Wireless Sensors Give Supermarket Visibility and Control for Operational Excellence

Wireless Sensors Give Supermarket Visibility and Control for Operational Excellence

Uwe Klatt
25. Sep 2020 | 4 min read

Wireless Sensors Give Supermarket Visibility and Control for Operational Excellence

Fresh fruits and vegetables account for approximately 50% of retail food waste. If fresh produce temperatures are too hot or too cold, quality suffers and products must be discarded. This is one of the biggest challenges for grocery retailers when balancing product quality with tight margins in highly competitive markets.

One grocery chain in the UK sought to address this food monitoring challenge with a cutting-edge pilot project using Disruptive Technologies’ sensors and Optimised Buildings’ analytics platform. They implemented remote temperature monitors in critical locations within two of their grocery stores.

The pilot project was so successful that it opened new opportunities for using food monitoring to improve efficiency and quality across the entire grocery chain.

Sensor data improves temperature-sensitive food quality

The grocery chain uses Disruptive Technologies mini-sensors for remote temperature monitoring to confirm conditions in real-time, so they can maintain shelf life and food safety. Smart, wireless temperature sensors stream data directly into Optimised Buildings’ data analytics and visualization platform, which has been configured specifically for the food monitoring project. The temperature sensors in the fridge alert staff of unexpected spikes in temperature so they can fix the walk-in cooler temperature controls before they cause spoilage.

“Disruptive technologies API makes it easy to integrate analytics tools and customize solutions to meet the needs of different customers,” says Gary Bark, Managing Director of Optimised Buildings. “The data provides real insights into daily operations and significantly reduces the time it takes to understand the root cause of any problem.”

Remotely monitoring walk-in freezers and cold rooms lowers costs

Energy costs typically account for 10-15% of a supermarket’s operating expenses. Over 60% of a supermarket’s energy consumption is refrigeration, which is made up of cold cabinets, refrigerators and freezers. This makes refrigerator and freezer monitors key tools for cost- and energy savings. The team installed Disruptive Technologies temperature monitoring sensors throughout the stores - on refrigerated cases and back-up chillers that store food on the sales floor and in “back of house” staff areas - to check for potential problems.

In addition to the temperature sensors, Disruptive Technologies proximity sensors monitor whether doors in cold rooms and on chillers are left open and if “night blinds” are used properly to shield refrigerated cases from ambient heat and light.

Thanks to the Optimised Buildings data analytics platform, the team learned that chilled cold room doors were left open 36% of the time and frozen cold room doors were left open 14% of the time, risking valuable stock, increasing maintenance requirements, and wasting energy. Simply by closing chiller and cold room doors as required, the company has multi-million-pound saving potential if deployed across the retail portfolio.  

Closing warehouse doors keeps temperatures stable

The team also used sensor data to check warehouse conditions. The sensing solution confirmed that warehouse doors were often left open unnecessarily during the chilly autumn days from October to December. Data from Optimised Buildings showed that doors were open 21.5% of the time, letting the warm air out and the cold air in.

As a result, heating systems had to work harder to bring the ambient temperature up, leading to excessive gas use. Staff complained about the low temperature and were less productive.

Power to take action

“Multi-million-pound savings makes the business case for implementing sensors very compelling, and it’s just the start,” says Gary. “In addition to saving costs, keeping temperature-sensitive products fresh means happier customers and more potential revenue.”

With data in hand, training can be customized to increase staff compliance with operational requirements. Alerts can tell workers when doors are left open inadvertently so they can immediately take action. Everyone from warehouse staff to food professionals and store managers has real-time information and understands the importance of their role in saving costs and ensuring quality.

Spoiled food is unsafe for customers and expensive for grocery stores. Manually monitoring temperatures is time-consuming. Sensors from Disruptive Technologies can help you maintain proper cold storage conditions while saving time and money.

Uwe Klatt

Uwe Klatt

Uwe is a senior sales executive with 15 years of experience from Alcatel, Siemens, Juniper Networks and Logitech. His specialty is to deliver simple solutions in complex environments. With the help of DT’s revolutionary technology, he helps companies design new digital strategies for construction, buildings, logistics, food and health compliance, retail, manufacturing and energy. Before joining Disruptive Technologies, he was Head of Collaboration Sales at Cisco Systems.

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