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Posts tagged ‘Technology’

Applying Artificial Intelligence to Commercial Refrigeration

Charles Larkin | Director of Data and Analytics, Cold Chain

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Over the past decade, artificial intelligence (AI) has become an ever-present aspect of everyday life. From e-commerce and smartphone functions to social media to modern industry, AI and advanced machine learning (ML) algorithms analyze continuous streams of data to derive predictive insights and optimize performance. Although these data science techniques are not new to commercial refrigeration, food retail and foodservice operators have been relatively slow to embrace AI’s vast potential. I recently participated in an ACHR The News article where we discussed AI’s barriers to adoption and how Emerson is helping to prove the value of AI to its customers.

AI is not a new concept for the food retail and foodservice industries. Many prominent retailers are already using AI techniques in customer-focused areas of their businesses, such as personalizing their consumer rewards and loyalty programs. In fact, several leverage in-house data science teams to champion these initiatives. But when it comes to turning AI’s focus toward refrigeration, very few have the domain expertise or experience applying AI to other critical facility systems — which can be significantly more complex and require a completely different knowledge base.

Another barrier to implementing AI in commercial refrigeration is the challenge of aggregating different sources and types of operational data into a useable format. Many food retailers already have some type of control system in place. Since different control system vendors collect and process data differently, it can be difficult to ensure the accuracy and consistency of the data. In addition, many vendor systems have proprietary constraints that don’t allow data to be shared easily.

Although the industry recognizes the potential of AI to deliver value in commercial refrigeration, food retailers and their servicing teams still have questions about its role in their operations. Demonstrating the value of AI across a wide range of food retail applications will be necessary in order to remove these doubts.

Engaging in proof-of-concept trials

At Emerson, one of the most important jobs we have is to provide the expertise and data science programs to build the business case for AI’s potential value to our customers. As a refrigeration controls, components and equipment manufacturer, we are focused on developing AI-enabled controls and integrated equipment that can deliver numerous benefits for operators and contractors alike.

Currently, we are engaging some of our customers in short-term, proof-of-concept trial periods. This gives us opportunities to demonstrate how our AI and ML solutions can integrate with their operations and deliver the potential for long-term, continuous refrigeration performance improvements. Once they see how quickly we’re able to deliver value and offer a return on investment (ROI), they’re much more interested in exploring a longer-term engagement.

The core of AI and ML technologies resides within the system control devices, which are typically incorporated into the equipment itself. By capturing data from sensors, modern equipment controls can perform a variety of key system optimization functions — from system fault protection and diagnostics to performance management and event scheduling. And in many instances, we can enable these capabilities without having to perform a significant retrofit.

Many of our existing customers already have a data-rich infrastructure — including sensors, controls and modems — that we can tap into and begin delivering insights. We often recommend installing additional sensors, which is relatively inexpensive compared to a full retrofit.

Adding up the advantages

As for the advantages that AI offers, not only can it deliver significant reliability and longevity benefits to commercial refrigeration equipment, but it can also address an ever-expanding variety of store operator and contractor concerns. For operators, we’re building data models that help them to optimize food quality and safety and reduce waste — in applicable case types and perishable food categories.

For contractors, we’re developing ML algorithms that are designed to detect asset health or condition issues. Over time, this data will allow retailers and their contractors to:

  • Implement more predictive maintenance programs
  • Reduce energy costs
  • Keep assets running in optimum condition

Today, Emerson is leveraging AI and ML to optimize critical aspects of our customers’ operations. Our solutions utilize sensors that deliver data to powerful control devices — such as the new Lumity™ E3 supervisory control — and integrate with advanced, cloud-based software. By leveraging the deep domain expertise of our refrigeration engineers, we’re able to create data models that maximize refrigeration performance and help our customers to achieve a variety of key food retail and foodservice objectives.

STEM Day Brings Emerson’s Yearlong Efforts Into Focus

Ken Monnier | Chief Technology Officer,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

November 8 is Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEM/STEAM) Day — a time when the nation pauses to recognize the importance of these disciplines within our educational curricula. At Emerson, we are committed to supporting STEM initiatives year-round, and STEM Day allows us to reflect on the year’s activities and plan for what’s to come. In a historically male-dominated industry, it’s particularly important for Emerson to celebrate the contributions of women in our organization and create an environment where they can thrive and succeed. Let’s look at some of the ways we’re leveraging STEM initiatives to help create the next generation of engineers and support the increased inclusion of women within our industry.

Women in STEM (WiS) program charter and achievements

Emerson created its global WiS program to attract, develop and retain the top women candidates in STEM-related roles, enhance the diversity of ideas and approaches for the benefit of our customers, and fully deliver on our “Consider It Solved” promise. The program supports generations of women in all stages of their careers, from schoolchildren who are just beginning to think of their futures to professionals and senior executives who are navigating their career paths.

Based on some of the metrics gathered, we are well on our way to achieving the goals of this charter.

  • Membership increased to more than 5,000 global members
  • STEM-related webinar event attendance increased by 60%
  • Local chapter (Sidney, Ohio) membership increased by 10%
  • Launched a new global WiS SharePoint site
  • Ranked as #12 on Women Engineer Magazine’s list of top companies to work for
  • Awarded Gold, Best Practice Outreach and Best Practice Professional Partnerships by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE)

These achievements are indicative of the three guiding principles of our WiS program:

  1. Attract and inspire young girls to pursue STEM subjects and careers while recruiting top STEM female candidates to work at Emerson
  2. Provide opportunities to develop leadership skills and elevate the visibility for women in STEM-related roles
  3. Create an inclusive, connected community where women in STEM feel supported and have a sense of belonging throughout Emerson; provide a platform to highlight women in STEM as role models across Emerson

Emerson’s WiS program enables us to facilitate community outreach throughout our global offices and places of business. For example, the local WiS chapter in our Sidney, Ohio, location includes more than 100 members comprised not only of Sidney branch employees, but also extending out into other local manufacturing and engineering-related companies.

Ongoing commitment to STEM education, activities and events

Even though the past two years have made it difficult to plan and host in-person, STEM-related events, Emerson has continued to develop a series of educational webinars and promotional activities focused on professional development, social networking and STEM outreach to schools and universities. These activities include:

  • Sponsoring a cardboard boat race during the Summer Olympics
  • Celebrating Pi Day with pi-inspired games and the distribution of moon pies
  • Hosting a WiS online trivia event
  • Conducting educational webinars with prominent female executives and keynote speakers

Collectively, these achievements, educational events and promotional activities represent our ongoing commitment to furthering STEM careers and related disciplines — within Emerson and the global workforce. Emerson’s ongoing WiS efforts are having a direct impact on our business, transforming our culture and infusing it with fresh perspectives and insights that make us a more well-rounded and successful organization.

 

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 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.

 

Evaluating Sustainable Supermarket Refrigeration Technology

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Progressive Grocer recently interviewed me about Emerson’s and the commercial refrigeration industry’s efforts to help promote the emergence of more sustainable, refrigeration technologies. The complete article can be found here.

Evaluating Sustainable Supermarket Refrigeration Technologyd

It’s not news that supermarkets are under continuous regulatory pressure to not only lower the energy demand of their refrigeration systems, but also to make the transition to low global warming potential (GWP) and zero ozone depletion (ODP) systems. The permanent ban on R-22, long the industry standard, becomes official on January 1, 2020.

What is news is how intensely suppliers and retailers are focused on and sharing information on sustainability initiatives intended to sharply reduce the costs and impact of their refrigeration systems, both in anticipation of future regulations and to attain long-term economic and environmental sustainability.

As different manufacturers approach these issues with a variety of new technology options, the challenge becomes defining new standards for sustainable products and systems, so that the industry can converge on proven, synergistic solutions.

Taking a full system’s approach to sustainability

At Emerson, our approach to sustainability is based on a multi-faceted goal. First, sustain the environment through lower-GWP refrigerant and technology choices. Second, sustain companies financially from a total cost of ownership perspective. And third, focus on energy efficiency as a path to sustainability through forward-looking engineering and the implementation of new monitoring and control technologies, particularly Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities.

At Emerson, we take a full system approach to evaluate the sustainability of new and existing technologies in the context of multiple key selection criteria. This is part of Emerson’s “Six S’s” approach to refrigeration sustainability: simple, serviceable, secure, stable, smart and sustainable.

(To learn more about the rationale, methodology, application and impact of Emerson’s “Six S’s” philosophy, read the blog found here.)

Exploring the potential of natural refrigerants

One area of Emerson’s focus is our work to better understand and then implement emerging natural refrigerants, such as R-744 (carbon dioxide) and R-290 (propane) for different types of applications.

Recent innovations include the development of an integrated display-case architecture. This R-290 system is designed to use one or more compressors and supporting components within cases, removing exhaust heat through a shared water loop — incorporating our expertise in R-290 compressors and our experience with stand-alone condensing units. We’ve also developed a full range of CO2 system technologies, including valves and controls for both small and large applications. For cold storage applications, our modular refrigeration units utilize both CO2 and ammonia-based refrigerant configurations.

Early adopters pave the road to the future

Over the past decade, there have been many retailers committed to testing sustainable refrigeration technologies and low-GWP refrigerants in their stores. For example, the article quoted Wayne Posa of Ahold Delhaize USA, who discussed the company’s transition from R-22, stating: “Food Lion has been committed to zero-ODP and low-GWP refrigerants for several years.”

Different manufacturers are taking different approaches to studying and applying refrigerants and technologies to reach that goal, from the use of hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerants (such as R-448A and R-450) in distributed refrigeration systems to proven CO2-based system architectures.

In the area of refrigerants — let alone technologies in development for increased energy efficiency and remote monitoring and control — the refrigeration industry continues its search for a new standard. As Brian Beitler of Coolsys, a consulting and contract engineering firm explains, “Between transcritical, ejector systems, NH3 over CO2, cascade, propane, multidistributed and hybrid gas coolers, the jury is still out.”

As we move closer to the most sustainable standard for refrigerants, Emerson continues its work on total refrigeration system sustainability — in refrigerants, energy efficiency, and control — as guided by our “Six S’s” philosophy. This work is our road map to the future.

 

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