'Hidden' Supermarket Serves Special Purpose

January 8, 2007
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KENNESAW, Ga. - No large sign, high in the sky, lures shoppers to one of the most sophisticated and technologically superior supermarkets in the world. There is no massive parking lot. No large sliding doors automatically open to those wishing to go inside the store. In fact, there are only three or four visitors’ parking spots, and you need special permission to enter the place. It is deep within the recesses of a fairly nondescript, one-story office complex an hour or so northwest of Atlanta.

Fact of the matter is, the supermarket is not meant for customers. It is for engineers to develop advanced controls and components, the most successful of which will find their ways into the customer-friendly supermarkets in the outside world.

The store is at the headquarters of Computer Process Controls and Emerson Retail Services, both of which are part of Emerson Climate Technologies. “The idea here is to test new algorithms, new devices, to look for new technologies,” said Russ Brandt, manager of Emerson’s Integration Center.

The facility is really not much bigger than a small Mom and Pop grocery, but it is filled with almost every kind of freezer and refrigerated display case you might see in a typical large supermarket. Equipment includes walk-ins, reach-ins, and various self-contained units. And the cases are filled with ... well, not real food, but various sands, liquids, and artificial substances wrapped in the kinds of packaging seen in supermarkets and configured to match the density and composition of real foods.

The idea is to duplicate the temperature and humidity conditions found in supermarkets so that controls and components can be developed that bring product temperatures and case conditions precisely in line with mandated standards for supermarket refrigeration, in as cost effective a way as possible.

In addition to replicating various refrigerated aspects of stores, the facility also allows Emerson to test HVAC applications and systems, as well as nontraditional items like fuel dispensers. Over the past two years, Emerson has embarked on a mission to provide more information to store owners and service providers through its Intelligent Store™ architecture. The manufacturer has completed integration work with multiple OEMs and system manufacturers “creating a more robust and reliable store infrastructure,” said Brandt.

Brandt and his associates have desks in the midst of all that refrigeration, consistently monitoring control and component configurations installed, and constantly making changes to improve the efficiency and uptime of equipment.

“Now that we have this tool, our minds are always thinking up something new. Since we have no fear of failure, as might be the case in a supermarket with real food, we can push or test to the limits,” Brandt said.

In recent years, research in Kennesaw (as well as at other Emerson facilities) has produced such products as the Control Link™ anticondensate controller, which uses patented closed-loop algorithms to reduce energy consumption on refrigerated fixtures with anticondensate heaters; the Control Link case display, a case-mounted LED temperature display system; the Control Link refrigeration system controller, a modular control platform; and the E2 Series of facility management systems, designed to minimize energy usage, protect food quality, increase uptime, and reduce maintenance controllers.



KEEPING AN ‘EYE' ON STORES

Once controls technology goes into a supermarket, the Kennesaw facility is also able to keep a virtual eye on the equipment. This comes through its monitoring and facilities management services in the ProAct® service center. In a room that could dazzle a NASA official, personnel can monitor store operations literally around the world.

“We offer everything from full-service monitoring with remote equipment interrogation and resolution to call management of maintenance and dispatch requests,” said Michael Young, marketing analyst for Emerson’s CPC and Retail Services divisions.

Aspects include system alerts that notify store managers of dangerous conditions or set point changes; condition-based maintenance programs that collect, analyze, and monitor data to create electronic notification alerts; and an alarm system to alert service personnel to impending failures.

The proactive aspect also is reflected in large plasma monitors that allow technicians to stay ahead of weather heading toward areas of the country that could cause stores to experience problems. In recent years, the center has played a key role in coordinating the activities of contractors in areas affected by hurricanes in the Gulf Coast regions.



REINVENTION

Supermarkets are constantly reinventing themselves in terms of design and product offerings for changing customer tastes, so the controls that operate the refrigeration (as well as HVAC, lighting, and safety) are also changing. The facilities in Kennesaw such as a “supermarket” that few can access and a control center with a big screen Weather Channel are just a few aspects of the Emerson services to that changing supermarket industry.

For more information, visit www.cpcus.com or www.emersonclimate.com.

Publication date: 1/08/2006

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