How cold storage firm Lineage Logistics used IoT tech to reduce energy by 34%
Food cold storage operator Lineage Logistics has engaged IoT solution provider ndustrial.io and carrier AT&T to reduce annual energy usage by 34 per cent and annual energy costs by $4 million with sensors and data. Here’s how…
Michigan based Lineage Logistics operates 120 warehouses in 26 states in the US, and in four countries globally. On average, its facilities measure around one million square feet. It handled about a quarter of the third-party cold chain in the US in 2017 – or 35 billion pounds of consumer packaged goods and fresh food.
Freezing and storing this amount of food requires electricity, and lots of it. Lineage keeps temperatures at most sites zero degrees, but some go as low as -20 degrees. Either way, its electricity bill is one of its largest line items, reaching tens of millions of dollars per year.
Its goal was to increase the food storage per square foot, while lowering its electricity usage at the same time.“ We needed a data-driven system that could give us the measures to drive efficiency. IoT sensors produced that detail for us,” says Sudarsan Thattai, chief information officer at Lineage.
In the end, it engaged solutions provider ndustrial.io, which started with 3-15 smart meters per facility, taking electricity readings at one-minute intervals. But it needed more data inputs, so ndustrial.io added sensors on top and bottom racks – to the tune of 1,000 across its facilities.
Everything was provisioned with global SIMs from AT&T, and hooked up to AT&T’s LTE-M network and management platform. “We tried using the local Wi-Fi network at first, but encountered serious control and reliability issues; we pivoted to AT&T,” says Jason Massey, chief executive at ndustrial.io.
Set up and maintenance have bene straightforward, he says – “literally have one person managing the whole portfolio.”
Heat maps of the facilities were produced, enabling Lineage to see food is kept at the proper temperatures. But the platform is also creating opportunities beyond food safety, it says. It has reduced annual energy usage by 34 per cent and annual energy costs by $4 million. Its carbon footprint has been reduced by the equivalent of 2.4 million gallons of gasoline per annum.
Here are three ways the combinations of IoT sensors and clever analytics has seen it improve its performance.
1 | REDUCTION IN ABSOLUTE ENERGY
The Lineage IoT system has been arranged too collect collect temperature and humidity data from shelves across it facilities, and cross-reference it with optimised ‘set points’. Chiller systems and frequency drives kick in when the shelf readings are out of tune.
Since 2014, annual energy costs have declined by eight per cent at the 78 warehouses where the system has been installed. Meanwhile, throughput at these warehouses has increased over the same period. As a consequence, it calculates the cost of electricity for each item of food has decreased by 34 per cent.
This efficiency drive has informed its design of new warehouse operations, More importantly, it has re-racked existing set-ups with high density to avoid new constructions.
2 | PEAK ENERGY REDUCTION
The vagaries of energy supply and demand mean utilities can charge a higher rate during peak times, and offer a reduction when there is lower demand on the grid. A smart energy system takes advantage of these peaks and troughs in energy pricing.
With its new sensor-and-analytics system, Lineage super-cools its warehouses during periods of low-demand, typically at night, to create a virtual cold ‘battery’ for use during peak hours. Parameters are set to ensure the thermoload does not rise too high, and compromise food safety.
This process of temperature management reduces the need for power from the grid by two-to-three megawatts, it reckons. In addition, Lineage is working on ‘load-shedding’, where it can support requirements from utilities to reduce drain on the grid, when it has a surplus stored up by its super-cooling.
3 | FAST BLAST FREEZING
Blast freezing allows for the rapid freezing of food, which can preserve the cellular integrity of certain foods during the freezing process. The seasonality of certain commodities makes the blast freezing critical at different times of the year.
During strawberry season, for example, Lineage freezes up to six million pounds of strawberries every day. Lineage and ndustrial.io developed a customised dashboard to track the process, and reduce the freeze time from 100 hours to 40 hours, and energy consumption by half.