John Rhodes |Group President, Cold Chain Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business
Putting our technologies and knowledge to work in pursuit of a better planet is in our DNA at Emerson. It’s ingrained throughout our culture and reinforced in our Purpose: We drive innovation that makes the world healthier, safer, smarter and more sustainable.
Our newest innovation – a unique refrigeration technology developed at our Helix Innovation Center in Dayton, Ohio – will help the local community, where the concept first came to life. Gem City Market, a collaborative grocery store with the mission to equip, engage and empower our neighborhoods will be the recipient of our donation which was made in partnership with Hussmann and Chemours who donated additional refrigeration equipment in service of this initiative. We are proud to help through one of our core areas of expertise: providing sustainable refrigeration technology that can help protect food quality and safety.
The location of Gem City Market qualifies as a “food desert,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. In order to meet the standards of a food desert, more than 40% of the population must have an income of less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty threshold and live more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.
Food deserts are a persistent problem in many communities, and supply chain barriers to accessing healthy, affordable food contribute to this global issue. Many local and smaller retail stores within distance of underserved communities struggle to get their shelves stocked with local produce and fresh food due to the lack of perceived customer demand, limited technology and the lack of infrastructure to refrigerate these goods properly.
There are alternatives to costly full-scale refrigeration systems typically seen in supermarkets. Our new Copeland™ scroll booster refrigeration technology will help combat the issue of limited infrastructure to properly store perishables at Gem City Market. The first commercialization of technology developed at our Helix Innovation Center in Dayton, the Copeland scroll booster is a new-to-the-world flexible refrigeration architecture. This booster technology enables Gem City to use a lower global warming potential refrigerant to store food at its optimal temperature, helping them meet their sustainability goals and achieve stringent regulatory compliance.
Our scroll booster technology is a new architecture option for those who are in search of sustainable solutions – and is a testament to the power of innovation and collaboration. When committed people come together, we can create options for families to shop for nutritious food in their own communities. And when problem solvers come together in the name of leaving the world a better place, they are truly unstoppable.
John Rhodes |Group President, Cold Chain Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business
On this Earth Day (Thursday, April 22), more than a billion people around the globe will take stock of the planet’s health and the actions we all can do to protect the environment.
This year’s theme is “Restore Our Earth”. At Emerson, we see this as a call to action that we simply cannot ignore. Climate change and resource conservation are among the most pressing challenges facing our planet. According to NASA, Earth’s global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record. It is just one of many data points that show we have work to do to reverse a long-term warming trend.
The commercial refrigeration sector has been focused on mitigating climate change for decades. The Montreal Protocol, ratified in 1987, resulted in a successful effort to ban refrigerants with ozone depletion potential (ODP). In 2019, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol created a framework for phasing down the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP).
However, phasing down high-GWP refrigerants is not enough to halt climate change on its own. We must also consider the total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) of commercial refrigeration systems — which takes into account direct emissions and the energy required to run these systems.
Emerson is committed to helping our customers to understand, navigate and comply with environmental and regulatory challenges. By providing solutions and guidance that promote sustainability and conservation, we are partners in the race to reduce commercial refrigeration’s TEWI.
Committed to global sustainability initiatives
At Emerson, we share a unified purpose to drive innovation that makes the world healthier, safer, smarter and more sustainable. Our planet is among the five causes supported by this important initiative, which drives us to deliver sustainable solutions that improve efficiency, reduce emissions, and conserve resources.
Around the world, we have intensified our efforts to be more efficient in our energy usage and reduce the intensity of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But we know that’s not enough. Sustainability measures have a greater impact when they are part of a team effort. To that end, we have established an environmental sustainability framework that reflects our drive to be a partner for change. This “greening” framework defines our environmental initiatives according to three categories:
Greening OF — driving down our GHG emissions intensity by 20 percent by 2028
Greening BY — providing products, solutions and services to help our customers transition to a low-carbon future
Greening WITH — engaging with external stakeholders to develop innovative solutions and shape future policy
In short, we are continually innovating and fine-tuning technologies, tools and insights to help operators and businesses meet their own environmental, social and governance initiatives.
For example, consider our efforts in the cold chain. Using technology and data-driven insights, cold chain stakeholders can create greater temperature stability and certainty. This, in turn, can curb energy usage and reduce waste at every step along the journey from farm to consumer and beyond. Our cold chain solutions encompass an ever-widening scope:
Managing refrigeration — Continuing advances in refrigeration technology, monitoring and controls help operators to maintain proper temperatures, comply with food safety regulations and reduce spoilage.
Optimizing facilities and reducing energy — A commercial refrigeration system accounts for 40 to 60 percent of total electricity consumption in supermarkets. Advanced asset management solutions enable operators to optimize refrigeration, HVAC and lighting systems for greater facility and enterprise-wide energy efficiency.
Reducing food waste — End-to-end cold chain solutions help ensure refrigeration reliability via equipment, systems and monitoring technologies to extend shelf life and prevent waste.
Converting waste to energy — Food recycling turns wasted food into an energy-rich slurry that can be used for energy production.
Electrifying the supply chain — Replacing diesel-powered refrigerated transport systems with environmentally friendly electric solutions.
Renewing energy — Explore technologies to capture biogas from landfills and transform it into renewable energy.
When component manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), contractors and end users collaborate to develop ambitious solutions, everyone — including the planet — benefits.
Lower-GWP refrigerants continue to factor into sustainability plans
Advanced refrigeration technologies and new architecture strategies are providing operators with greater control over TEWI. However, in the quest for greener refrigeration, refrigerants still take center stage. Global policy and state and new federal rulemaking, including the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act), reassert our country’s commitment to phase down HFC refrigerants.
Many retailers and restaurants are leading the way in exploring low-GWP refrigerant options. For some, this means retrofitting existing refrigeration architectures to transition to lower-GWP A1 refrigerants, such as R-448A/R-449A. Others are diving in by adopting greener options, such as R-290 integrated cases and CO2 transcritical and/or cascade systems. Meanwhile, our industry is closely evaluating the progression of A2L refrigerant safety standards in the U.S., as these mildly flammable alternatives offer very low-GWP levels and are gaining wider adoption in Europe.
Whether you’re looking to transition to lower-GWP refrigerants or lessen your TEWI, Emerson has the products and resources to support your goals. Our solutions can help you to optimize your facility operations, reduce energy use, minimize equipment failures, improve food quality and safety, and achieve regulatory compliance. Together, we can restore our planet for a better future.
In a recent Progressive Grocer article, I described how business leaders are leveraging the internet of things (IoT) and connected technologies to achieve much tighter integration along every step of food’s journey to consumers, addressing some of the most challenging problems currently plaguing the food cold chain: food safety and food waste.
Consider what’s involved in bringing food to our tables. The process typically starts at a farm; proceeds to a processing plant; enters the transportation and logistics stream; arrives at a storage or distribution facility; and is delivered to retailers. Think about the many opportunities for errors along these steps — such as time in transport, temperatures and humidity. It’s easy to see how quickly and easily food quality can be impacted. We’re often reminded that these problems can lead to food safety issues for consumers and businesses. But too often, the related problem of food waste is overlooked.
A fully IoT-connected and integrated cold chain has the potential to change that.
Mitigating the cost of food waste
According to a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 1.6 billion tons of food — the equivalent of $1.2 trillion — are wasted each year, essentially reducing total global food production by one-third. It’s a staggering amount that if left unchecked, could reach costs of $1.5 trillion by 2030.1
The study looked at the potential for loss at every stage of the food supply chain. IoT can help combat the food waste crisis at every step.
In the article, I cited one area that’s particularly problematic: fresh produce, which represents 46 percent of the total output lost each year. To illustrate how IoT sensors provide real-time tracking, monitoring and analytics of food conditions, I tracked the journey of a single strawberry from the moment of its harvest to a retailer’s shelf, showing how producers can use IoT to greatly extend perishable shelf life and improve the quality of fresh produce.
IoT can connect historically disconnected supply chain providers to make a real difference in maintaining food quality and freshness and combat food waste. Per the BCG study, “An unbroken, temperature-controlled ‘cold chain’ can help to reduce spoilage significantly.”2 By boosting the food supply chain’s efficiencies and its underlying infrastructures, the potential exists for $270 billion in food preservation gains annually. Simply put, reducing food shrinkage translates into significant bottom line increases for producers and retailers alike.
Building a more sustainable cold chain
Emerson is actively collaborating with leading cold chain providers who are embracing IoT for its potential to match fresh food with growing consumer demand. Our connected solutions draw on decades of global experience in refrigeration, controls, communication, analytics and insights. We work to track, trace and monitor critical data points, making the connections needed to ensure the appropriate handling of perishable foods from farm to table, creating sustainable solutions that are good for businesses, consumers and the global food supply chain.
Integration of digital technology has dramatically changed the cold chain landscape. This blog summarizes my recent article, “Digital Transformation Helps Drive Tighter Cold Chain Integration”. Read the full article here.
Digital technologies, data mining and analytics tools are dominating the modern economy, transforming nearly every aspect of how we operate. Businesses are beginning to realize the power of data and how it can be used to improve the customer experience, grow market share and improve operational performance — all culminating in what’s commonly being referred to as the digital transformation. This transformation has the potential to bring significant benefits to several areas of the industry, including food safety, energy conservation and refrigerant management, to name a few.
Today, retailers have access to more data than ever before, allowing for new opportunities to innovate and implement more comprehensive management in the cold chain. Rather than narrowing focus onto one section of the business, operators can now think across entire enterprises and supply chains for broader insights and deeper intelligence into how their stores are operating and learn where they can improve and innovate.
One factor that makes this transformation so interesting is the amount of commitment industry leaders are putting into developing deeper, stronger relationships with their customers, rather than using the newfound data to exploit sales opportunities. Customers have rewarded this dedication and innovation with increasing loyalty — which translates into better sales.
A recent example of the potential data has to help solve problems in the cold chain was the concern surrounding an outbreak of foodborne illness from romaine lettuce purchased at grocery outlets. After customers got sick and the story hit the 24/7 news cycle, many demanded to know where the contamination had occurred. In this case, technology and data were essential in tracking the instance of contamination to a specific farm. But this example is just the tip of the iceberg.
A similar, data-driven approach can allow retail stores to reduce their energy costs during peak demand periods. By connecting building management systems (BMS) to the local energy provider, companies can limit or avoid “peak time surcharges” that are assessed when the greatest amounts of energy are required. The BMS receives notices from the utility when demand reduction opportunities arise and, through a demand response program, retailers can automatically shut down non-essential equipment and optimize energy use.
The amplitude of data available from this digital transformation is ushering in an intriguing period in cold chain history. At Emerson, we see this happening not in grandiose, intangible, all-consuming approaches, but in the expansion of existing, proven technologies coupled with the use of emerging digital assets to create new insights.
As the iterative development of connected, adjacent systems accelerates and becomes more powerful, there will be opportunities to revolutionize how companies operate. We at Emerson are here to help you make this critical cold chain transition a reality for your business.
Final rulings signify start of next phase of transition
For two years, the commercial refrigeration industry has been reeling from a one-two regulatory punch from the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. This convergence of aggressive regulations was unprecedented for our industry.
Commercial & Residential Solutions is a global innovator of energy-efficient heating, air conditioning and refrigeration solutions for residential, industrial and commercial applications. www.climate.emerson.com
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