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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.

Three Trends Shaping the Commercial Refrigeration Sector

DaveBersaglini Dave Bersaglini | Vice President & General Manager, Refrigeration

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

HVACR Business recently invited me to participate in an executive roundtable on the evolution of the commercial refrigeration sector. You can read the full article here and more on our perspective below.

Three Trends Shaping the Commercial Refrigeration Sector

Three Trends Shaping the Commercial Refrigeration Sector

The commercial refrigeration sector is experiencing a period of innovation unlike any other in its history. Regulatory pressures, changing consumer habits and the growing demands for more efficient and sustainable technologies are transforming the market. Business owners and supermarket operators have a tremendous range of environmentally friendly, operationally efficient and — perhaps most importantly — regulatory-compliant solutions from which to choose.

But in order to do this, operators must navigate an ever-growing pool of refrigeration solutions, strategies and technologies. Keeping current on emerging technologies and consumer trends while anticipating future regulatory requirements are the keys to getting the best return on this long-term investment.

More choices

Without a doubt, the greatest challenge for original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and operators alike is transitioning to the future of refrigeration systems. New refrigeration equipment, components and technologies are coming online in response to global demands for lower-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants. In addition, more flexible refrigeration architectures are being launched to satisfy the move toward smaller retail footprints.

As a result, operators are facing a proliferation of refrigeration scenarios, each posing its own set of advantages and drawbacks. Decisions must be weighed against a host of factors, such as environmental impact, total cost of ownership, long-term viability and the ability to adapt to evolving consumer behaviors and potential future regulations. Education is key here; contractors and manufacturers will need to step up and help retailers explore and identify the options that will best satisfy their needs.

More connected

Automation and internet of things (IoT) technologies will increasingly play roles in this sector. System electronics are helping to manage refrigeration cycles and system operations, while compressor protection and diagnostic capabilities are simplifying service and maintenance processes. These connected components will provide operators with unprecedented visibility into critical facility systems that extend beyond refrigeration to include air quality, lighting and energy management. Supported by user-friendly platforms that integrate these key systems, operators will be able to more efficiently manage and optimize facility and energy performance.

More complex

The shift to lower-GWP refrigerants and the growth of new technologies pose a unique set of challenges to contractors. Extensive training on the proper procedures for recovering and servicing new and natural refrigeration systems, such as CO2-based systems, will be imperative. Contractors will also need to increase their knowledge of the landscape so they can align their customers’ goals with the available equipment options. This may require higher upfront costs, but they will pay off in the long term as today’s innovations become the norm.

Ready for the future

At Emerson, we are at the forefront of environmentally friendly and financially viable refrigeration systems and supporting technologies. Moreover, we’ve taken a proactive approach to contractor education, providing a wealth of options to help technicians increase their skills and expand their knowledge base to better serve customers.

At every step, we strive to help operators make informed decisions to maximize their investments. After all, commercial refrigeration systems can — and should — be in service for decades. And with no end in sight to the dramatic changes that are shaping the industry, operators need solutions that can adapt to and grow with the next generation of technologies and system architectures. Our approach to total refrigeration system sustainability is designed to deliver solutions that satisfy operational and sustainability objectives today, while anticipating the needs of tomorrow.

 

E360 Breakfast at AHR: HVACR Refrigerants & Regulations Discussion

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Before the doors open at the AHR Expo on February 4, join us at 8 a.m. for an interactive E360 Breakfast discussion on HVACR refrigerants and regulations. You’ll hear about several industry trends to keep your eyes on over the next few years.

E360 Breakfast at AHR: HVACR Refrigerants & Regulations Discussion

Refrigerant regulations are in constant flux, making it extremely difficult to stay current on the latest changes and information. Emerson’s regulation experts, Rajan Rajendran and Jennifer Butsch will highlight some of the latest regulatory updates and refrigerant options to help get you up to speed.

In addition, Emerson’s Ken Monnier will explore several industry trends that could potentially impact you over the next decade.

During this interactive discussion, you’ll have opportunities to ask some of your most pressing questions and share thoughts on measures that attendees might leverage to address today’s challenges.

E360 Breakfast: HVACR Refrigerants & Regulations Discussion

When                                                   Where

Tuesday, February 4                         Orange County Convention Center

8 – 9:30 a.m.                                     Room: W205 (West Concourse), Level II

9800 International Drive

Orlando, FL  32819

Afterward, you’ll be ready to hit the AHR Expo floor. We hope your first stop is the Emerson booth (#2101), where you can take a close look at some of our exciting technologies:

 

  • Copeland™ AWEF compliant condensing units for walk-In coolers and freezers — take energy efficiency regulations out of the equation with condensing units certified to meet AWEF requirements.
  • Copeland Scroll™ Digital Outdoor Refrigeration Unit, X-Line Series learn how precise temperature control and significant energy savings are made possible with latest innovation in variable capacity modulation technology.
  • Copeland™ Modular Indoor Solution — see how our AHR Innovation Award finalist provides an all-in-one micro-distributed solution for food retailers, restaurants and convenience stores with display cases and walk-in boxes.
  • Supervisory Controls — learn why retailers large and small rely on this total-facility platform to monitor, optimize and control their refrigeration systems, HVAC, lighting and more.
  • Connect+ Enterprise Management Software — get an inside look at our newest IoT-enabled software suite designed provide advanced operational efficiencies across a multi-site retail network.

Register now to reserve your seat at this informative, idea-filled E360 Breakfast — a great way to start your day at AHR!

 

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.

 

Bringing the Need for Qualified Technicians Into Focus on National STEM Day

benpicker Ben Picker | Product Manager – Copeland Condensing Units

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

National STEM Day is Nov. 8. From Emerson’s perspective, it’s a day to recognize the importance of science, technology, engineering and math — not only in our education curriculum, but also in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) industries.

Bringing the Need for Qualified Technicians Into Focus on National STEM Day

Bringing the Need for Qualified Technicians Into Focus on National STEM Day

With the commercial refrigeration industry evolving to utilize more sophisticated technologies, technician jobs are becoming more technological than mechanical — and becoming viable options for those pursuing a STEM career path. A new workforce recruitment initiative by the Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) is addressing the technician shortage head-on via a new full-length documentary.

HVACR supply chain feeling the impacts

The impacts of the service technician shortage are being felt throughout the HVACR supply chain. While the vast majority of HVACR contracting business owners today are actively looking for technicians, this pain has far-reaching consequences — from wholesaler distributors to end users, owners and operators. Whether you’re operating a supermarket, c-store, restaurant or virtually any facility that has HVACR needs, the lack of qualified technicians is making it increasingly difficult to find reliable sources for new installations, routine servicing or emergency repairs.

And while industry stakeholders have been sounding the alarms for nearly a decade, it’s a problem that’s not going away. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVACR mechanic and installer jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 15 percent nationwide through 2026.

A perfect storm of market trends, technological advancements and demographic changes are compounding the issue. This is especially true in refrigeration, where shifting store formats and environmental regulations have led to a proliferation of system types. These systems are introducing connected technologies, electronics and alternative refrigerants, many of which represent completely new servicing procedures. As the industry struggles to attract a new generation of recruits, many of our current service technicians are scrambling to keep pace with these system changes, or are planning for retirement.

HARDI releases “Hot Commodity”

The goal of HARDI’s new workforce recruitment initiative is to spread awareness of the HVACR wholesale distribution industry to the younger generation and encourage these individuals to pursue an HVACR career path. To spearhead this effort, HARDI is releasing a documentary that exemplifies their mission and explores the many HVACR-related career opportunities.

While the full-length film has yet to be released, HARDI is currently promoting a short trailer of the documentary. As one of the professionals featured in the film states, now’s the time “for the younger generation to carry the ball” forward.

The themes presented in the documentary include:

  • Alternative to traditional college — Many high school students are encouraged to attend college, even if it’s not necessarily the best fit. Vocational and technical schools offer an alternative to traditional college, while allowing attendees to begin earning a living as they learn.
  • Financial viability — With a median annual salary of $47,080, HVACR technician profession earnings are significantly higher than other occupations, even though the job doesn’t require a four-year degree. As one of the contractors in the film explained, it’s possible for service technicians with 10 years of experience to earn as much $100K per year. Increased demand for these jobs is driving salaries upward.
  • Variety of career paths — Whether you’re coming out of high school, or college, or seeking a career change, there are multiple opportunities and positions to explore. For example, the film mentions a microbiologist who sought a career change offering the potential to achieve ideal indoor air quality.
  • Changing perceptions — The perception of working in a dirty, dark and dangerous environment is changing. The next generation of HVACR technicians will work with rapidly changing, emerging technologies, electronics, computers and more.
  • Evergreen market — Achieving ideal air quality and reliable refrigeration in a dynamic market is an evergreen opportunity. As a result, HVACR professions are among the most sustainable across all occupations.

 

As a HARDI supporter and long-time champion of this cause, Emerson will continue to do its part to raise awareness of the technician shortage facing our industry. Our Educational Services group frequently partners with vocational and technical schools to donate equipment, offer training and career advice, and even judge HVACR-related competitions. Look for the full HARDI documentary to be released later this year.

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