Facility Controls Help Food Retailers Remain Competitive
Originally published: 11.01.16 by Ron Chapek
HVACR contractors can assist with cost-effective operations
The food retail industry is constantly evolving. Supermarket chains are offering shoppers new convenient and niche food options. Convenience stores are providing more foodservice selections, and quick serve restaurants are integrating refrigeration cases into their facilities.
All of these retail channels are responding to shifting consumer demands, intense competition, razor-thin profit margins and changes in store formats. Many retailers are proactively seeking flexible infrastructures to meet these needs without sacrificing sales or increasing costs.
Integrated Facility Control
Retailers are quickly realizing that having disparate facility systems is not the most beneficial setup for store management and may not deliver the best operational results. An integrated facility management system that combines energy management with the ability to monitor and control store equipment can help retailers to improve operations and energy efficiency.
Integrated facility management systems provide HVACR system control, monitoring of complex refrigeration systems and lighting management. These controls provide alerts when there are potential issues with critical equipment.
Some systems can monitor and report energy consumption, and retailers can use that data to take action to reduce the energy demand during peak periods. This ability to monitor store conditions can potentially minimize energy usage and have a direct impact on utility bills by reducing total energy costs.
As food retail stores become more complex, scalability is imperative. Retailers need inclusive facility solutions that fit a variety of formats, new technology and equipment. Food retailers can connect existing equipment or new versions of devices functioning on different operating systems — throughout the store with integrated facility controls.
Connecting all store equipment, from building and energy management systems to commercial kitchen and foodservice equipment, offers valuable facility insights to better retail operations. With an integrated facility management system, retailers gain visibility and control of their entire enterprise of stores with remote access from one central location.
Facility management is often enhanced with use of remote monitoring services, which allow precise tracking of store conditions and issue alerts when equipment is not operating properly.
End users are able to access real-time performance data and receive analytics reports about what is happening at the store level — as well as across an entire chain — and take appropriate action to remedy problems.
Third-party remote monitoring centers are staffed around the clock to remotely process, triage and resolve alarms. Monitoring and evaluation of this timely information on energy expenditure, maintenance costs, refrigerant leaks and shrink causes provides retailers with powerful insights to help with everyday decision making around operational improvement.
Remote monitoring can oversee and improve energy consumption at individual locations or enterprise-wide using set-points and alarm management. These services enable centralized data collection and real-time views into HVACR and lighting systems, allowing retail management to identify potential issues and diagnose system problems early before shoppers notice — or it effects food quality.
The use of remote monitoring and diagnostics can verify that store equipment has been maintained at the proper intervals and specifications to avoid future maintenance issues. Isolating these potential problems and shrink causes allow retailers to make operational improvements that result in substantial cost savings.
Retailers can also use preventive maintenance measures to reduce equipment downtime and avoid costly issues that could negatively affect the customer shopping experience.
Remote monitoring services can also provide food quality reporting to accurately and efficiently monitor case temperatures to ensure fresh, quality food. This data will help retailers to authenticate a fresh foods narrative as they look to comply with food safety regulations and to create a competitive advantage in today’s increasingly competitive industry.
With the collection of product temperatures and valuable data as foods move throughout the cold chain “from farm to fork,” retailers will not only be able to safeguard their food supply, but also authenticate their freshness messaging.
Important Role for Contractors
Increased visibility into system performance and consistency across an enterprise of stores is enabled with integrated facility controls and remote monitoring services. These capabilities also support retailers as they face the increasing difficulty of maintaining a skilled technical workforce.
The market for qualified in-house technicians is tight, but contractors can fill this gap by leveraging their personnel and taking advantage of technology that utilizes human-centered design for improved usability and intuitive operation.
With a centralized facility management platform and actionable insights through monitoring services, HVACR contractors can assist retail end users with attaining operational improvements through proper equipment maintenance, efficient service and actionable insights.
Below are some of the benefits you can offer to your retail partners:
Quicker, more efficient installations. For contractors, implementing installations correctly the first time is the best way to secure and maintain a relationship with food retail clients.
Employing the Internet of Things (IoT) to implement connected devices takes this a step further. Many grocery and food retail facilities currently utilize building management systems to control HVAC, lighting and refrigeration.
Integrating all store equipment into the existing management system through the latest connected technology is a beneficial solution for these operators.
Remotely update equipment. HVACR contractors also have the ability to access facility systems remotely to manage settings, software and firmware updates through IoT, rather than manually onsite.
Traditionally, a contractor may install a new program separately at each location, or central management would mail the program on a disk or flash drive, and need to trust that the store employees will correctly install the updates manually.
This traditional process is time consuming and lacks confirmation that the system was installed and is operating properly. In newer, connected facility management systems, settings, software and firmware can be updated remotely, ensuring consistency and accuracy across an enterprise of stores.
The process can be completed and validated quickly, allowing the equipment to be configured and operating more effectively, faster.
Decrease unnecessary service calls. Monitoring services provide the ability to troubleshoot a potential equipment issue remotely. HVACR personnel can log into the software to view the status of various connected equipment and work to solve problems in real-time. In some cases, contractors can fix the issue remotely, reducing nuisance dispatches to the store.
Effective dispatch of experienced technicians. In the event of a service issue that requires an HVACR contractor visit, end users can be certain that knowledgeable, experienced technicians are dispatched to fix equipment issues. They will be aware of the alarm situation before arriving onsite so that technicians can be sure they bring the proper equipment needed to resolve the issue.
Contractors can also be dispatched for multiple system issues at one time, as remote monitoring can allow retailers to bundle work orders for efficiency onsite. With these insights and access to qualified technicians, food retailers can focus their store employees on serving customers.
Food retailers that manage multiple sites and chains of stores usually have overstretched store staff and may not have an effective way to benchmark facilities, track equipment operations in real-time, diagnose issues, or assess the ROI of efficiency measures.
Working with qualified HVACR owners and managers to implement the latest integrated facility management systems and leveraging insights from remote monitoring services will help retailers make better informed decisions for operational improvement.
You can position yourself as a valuable partner to retailers today by helping them better understand and implement these connected technologies to achieve increased control of HVACR and lighting systems, ultimately improving energy efficiency, reducing maintenance costs and enhancing store operations.
Ron Chapek is a senior product manager responsible for Emerson Climate Technologies’ ProAct Enterprise Software and Services. Over his 30-year career in sales and product/strategic marketing management roles, he has focused on bringing new products to market for the PC-based data acquisition, industrial automation and process control-SCADA and intelligent building segments. Most recently, his focus has been on leveraging new software tools and platforms to better serve the multi-site retail segment.