The last couple of years have been turbulent for customers and retailers alike. Since the onset of the pandemic, spending habits have changed dramatically. Not only has the online shopping pie grown, but customers are also pulling back on discretionary spending. In the US, Christmas shopping dipped last year. In the UK, studies show that inflation and cost of living are “causing people to reduce their delayable expenditure and how much food they are buying.” This trend is reverberating across the globe.
As a result, retailers distinctly feel the pinch. Several large retailers around the world are filing for bankruptcy. International brands, which saw opportunity past their borders, are retreating. Even among those retailers who have tided over the extremes, there is a clear need to reduce costs to improve profitability.
Typical quick fixes so far have been wage cuts, layoffs, shutting down unprofitable stores, etc. These have undoubtedly produced an immediate uptick in the books but do not create long-term sustainable value for the brand. For consistent growth, retailers must take a hard look into the future. They must embrace new and innovative ways of leveraging their assets/investments to create quick wins and boost the bottom line. A software-led approach to lower energy costs across multiple stores can open up a world of possibilities that can help retailers, especially multi-store food retailers and grocers.
Visibility from the cloud
A leading British supermarket chain was looking for a software-led approach to running their refrigeration operations that could help them lower energy costs. They partnered with our company, Facilio, because they liked how we brought all of their siloed IoT data into one centralized system. Together we shaved 16 percent off their energy spend on refrigeration across 25 stores within weeks of deploying our software. This helped them improve their operating profit margins, eliminate wastage consistently, optimize usage and strengthen the bottom line over the long term. As this example shows, robust portfolio-wide connected refrigeration software can help on multiple fronts.
To begin with, connected refrigeration management software can perform real-time performance monitoring to identify inefficient energy assets so that retailers can repair, optimize or replace them as appropriate. For instance, if there is a malfunctioning evaporator or condenser, the software can help notify management immediately. It can also optimize equipment performance to suit weather, footfall, or inventory levels. The impact of software-led optimization can extend far beyond these immediate changes, especially with automation.
A cloud-based energy optimization software can automate a range of activities that can save energy and costs dynamically. For instance, lights can be turned on/off based on the time of day, occupancy, or usage. Air temperature can be modified based on the number of occupants in that part of the store at any given time.
Maintaining your cool
A cloud-based software approach can also enable predictive maintenance of retail assets. It can identify defective assets, perform root-cause analysis, and help avert its negative impact. Say, if refrigerant leak volumes are beyond normal, the energy optimization platform can send alerts to store managers, who can instantly call for repair/replacement to cut down wastage. Over time, intelligent software tools can also learn to see patterns and predict potential defects, empowering the retail operations and services team to avoid asset breakdowns.
Food cooling and refrigeration, which account for over 50 percent of the store’s energy costs, leave much room for optimization and cost savings. Continuous monitoring and automated optimization can result in instant savings. In addition, a software-led approach also has a long-tail positive impact. It ensures food safety compliance, delivers a better customer experience and prevents penalties from the authorities. Additionally, it prevents food loss, i.e., unintentional wastage resulting from poor equipment or infrastructure. All of these add to the profitability of the business in the long run.
The silver bullet of the software-led approach to energy efficiency management is that it can be done at scale without major additional investments in assets, devices, or people. A good energy optimization software can monitor performance by geography, store, area, floor, and appliance at controller levels, giving both granular visibility and 360-degree optimization across multiple sites. This is the most lucrative, low-effort way to gain control over refrigerations and retail automation systems and obtain better ROI on existing investments and energy measures. It can empower millions of tiny changes every day and provide a bird’s-eye view of strategic transformation. It is not an overstatement that the retail industry is going through major turmoil. With retailers facing constant pressure across all fronts, tech-led optimization is the simplest yet most rewarding intervention they can make. With a thoughtful technology layer that sits on top of existing assets, retailers can see returns from day one!
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