Monitoring for Multiple Locations

November 1, 2010
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Monitoring transport refrigeration is requiring more and more sophisticated approaches.

The Naperville, Ill.-based company Eby-Brown distributes more than 11,000 name-brand products to convenience stores and supermarkets in 28 states east of the Mississippi River. Included are as many as 1,000 products that need to be refrigerated or frozen during storage at one of the company’s seven distribution centers and in company vehicles during delivery to 13,500 locations.

Until recently it was difficult for the distributor to monitor temperatures in freezers and coolers. “We had a variety of different monitoring systems being used throughout our seven distribution centers,” said Corky Pringle, senior service desk technician at Eby-Brown. “Vendors and logging systems varied from location to location, challenging us to provide data in a single, uniform format.”

According to Pringle, the challenge grew when Eby-Brown began milk delivery to select customers. “When you agree to deliver milk, you’ve got to be able to do more than say you’re meeting temperature standards for milk storage and delivery. You’ve got to be able to prove it.”

SOLUTIONS

So the company turned to the refrigeration equipment manufacturer Danfoss for assistance. According to Erin Cousler, product marketing manager for Danfoss Food Retail Service, the project in- volved both products and services.

“Yes, there is an AK product involved,” she said. “The AK system controller features important control and monitoring functions, including alarms and an extensive history. But this project is also about service and providing Eby-Brown with information so decisions can be made to ensure food quality.”

The original project scope was to install Danfoss equipment at the Eby-Brown distribution centers in Ypsilanti, Mich., and Springfield, Ohio, and in temporary trailers that provide supplemental cold storage. Since then, Eby-Brown extended the original purchase order to include three more elements. They are:

• The installation of refrigeration equipment at all Eby-Brown distribution centers;

• A five-year agreement for monitoring services; and

• Temperature equipment and services for a fleet of 280 refrigerated transport vehicles.

“We’re providing temperature monitoring services, which ensure food safety and quality and ultimately reduce product loss and shrinkage,” said Cousler. “While our overall objective is to ensure food quality, Eby-Brown has realized additional benefits. From an operation standpoint, for example, our Remote Fix capabilities remotely monitor temperature alarms that indicate a potential food quality issue, determine the validity of these alarms, and make technical service recommendations based on the date received in our monitoring center.”

Said Pringle, “Alarm analysis and reporting is a tremendous operations savings for us. In the past, every alarm required someone from Eby-Brown to respond to the alarm. Refrigeration contractors would visit the distribution center, make sure everything was OK, clear the alarm, and start over - even if it was just a short blip on the screen.

“Now, if a system goes into alarm, Danfoss qualifies the alarm as either critical or noncritical and responds appropriately. Responses to noncritical alarms are scheduled during normal business hours to avoid weekend and after-hour service calls and costs.”

WEB-BASED APPLICATIONS

To log data from each facility and transmit the data over a secure VPN connection, Danfoss AK-255 controllers are used. Using a web-based application called PowerFocus, Eby-Brown personnel enter a unique log-in to view temperature data on an enterprise level or by individual location at any given time.

The immediate access to regularly collected temperature data is important with respect to milk products and reporting for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) reporting. “United States Department of Agriculture inspectors can arrive unannounced at any one of our facilities and require us to provide them with data that proves product has been consistently maintained at the proper temperature,” said Pringle. “In the past, we had to pull logs from whatever system was available at a facility and hope that the data those logs provided was sufficient for the inspector. The process could take days.

“Today, we monitor temperatures in our freezers, coolers, storage trailers, and delivery vehicles 24/7. The data is recording every 30 to 60 seconds. Data is maintained on- and off-site, so we’re able to go online and immediately bring up the reports inspectors require.”

According to Cousler, Danfoss works with its customers to create dashboards and reports that give them the information they need to provide measurements. “We don’t want to tell (our customers) what information is important. We want our customers to tell us what they need to see, and how they want to see it.”

STANDARDS

The ability to view locations on an enterprise level provides the data Eby-Brown needed to fix any inconsistency of naming and temperature set points across its distribution centers, according to Danfoss officials. Danfoss worked with Eby-Brown to establish a standard naming convention for its assets, based on the product it contained. This standardization allows for proper high- and low-temperature set points to be programmed and for alarm thresholds to be set. Locked controllers prevent the set points from being changed without authorization.

Pringle said consistent asset temperatures contributed to significant savings associated with equipment operation and maintenance. “Danfoss installed controllers on our freezer/cooler units that remotely monitor and adjust temperatures, ensuring more even cooling and preventing ice buildup, long defrost cycles, and even longer cool-down periods while helping us reduce energy usage at our facilities.”

ON THE ROAD

For transport refrigeration, the company used Danfoss’ AK Voyager system. While some systems download temperature data only when a truck arrives at its destination, the AK Voyager provides real-time data as the truck is on the road. Temperature data is posted every 15 minutes and color coded to reflect the temperature data related to predetermined set points. Custom reports can be developed using the data to satisfy regulatory and legislative requirements.

In addition, temperature alerts indicate high and low temperatures as well as open doors. Fleet alerts are also part of the system, providing notification of system faults or battery disconnects. The data is posted every 30 minutes and color coded to indicate stationary and moving transport vehicles.

For more information, visit www.danfoss.us.

Publication date: 11/01/2010

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