Increasing Operational System Efficiency in Retail Food Industry

The retail food industry, including restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, convenience stores, and gas stations, demands refrigerated display cases and cold storage units that perform as efficiently and reliably as possible. By combining high efficiency smart electric motors and new technologies such as smart wireless connectivity, these increased efficiencies and reliable up time can be realized. This means lower total cost of ownership, fewer emergency service calls, and more money in your pocket at the end of the day.

Energy Consumption and Motor Life

A focus on reducing energy consumption in recent years means that a majority of the industry has already made the change over from shaded pole motors to electronically commutated motors (ECM). These ECM motors provide peak efficiencies up to three times higher than shaded pole motors and 45% higher than permanent split capacitator (PSC) motors.

Some older electric motors tend to be subject to critical loads, which makes the temperatures raise too high and puts additional stress on the motor. Newer motors that are tracked by internal electronics prevent this from happening by reducing the motor speed when the temperature reaches a certain limit. Since the motor can protect itself from challenging working environments (or sometimes even improper installation), the life of the motor can be extended.

Smart ECM motors can sense the environment and working conditions inside the refrigeration case. Smart ECM motors are an effective and informative sensor system that give the operator critical insights into the workings of not just the motor, but the entire refrigeration system.

Improved Operational Efficiency with Smart Connectivity

Your goal is always to keep your refrigeration system up and running to prevent the risk of food loss. By pairing your electric motors to a smart system, you can receive notifications in real-time alerting to the operating condition of your refrigeration. These sensors and installed motors can detect changes in conditions such as temperature, fan speed, and motor power draw. These alarms allow users to take action to correct an issue before it becomes a bigger problem.

One of the most common application failures is issues with defrosting. If your case isn’t properly defrosting, you will notice a buildup of ice. Over time, this ice will prevent the case from being able to maintain the proper temperature. In the past, this would mean that someone would have to come to either rescue the food and move it elsewhere, or the food would need to be thrown out. Then, you would need a technician to de-ice the coil and make the repair. However, with smart systems we can detect the defrost cycle using a defrost detection algorithm and get a warning ahead of time. This allows operators to solve the problem before it become critical and before product loss occurs.

Another common application issue in refrigeration cases is the leakage of water into the motor. In the past, this meant having to send someone into the store to turn off all the fans, then letting the water drain out, and then finally turning the fans back on. With smart connected motors, you can drain water remotely, set up a timed profile that will drain water automatically, or even synchronize your motors within a unit to all turn off at the same time.

Smart motors can also detect blockages based on the load on the fan. For example, if a piece of lettuce clogs the fan, you could be alerted to the fan blockage as soon as the changes in the condition occurred. This real-time information allows you to act on the issue before it causes a larger issue like a full case failure. Early warning about problems with airflow delivery result in shorted service calls conducted during normal business hours – meaning you can say goodbye to emergency service call rates.

Maintenance Costs

The shortage of technicians to service commercial refrigeration units is keeping service costs high and wait times long. Because of this, it can be difficult to keep ahead of maintenance issues. Being able to switch from reactive maintenance to proactive maintenance can save your organization significant money. Send your limited service staff to the right locations with the right knowledge to make corrections to system operations as preventative and not reactive maintenance.

Remote monitoring can also help keep your staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Instead of needing to send a service technician around to each store to check all refrigeration, with smart motors you can check these operating parameters remotely with a connected dashboard.

Other Beneficial Features

There are other electric motor features that are trending in the commercial refrigeration industry. These include:

  • Compactness/size of the motor- retail stores want as much real estate in their cases as possible
  • Motor noise levels- retailers want a quiet motor to provide a pleasant experience to customers
  • Ingress Protection (IP) rating- to provide motors protection from water and dust

Looking to the Future

In the future, we expect to see whole building integration that will tie refrigeration systems to other systems in one monitoring program. It’s important to “future-proof” your system when upgrading motors. Choose a plug and play option that will give you the flexibility to be integrated if you should ever have the need. Systems supporting cloud to cloud integration, BACNET support, and flexible architectures are key to building our future refrigeration systems.

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