Maintaining the Cold Chain and Food Safety in Grocery Stores

By looking at food safety in a new light, you can do more with your existing system by bringing all your data together seamlessly, leveraging analytics and rule sets, and making smarter decisions based on data.

You may think that facilities managers are the only ones who need to worry about alarm and control systems. That’s not your job. But facilities managers are too busy putting out fires every day to worry about product integrity and shrink.

To avoid a singular, catastrophic event that can lead to the loss of product and your brand reputation, you need to ensure compliance across the organization. With frozen food, you’ve put food safety measures in place to maintain the cold chain. However, once the product gets to the store, you’re at the mercy of a control system that can only look at its hardware and sensors. And if you don’t have a sophisticated control system, then it’s likely you don’t have the telemetry data you need. When it comes to temperature monitoring, it costs money to put probes in every refrigeration case, including wiring to the back room. And, like most grocers, you’re trying to save money, so you try to get by with just 1 probe in every 4 cases.

In fact, control systems use probes not to monitor the temperature in the case, but to control the temperature in the case. The temperature sensor is used by the systems in the back room to turn on compressors and send refrigerant to the case to maintain the circuit temperature. It’s possible that your store managers are just performing a “hand check” every 2-4 hours to “monitor” temperature in the refrigeration cases. That’s not effective monitoring and that’s not labor efficiency. Your store managers shouldn’t be walking the floor to make sure the cases are cold.

Store managers may make decisions based on the temperature in refrigeration cases. But food safety is really about the temperature of the products in the cases. One product in one case in one store can still be a singular, catastrophic event. Verisae has developed models for the temperatures and temperature cycles for individual products. So you can make more accurate decisions based on the temperature of individual products.

Food safety is also impacted by efficient and effective alarm management. In addition to food loss, other costs include maintenance and repair, store labor, and refrigerant. If you have a poor alarm system and refrigeration cases go down, it takes labor to de-merchandise the case, put that food back in the freezer, and you’re scrambling.

Store managers evaluate alarms from refrigeration equipment with varying levels of consistency and efficiency. Often, store managers don’t trust the alarm system because it’s buzzing and lighting up for anything that’s related to refrigeration. It could be something that doesn’t require a service technician. So, eventually, what happens? The store managers ignore the alarm system. And then, when product does get lost, they’re in trouble.

To avoid the singular, catastrophic event, you need to invest more in your infrastructure. With a sophisticated solution, you can do more with the same data. By leveraging your existing system – even if you only have 1 probe in every 4 cases – you can take advantage of analytics, rule sets, and other telemetry points.

With technology enabled by The Internet of Things, most signs of impending failure can be identified 15-20 days ahead of a failure with 98 percent accuracy. So you can do more than rely on store personnel to act quickly and appropriately to the problem, you can predict the problem.

For one grocery chain, this prediction and prevention of inefficient and poorly performing refrigeration units saved them from a singular, catastrophic event and saved over $1.5 million in stock loss.

With a predictive and preventative approach, you can:

  • ensure food safety
  • protect brand reputation
  • improve customer experience
  • reduce product and sales loss

But what will your facilities manager say? “Sure, I can buy a whole new control system. But I’ll have to rip and replace wiring. And it’ll cost tens of thousands of dollars per store.” Actually, you can incrementally add to your existing system with new technology, such as wireless temperature monitoring.

By looking at food safety in a new light, you can do more with your existing system by bringing all your data together seamlessly, leveraging analytics and rule sets, and making smarter decisions based on data.

About the author

Dan Sugg is VP, North American Grocery at Verisae. Sugg has over 20 years of experience working with food retailers, and currently manages business development activities for Verisae’s grocery sector. Prior to Verisae, Dan held various sales and marketing positions with companies such as Emerson and Micro Thermo.

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