When is it Time to Consider a Refrigeration Monitoring and Control System?

As more and more companies incorporate aspects of IoT and smart technologies into their day-to-day operations—from adaptive air-conditioning controls to motion-activated office lights to inside air quality sensors—one area for substantial improvement continues to be overlooked: commercial and industrial refrigeration. Most people couldn’t live without their car dashboard warnings, their smart phones, or their cloud storage of pictures, videos, and documents. These types of technologies have radically changed how we interact with and use data. At a rapid pace, it’s being adopted across any and all industries, but still, mostly except for one.

 

Ask yourself these 10 questions to consider whether or not it’s time for your business to procure a refrigeration monitoring and control system.

 

Have you lost a compressor before?

 

We will start the list off with a rather obvious one. If you’ve lost a compressor before, you know all too well the headache and financial burden it causes. Repairing a failed compressor is expensive; replacing one can, in some cases, be impossible due to the cost. Many of our customers in the retail or foodservice industries would not be able to absorb the multi-thousand dollar surprise bill that comes with needing a new compressor, for example. And our customers with large cold storage facilities, in which a refrigerated space is maintained with multiple compressors, losing one can put unnecessary strain on its compatriots, which could lead to quicker erosion of the other units. In essence, a domino effect of equipment issues, and a mounting pile of costs.

 

And if you haven’t lost a compressor, why the run the risk of doing so? A 2006 study conducted by the Department of Energy Technology at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, found that of the sample refrigeration systems they monitored, 87% were operating with a mechanical fault present. Hard-to-notice issues like short cycling or stuck-open solenoid valves won’t prevent your refrigeration system from running, but they will expedite the erosion process. Some monitoring platforms, like NRM’s own Remote Site Manager, provide instant notifications and visual representations of such issues.

 

An example of a visual representation of a freezer short-cycling.

 

Does your cooler or cold room require rigid temperature control?

 

For drink coolers in convenience stores, or frozen-food freezers in supermarkets, a miniscule temperature deadband might not make or break their operations. One degree, most likely, will not impact how cold you perceive your Mountain Dew to be. But what if you’re storing chemical compounds? Or pharmaceuticals? Or blood samples? In these cases, temperatures must continuously maintain their exact temperature requirements. Not only for the products’ own safety, but in most instances to also adhere to a corporate or federal regulation standard. With a monitoring and controls system implemented into your refrigeration operation, you can ensure your temperatures are precise at all times and be notified if they fall out of range.

 

Are you required to track and log temperatures on a routine basis?

 

Much like with temperature requirements, many companies must keep a running log of temperatures for either corporate or federal standards. For example, one of our beer-distribution customers was required to provide hourly temperatures in a monthly spreadsheet to their parent company. With our Remote Site Manager platform, the tracking and logging processes became automated, and compiled into downloadable spreadsheets (for up to 10 years worth of data).

 

Eliminate the human aspect of logging temperatures with a monitoring and controls system. People make mistakes, miss time, and sometimes (though hopefully not) fudge the numbers if they forgot to do a check. We’re human, after all! But something as critical to your business as cold-space temperatures should not be left up to that inherent uncertainty. Not to mention, if you can relieve that work from your employees, their time can be better utilized in another facet that best serves your business needs.

 

Does your cold product present a public health risk if compromised?

 

Our customers range from liquor stores to dining services to long-term cold storage warehouses and just about everything in between. In a few of those in-between industries, the safety of their product is not necessarily beholden only to the company’s bottom line, but also to the public at large. Biotech, life sciences, and pharmaceutical clients have, obviously, far different reasons for tracking temperatures than, say, a floral distributor does. Whereas blood banks and food banks have their own reasons, as well, considering how crucial their companies are to the communities that rely on them for daily services. And produce and meat suppliers have to ensure their food product doesn’t become susceptible to viruses that can sicken the population at large.

 

Instant notifications of potential issues from a monitoring and controls system could potentially be the difference between safe and compromised product.

 

Do you lose sleep at night worrying about your inventory or what headaches you’ll walk in to Monday morning?

 

This one may be the least considered question on the list. But in today’s competitive and cutthroat climate, more positive mental health for a facilities manager or a warehouse worker could ultimately make all the difference. Less stress leads to better sleep, which leads to better cognitive functionality, which leads to a more productive worker. We’ve had countless customers inform us that the reason they purchased the monitoring and controls system was for the peace of mind it delivered. They no longer had to worry about what issues they’d be faced with Monday morning while trying to spend critical time with family and friends over a weekend. They didn’t fear walking into a warm cold room of spoiled products.

 

For example, one of our produce-distribution customers was victim to lightning striking their RTU a few summers ago during a 4th of July weekend. Had it not been for NRM’s Remote Site Manager platform sending their supervisor a text that the cooling system was failing to initiate cooling immediately when it occurred, their facility would have gone three days before the problem was noticed. And they would have lost their entire inventory. Instead, they were able to schedule an emergency maintenance call and remedy the problem before it jeopardized their operation.

 

Is your company focusing on sustainability efforts or green initiatives in 2018?

 

“Going green” is a priority for many businesses these days, and the focus on sustainability efforts doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. There are a number of reasons to go green, and the data available surrounding the topic support the notion that it’s a smart business idea.

According to a National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS), conducted in unison with the University of Maryland, it’s something that consumers want. Nay, demand.

 

  • 83 percent of adults want to preserve and protect the environment
  • 68 percent of adults like to do business with companies that are environmentally responsible
  • 72 percent of adults say they resent companies who say they care about the environment but are not sincere

 

Saying nothing for the fact that decreases in overall energy usage lead to increases in the US GDP.

 

Could your business benefit from reduced energy consumption, and therefore, a lower utility electric bill?

 

We think you’d be hard-pressed to find any business owner who wouldn’t want to recoup some of the money they put into their electric bills.

 

Across NRM’s portfolio, our customers see an average reduction in their refrigeration system’s energy consumption of about 40%. And for most of those companies, the refrigeration system accounts for 20-30% of the overall energy usage—so it’s not an inconsequential amount of money at all. Our comprehensive set of controls and monitoring tools optimize cooling schedules, defrost cycles, load handling, and hardware components to ensure the system is running as efficiently as possible. Customers have been able to achieve a swathe of enhancements with that extra money, such as expanding their facility’s size, hiring new employees, or entering new markets.

 

And some state utilities offer incentives for such energy-efficiency projects, which would drastically lower the total cost to you.

 

Would instant notifications to your email or smart phone improve your ability to troubleshoot?

 

Spoiler alert: the answer is probably yes. Being able to timely and correctly address an issue in your refrigeration’s operations can be the difference between a profitable day and a day sunk in the red. For many of our clients, the instant notifications and accompanying visual representations of the issue have decreased the amount of maintenance calls they have to make, and have reduced the time the technician has to be on-site when a call does have to be made. In addition, the alerts have minimized the number of nuisance calls for many of our clients. In one example, a restaurant was able to pinpoint the cause of their frequent high-temperature notifications by consulting their visual trend instead of calling their technician: employees were continuously leaving the freezer’s door open when removing inventory.

 

Do you have multiple facilities or even just multiple cold rooms?

 

It’s sort of an indisputable fact: the more space you have, the harder it is to manage. And what if it’s not just a huge refrigerated warehouse to keep track of? What if it’s a facility comprising half-a-dozen, different-temperature cold rooms? What if it’s a chain of thirty restaurants? Much like with temperature logs, is the most efficient way to manage all of those relying on your employees? Again, not to implicitly state that they’re not working their hardest or doing their best, but are they properly trained to address temperature issues or mechanical diagnostics? Do they know exactly who to call or what to do if something crops up?

 

Some monitoring and controls system empower the directors or managers by providing concise summary pages that wrangle all of the refrigerated spaces’ information into a single point of access. It doesn’t matter if the spaces are on opposite ends of the facility’s site or opposite ends of the country. A tool like this could prove to be invaluable for a number of reasons.

 

NRM’s Remote Site Manager provides a convenient summary page comprising all of your connected cold rooms

 

And most importantly, is your refrigeration system critical to your business’ success?

 

We started this list with a seemingly obvious reason for implementing a monitoring and controls system, and we’re going to end the list with one, as well. For every single one of our clients, it’s simple: if they didn’t have functioning refrigeration, they wouldn’t have a business. Their refrigeration protects their product, and our monitoring and controls protect their refrigeration.

 

 

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