By Lisa Murray, Emerson Climate Technologies
Every retail facility has unique requirements and challenges with site control and enterprise visibility. As convenience stores dive deeper into foodservice investments and stores become more complex, operators want simple, flexible and economical solutions. Facility controls can help operators meet these requirements.
Achieving greater control with facility management systems
Large, early-adopter retailers implemented “energy management systems” or “building management systems” to improve store operations. These systems promised savings by automating tasks typically handled by store personnel, such as turning lights off, adjusting HVAC settings and monitoring refrigeration case temperatures.
Today, we recommend integrated facility management systems, especially for convenience stores and other small format retailers (such as dollar stores or pharmacies). These improve energy efficiency through monitoring and controlling HVAC, lighting and refrigeration systems under a single easy-to-manage platform. They are expandable to integrate additional systems, such as foodservice equipment, for new opportunities.
Convenience store operators can choose to monitor equipment remotely, which can be done internally or through a third-party vendor for real-time performance assessment on energy expenditure, maintenance costs, refrigerant leaks, shrink causes and operational best practices. Partnering with experts for hosted monitoring frees store managers to focus on serving customers; they only address the most critical issues. These partners can remotely process, triage and resolve alarms so that non-critical alarms, which on average is 90% of total alarms for small format customers, can be handled automatically by the third party through remote diagnosis and resolution.
Moving to a modular, distributed control architecture
Traditional energy management systems use a centralized control architecture, where the controller unit is the single interface to adjust setpoints and access data collected from sensors. While neither system is superior for energy efficiency, a decentralized system offers additional benefits.
A modular, distributed architecture can be a more flexible, cost effective investment for convenience stores. The distributed control architecture includes a supervisory control in which each system—refrigeration case controls, programmable thermostats, energy meters or local lighting controls—can be integrated, and then managed through a simple, intuitive web interface. This architecture provides redundancy in operational control, so if the system goes down, the units keep operating normally. It also reduces installation costs with decreased wiring.
This facility management system can also be customized to fit a retailer’s needs; it can be part of a broad enterprise-wide solution as well as functional for operators who want basic facility control with remote access.
Improving operations leads to energy savings
With smaller footprints, convenience stores consume less energy than large supermarkets, making it seem more challenging to justify the business case for investing in facility management systems based on energy efficiency alone. But there are financial advantages for small format retail stores.
By utilizing sensors connected to smart algorithms and energy meters, retailers can leverage real-time facility data, including alarm conditions, system performance, product temperature, energy usage and setpoint changes, to diagnose and resolve problems around the clock. This will result in decreased unnecessary service calls, reducing costs.
Incorporating setpoint management into a retailer’s remote monitoring services provides visibility across all locations and helps operators sustain long term energy savings by ensuring issues are resolved rather than masked. Reports generated by third-party monitoring experts provide retailers with the insights needed to make informed operational decisions. With the ability to easily compare all stores across the enterprise, large convenience store chain operators can also identify practical, easy-to-implement steps for improving lower performing stores, focusing on where they will see the most benefit.
With integrated facility management systems, we’re seeing convenience stores achieve $3,900 in annual energy savings for one location. And the benefits extend beyond energy savings. Maintaining consistent refrigeration temperatures can also reduce shrinkage and food safety risk. Avoiding one product loss a year can be worth anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. Combining fewer product losses with annual energy savings, convenience stores can quickly realize the business benefits from tighter control of their stores’ systems.
Automating systems to compete in a changing landscape
To compete in a rapidly changing industry, convenience stores are evolving their stores; many are becoming foodservice destinations. This shift requires that operators adapt their approach to store operations. The newest integrated systems incorporate food and beverage equipment control, monitoring and automation.
Automating operations results in greater control and energy efficiency. Integrated facility management systems for convenience store operators today provide simple, flexible and cost-effective solutions to help achieve operational objectives.
Lisa Murray has more than 11 years of experience in sales leadership and consulting roles, focused on developing and implementing new initiatives for large retail chains. As director of sales for small format with Emerson Climate Technologies’ Retail Solutions business, Lisa helps provide retailers with solutions to save energy and operational expenses while creating consumer trust through consistent quality experiences across their chains.