Ensuring food quality and safety will always remain top priorities. The pandemic drove many grocers online for the first time, and as consumer buying habits have become more digital, click-and-collect and direct-to-consumer order volumes have grown exponentially. Succeeding in this new environment will require retailers to shore up their e-fulfillment capabilities to meet these increased demands.
At the same time, meeting corporate sustainability goals is becoming a higher priority. Operators are weighing the impacts of their equipment’s energy consumption, refrigerant choices and leak detection capabilities as new environmental regulations call for improved energy efficiencies and the accelerated phasedown of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP).
To survive the current market conditions and prepare for a future that will undoubtedly present new challenges, retailers need the means to monitor and manage their operations — in individual stores and across their fleet networks. Modern, robust building management systems (BMS) and supervisory software provide the technological infrastructures to help retailers meet their myriad operational objectives while building a strong foundation that will scale with future business changes.
Trend #1: Create ideal in-store customer experiences
Creating a comfortable, inviting and safe shopping experience for consumers will continue to be a differentiator for food retailers. The in-store environment — combined with a rotation of fresh, seasonal and unique food offerings — is what draws customers in and keeps them coming back. A BMS is ideal for its ability to continually optimize building environments for maximum consumer engagement and occupant well-being.
With a BMS, specific areas of a store can be optimized to offset common airflow challenges, such as excessively cold temperatures in frozen food aisles or poor ventilation in food preparation areas.
The impacts of lighting upon on a store’s overall shopping environment and energy utilization are often overlooked. Now that click-and-collect services can extend well past daylight hours, lighting is a particularly important aspect of that experience. A BMS helps store owners/operators to control the ambience of different store sections by automatically brightening or dimming shopping aisles (and employee workspaces).
Find a BMS that allows operators to easily schedule and coordinate all aspects of lighting within a retail facility. Check for advanced and easy-to-use scheduling features help to optimize lighting throughout various shopping sections, workspaces, in the parking lot and on exterior signage.
Trend #2: Meet sustainability initiatives
Many retailers are establishing a wide range of rigorous sustainability objectives, which often require an understanding of the total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) of their HVACR and lighting systems. For example, in refrigeration systems, a TEWI approach accounts for the direct impacts from refrigerant leaks as well as the indirect impacts of a system’s energy consumption.
Look for a product that will help food retailers achieve those goals by supporting energy optimization and sustainability best practices, including:
- Providing variable frequency drive (VFD) management of HVAC systems to maximize energy efficiencies
- Leveraging advanced suction group algorithms to help operators manage multiple racks and compressors in order to increase energy savings
- Establishing effective leak detection programs with reliable leak detection notification via the programming of thresholds for individual devices
Trend #3: Connect to data-driven insights
Modern facilities have an opportunity to leverage an abundance of operational data gathered from connected devices, systems and technologies, also known as the internet of things (IoT). Such connected infrastructures are essential for enabling real-time and historic insights into optimal store performance. A BMS can consolidate all systems, equipment and connected devices in a facility to provide real-time visibility and deliver significant operational insights.
Find a BMS with web-enabled access allows off-site technicians and staff to remotely monitor systems, troubleshoot and resolve issues. For even greater visibility and insights across a network of stores, find a BMS that supports seamless connectivity with enterprise management software.
Trend #4: Preserve food safety and reduce waste
As the cornerstone of any food retailer’s brand reputation, food safety and quality will continue to be ever-present concerns — especially as refrigerated areas expand. The ability to maintain precise temperatures in refrigerated or frozen cases is imperative for maximizing freshness while minimizing food waste (shrink).
A BMS controller should allow store operators to view their refrigeration assets from one place and continually monitor performance, temperatures and defrost schedules. It should be designed to trigger alarms at the first detection of “out-of-tolerance” conditions, so operators and technicians can take necessary action to preserve food quality and prevent waste.
When combined with enterprise management software, refrigerated case-level data can be leveraged to generate a variety of food-related reports. Not only can these reports be used to validate the refrigeration temperature conditions needed to support hazard and critical control points (HACCP) compliance standards, but they also help stakeholders to better understand the risks to food quality, safety and shelf life.
Trend #5: Streamline energy management and optimization
To meet sustainability objectives and address rising electricity costs in a rapidly shifting landscape, retailers will need new energy management and optimization tools. Traditional grocery store building envelopes will continue to evolve toward smaller store formats, and the introduction of e-fulfillment business models will also impact store energy profiles.
Meanwhile, energy retrofits, demand management and load-shedding arrangements with participating utilities are become more commonplace to help operators lower energy consumption and/or qualify for rebates and incentives. But these programs require coordination and clear communications between facilities and utilities.
Connected infrastructures allow operators to take advantage of these opportunities and fine-tune energy consumption within their building envelopes.
Prepare for an uncertain future
If the pandemic has proven anything, it is that food retailers must be prepared for quickly changing market conditions.
While we cannot possibly predict what the future will bring, we do know that retailers will need the flexibility to scale and adapt for whatever will come next. This means choosing a BMS that helps to easily integrate new equipment and assets into a facility’s refrigeration, HVAC and lighting portfolios.