WASHINGTON, DC — The successful operation of supermarket refrigeration systems takes more than skillful fine-tuning of equipment.

According to two speakers at the recent Food Marketing Institute Energy & Technical Services Conference, one must make sure all the equipment is in place and working properly when the store comes online —and it takes a willingness to keep up to speed on the latest computer technology.

Engineer Joseph Doyle focused on the concept of commissioning. Here an independent third-party makes sure a system is designed, installed, tested, and capable of being operated and maintained properly.

“Commissioning is not a punch list or a walk-through. It is getting all that you paid for,” said Doyle. “Commissioning can be for an entire supermarket or an eight-foot ice cream case. The process is the same.

“The commissioning authority is not the project manager who is trying to get the job done. The authority is there to make sure the job is done right.”

How important is such a person? Doyle noted a recent survey in USA Today concerning commercial hvacr that found that 48% of building owners are not satisfied with the performance of their equipment.

“More attention has to be paid to constructing buildings that cool and heat when they are supposed to,” he said.

On the plus side, Doyle noted more and more persons are realizing the need for commissioning and that such a process can reduce costs in the long run with improved system performance.

Meanwhile, consultant Andrew Cook noted the vast difference in regard to computer technology. Five years ago, Cook said supermarket maintenance software was an expensive luxury.

“Now, it is a necessity,” he said.

Part of the reason, he said, is due to a reduction in maintenance staffs and an increase in work orders.

Working in favor of more reliance on software is the increase in the users understanding of the technology, an improvement in the software itself, and a broader range of choices.

Cook said the gathering of data is “faster, easier, and cheaper. Users are looking for more information and more time to analyze it, but they want to be able to gather such data faster.”

He encouraged his listeners to be willing to upgrade hardware and software on a regular basis.

“If you are using a five-year-old system, you are not keeping up,” he said. “Don’t wait for your system to become obsolete.”