By Tom Wilk, Plant Services editor in chief
With energy consumption being the single highest operational expense at both industrial and commercial facilities, both plant and commercial building managers worldwide keep a close eye on energy use at their facilities. Now, with the rise of smart collected building systems, the vision of assets that self-correct levels of energy use is within reach.
In his presentation at Smart Industry 2017, Rick Ruth, services product manager at Danfoss, outlined how his company is enabling its customers to remotely monitor and control operations at more than 5,000 locations. “When we talk about bottom line in food retail, supermarkets make margins of approximately 1.7%. Refrigeration is one of the highest drivers within the supermarket that can cut into your bottom line. If I can save on energy, I’m actually increasing my overall profitability.”
Ruth added that food safety and total cost of ownership are two other top-of-mind issues facing this sector: temperature levels need to be monitored to minimize or eliminate spoilage; and payback period predictions for capital investment needs to be as short and accurate as possible in a world where profit margins are quite slim. Also, food retail companies are challenged to keep their systems running 24/7 without asset failure or unplanned downtime.
With these challenges in mind, Danfoss unified its offering in 2014 under a fully integrated Smart Store Solution. The systems’ key objectives are to ensure food safety and minimize food loss, reduce energy use, anticipate equipment failure, enable load shedding and identify maintenance needs. Stores have been able to achieve energy savings of 50%.
With the Smart Store Solution, Danfoss is integrating the various systems within an individual store in order to extract new insights from the wider pool of real-time data. “We’re pulling out true, actionable data--without having to make a guess,” Ruth said.
For example, users can better identify which alarms can be ignored from a maintenance perspective, and which merit a visit from a technician. Real-time temperature reporting helps ensure refrigeration units operate within set parameters, saving energy without compromising food safety. Analytics also help optimize energy use through prescriptive load shedding.
Danfoss also partnered with Bentley Systems to create a visualization layer for end users of its Smart Store Solutions. As an example of how this kind of data visualization has supported store managers’ goals, Ruth cited global set point management. For every store that retrofits a smart solution to help automate temperature controls, there exist store employees who will override them. In one use case, Ruth said, the customer had 1,790 set points under management across 215 stores. “A few months later, we did a check and fond 1,716 set points changed,” Ruth said. The company lost $110,000 of the $141,000 savings expected.
But with the Smart Store Solution, Danfoss can automatically flip settings back to their designated set points after a given period of time, from minutes to hours. In addition, password lock capabilities enable store managers to lock down the controller, and the only way to make changes within the store would be to call Danfoss directly, where the change would be logged to ensure visibility and transparency.
“The key to the whole thing,” said Ruth, “is being able to answer the ‘so what’ factor. I mean, it’s great that you’re able to visualize data, to see what’s going on. But what questions are you trying to answer?”