and grocers rely on their shippers to provide an unbroken chain of temperature certainty. Loading best practices promote airflow and shipments to be “load locked” in order to limit excess vibration. Transport containers must be able to maintain temperatures and provide visibility into container conditions. Mixed-load cargos may have different refrigerated temperature zones within the same shipment.

Emerson’s field-tested, proven compression technologies can withstand the rigors of the road while helping operators to ensure that their transport refrigeration systems preserve product at specified temperature ranges. Temperature monitoring, logging and tracking devices — combined with our cloud-based software portal — can provide real-time temperature and location conditions of product in-transit. The software enables live remote monitoring and issues alerts to stakeholders based on user-defined parameters, such as: temperature excursions; changes to shipping atmosphere; vibration; security breaches; and shipping delays.

Cold storage distribution centers

Upon receipt of food at a cold storage facility, handlers must inspect product temperatures and conditions, including pulp temperatures with probing devices, and trip data from logging and tracking devices. Relying on only the ambient air temperature of the shipping container is not an accurate measure, as some carriers may turn off the refrigeration system during shipping to preserve fuel. After inspection, handlers must promptly transfer perishable cargo into a designated cold storage temperature zone. The entire process must adhere to each facility’s established Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and/or Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventative Controls (HARPC) plans.

Emerson’s logging and tracking devices give end-users the ability to maintain live, remote visibility for monitoring the temperatures and locations of their in-transit shipping containers. In cold storage facilities, our compression and refrigeration technologies help operators to establish and maintain proper temperatures in various cold storage zones. Robust facility monitoring solutions help operators to remotely oversee conditions, ensure proper temperatures, and automatically record temperatures for use in HACCP reporting.

Grocery stores

From the moments perishable shipments are unloaded in supermarkets, operators take ownership of food quality and safety. This starts with inspection — checking pulp temperatures and trip data logs — and continues with the prompt transfer of perishables into designated cold storage coolers or freezers. Once in cold storage, control platforms help retailers to monitor perishable temperatures and optimize food quality.

Refrigerated storage and staging coolers for click-and-collect fulfillment must have sufficient capacity to handle fluctuations in order volumes and frequent opening/closing of walk-in doors. Order-picking processes and customer pick-ups and deliveries must be optimized to ensure safe handling and proper temperatures. Supermarket food preparation introduces hot-side complexities as consumers look to grocers for home meal replacements. Staff must be trained in safe cooking best practices — such as those provided by the U.S. National Restaurant Association’s (NRA’s) ServSafe® certification course — and cook-and-hold procedures should also follow established HACCP/HARPC plans.

In addition to our proven compression and refrigeration technologies, Emerson solutions address a variety of modern supermarket requirements. These include condensing units with variable-capacity modulation to precisely match refrigeration load requirements and flexible distributed architectures that can augment existing refrigeration systems. We also offer a suite of temperature-probing devices to help grocers automate the recording of prepared food temperatures and assist grocers with food safety and process compliance concerns.

Our powerful facility management, monitoring and control platforms address both existing and emerging food retail complexities. These tools provide near real-time access to critical information to help retailers track, triage and respond to issues pertaining to food quality and safety compliance — in individual stores and across their multi-site networks. In addition, these control platforms utilize alarms, notifications and remote access to provide end-users with continuous building and refrigeration monitoring at any retail location.

Connectivity drives cold chain visibility

Modern food retailers are held to increasingly higher food safety and quality standards. Store operators, consumers and health inspectors all demand greater transparency into the food supply chain and improved visibility of food’s journey from farm to fork. With today’s connected internet of things (IoT) monitoring and tracking infrastructures, operators now have the potential for visibility into each step of food’s journey — and even the possibility for comprehensive cold chain traceability. Emerson provides the refrigeration technologies and IoT-enabled infrastructures to help stakeholders at each point monitor, control and track a variety of conditions necessary for preserving food safety and quality.

 

 

 

 

 

Pandemic Reveals Importance of Cold Chain Integrity

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Even the most resilient food supply chains are being challenged in ways never imagined before the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, consumers, retailers and regulators are demanding more visibility and transparency into food’s entire journey — from meat, dairy and produce plants all the way through to dinner tables, according to a recent Food Logistics article for which I was interviewed. Also quoted were my colleagues, Katrina Krites, marketing and business development manager, food retail, and Amy Childress, vice president of marketing and planning, Cargo Solutions, both with Emerson’s cold chain business.

The food supply chain is one of the segments hardest hit by the pandemic. Consumers quickly switched their buying behaviors from brick-and-mortar stores to online groceries. Spikes in demand and disruptions throughout the food supply chain led to acute shortages of certain product categories. One-third of consumers surveyed in NPD Group’s NET COVID-19 Pantry & Food Strategy Tracker still experience out-of-stock inventory months after the outbreak began.

It’s no wonder then that 81 percent of shoppers say transparency is important or extremely important to them, both online and in-store, according to a study by FMI, The Food Industry Association. Responses to the survey also revealed that consumers believe grocery retailers should provide detailed product information. Food safety clearly remains a top concern because of pandemic-related interruptions.

Delivering safe, high-quality food starts with understanding everything that contributes to food quality and safety throughout the cold chain. It’s staggering to realize that there can be potentially as many as 20 to 30 individual steps and multiple changes of ownership throughout this journey. Stakeholders at each point are now able to monitor, control and track a variety of conditions necessary for preserving food quality, including temperature, humidity, lighting and more.

Providing this greater visibility and management of inventory will require operators across the supply chain to integrate cold chain monitoring solutions and other technologies to assure food safety and on-time delivery. In addition, operators will need to implement the following:

  • Stringent operational processes
  • Enhanced supplier sourcing
  • Strong company relationships
  • An overarching standard to produce, deliver and sell food safely and ethically

See into the cold chain in real-time

Food chains have historically been opaque, long and complex. Increasingly, they are becoming more transparent, shorter and traceable. That’s occurring because consumers want to know more about where their food comes from and how it’s been handled. The impacts of the pandemic significantly increased the urgency behind this push.

According to Dan Crossley, executive director for Food Ethics Council, the question businesses should be asking is, “If our customers could see everything about how our food is produced, distributed, stored and sold, would they still want my product?”

One way to answer this question is by improving cold chain integrity. As Amy explained in the article, Emerson participates in the IBM Food Trust, where we leverage advanced cold chain technology “to provide temperature-related information on in-transit, refrigerated cargo to improve shelf-life estimates and food freshness, enabling more actionable data for IBM Food Trust network members.”

Smarter approaches to food safety

Expanding use of real-time and near real-time tracking devices and cloud-enabled software systems to monitor in-transit shipping conditions will also help operators to ensure food safety and quality. This is especially critical to keeping up with the global demand for year-round access to perishable products. Consumers want a variety of fresh produce, regardless of the location of its origin or the complex cold chain necessary to transport it by land, sea and/or air. The supply chain begins at the point of harvest and continues through processing, cold storage and distribution — all before the food ever begins the last-mile delivery to a store, restaurant or consumer. Overseas shipments can often last anywhere from two to four weeks.

Precise tracking of the condition of this food is possible with advanced hardware and software systems. For example, ProAct™ Connect+ enterprise management software from Emerson can help retailers by providing near real-time access to critical information to help retailers immediately monitor, triage and respond to issues across their multi-site networks. It also provides alarms/notifications using Emerson’s Site Supervisor and E2 facility management systems to provide continuous building and refrigeration monitoring at any location and across the enterprise.

As Katrina said in the article, “By providing enterprise management of refrigeration and other key facility systems, ProAct Connect+ can help retailers preserve food quality while meeting food safety compliance mandates.”

In-transit monitoring of food temperature, location, light, security and other sensor data for perishable cargo can be accomplished with Emerson’s GO real-time loggers and trackers and complimentary cloud-based online portal, Oversight 2. The solution’s automated reporting, real-time alerts and historical reports increase visibility into the status of in-transit cargo.

New normal: Verify food in-transit

The pandemic exposed areas of the global food supply chain that are susceptible to disruption by rapid changes in consumer behavior as well as food safety concerns. Food must be resupplied faster and kept fresh longer. Building these capabilities along with resiliency into the supply chain, will require even more focus amid our “new normal.” Those efforts will begin with the implementation of cold chain technologies that enable businesses to verify the condition of food at any and every step in its journey from producers to consumers.

 

Focus on Cold Chain Visibility for National Food Safety Education Month

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

Emerson’s cold chain business

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year an estimated 1 in 6 Americans (i.e., 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from eating contaminated food. To help prevent food poisoning and improve awareness of food safety best practices, the CDC has designated September as National Food Safety Education Month. For Emerson’s cold chain business, improving the quality and safety of food throughout the supply chain is a core principle. Among the many ways we are helping stakeholders fulfill this mission is through a focus on cold chain visibility technologies designed to monitor and track food conditions along its journey to consumers.

Effective cold chain visibility is a goal shared by nearly everyone actively involved with or impacted by the food supply chain. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new initiative called the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, of which traceability is a key component. Designed to build upon the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), it outlines a path forward using science and risk-based standards to help ensure food safety and prevent foodborne illnesses. With respect to traceability, the blueprint seeks to utilize modern technology to provide visibility of food from farm to table and rapidly trace contaminations to their source locations.

Temperature control and visibility technologies

Achieving precise temperature control during staging, shipping and storage is the backbone of Emerson’s strategies for helping our customers promote and achieve food safety and quality. Our products and services are designed to help stakeholders in each segment of the food cold chain implement their unique cold storage best practices and quality control methods — from proper container and facility insulation to reliable refrigeration strategies — and maintain the tightest possible temperature ranges.

Enabling visibility into food’s journey throughout the supply chain is a critical component of ensuring proper temperature control. This means our customers must have the ability to track and monitor food’s condition throughout the journey to the point of sale.

To that end, we provide refrigeration monitoring solutions that help growers, producers, shippers, restaurants and food retailers keep food within ideal temperature ranges. Throughout multiple steps of cold chain custody, our real-time monitoring devices and tracking infrastructures are helping stakeholders automate the processes of recording and documenting key data points related to food conditions, including: location, temperature, humidity, vibration and security. By leveraging these products and services, stakeholders can better use information to support their food quality and safety programs.

And since we work with multiple stakeholders, we’re better able to help facilitate information sharing and wider cold chain visibility, thereby limiting the potential for disputes while keeping the focus on preventing food safety and quality issues.

Participation with industry workgroups

Our dedication to driving food safety and quality initiatives is further demonstrated through our participation in and support of leading industry initiatives and organizations, including: the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Global Food Traceability Center. Collectively, we share the common goal of increased cold chain visibility and traceability to promote food safety and minimize global food waste.

These are all part of our efforts to further empower the cold chain by providing more actionable data for our customers and the industry. Today, our customers utilize a variety of enterprise resource planning (ERP), transportation management systems (TMS) and other information technology (IT) architectures within their businesses, and we’ve designed our devices and data formats with the flexibility to integrate with a variety of system infrastructures — all of which further promotes visibility and information sharing in the supply chain.

Achieving industry-wide visibility will require participation from all stakeholders along the chain of custody. It’s estimated that of produce shipped in the U.S. have been applied with standardized PTI case labels. Emerson encourages all growers to participate in this and other traceability initiatives. As an industry, we must help all stakeholders understand the value of capturing cold chain data and leveraging available tools and standards.

 

 

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.

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