Earlier this month, Atlanta played host to the annual AHR Expo, the world’s largest and most respected Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVACR) marketplace. This annual event brings together the leading equipment manufacturers in the HVACR industry to network, share best practices, discuss exciting new technologies and talk about the latest trends in HVAC equipment and solutions.
The AHR Expo is co-sponsored by ASHRAE and AHRI, and held concurrently with ASHRAE’s Winter Conference.
As part of our coverage of the Expo and the ASHRAE Winter Conference, the Modern Equipment Manufacturer team has been interviewing attendees of this year’s events to discuss their major announcements and some of the hottest, overarching trends that they’re seeing in the industry.
Although many of the companies that we’ve spoken to have fallen in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning segments of the industry, we did speak to one company that was doing exciting things in the refrigeration space – Viking Cold Solutions – which is creating the advanced cold storage systems needed to effectively and efficiently operate the global cold chain.
What is the cold chain? It’s the refrigerated supply chain that touches every one of our lives since it’s responsible for getting our food to our dining room tables.
To learn more about the cold chain, the technologies that drive it and the advancements happening in the refrigeration industry, we sat down with Collin Coker, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Viking Cold Solutions.
Here is what he had to say:
Modern Equipment Manufacturer (MEM): Can you tell my readers a little bit about Viking Cold Solutions? What kinds of products does the company make?
Collin Coker: Viking Cold Solutions is a thermal energy management company making the world’s cold storage systems more efficient while better protecting food quality.
Our innovative application of Phase Change Materials (PCM) combined with 24/7 remote monitoring and intelligent sub-system controls increases energy efficiency an average of 26% in frozen food cold storage. This patented technology delivers both added efficiencies to reduce energy consumption and time-of-use flexibility to avoid demand-based pricing while improving temperature stability in the freezer.
MEM: What is the cold chain? What role do Viking Cold’s solutions play in the cold chain?
Collin Coker: The global cold chain is the world’s temperature-controlled supply chain that consists of production, storage, and distribution facilities responsible for safely delivering temperature sensitive food from farm to fork.
Maintaining an unbroken chain of stable temperature along this supply line requires tremendous amounts of refrigeration capacity and therefore tremendous amounts of energy. Viking Cold technology helps low-temperature cold chain facilities maintain their required temperatures while reducing their energy usage and providing time-of-use flexibility for their refrigeration systems.
MEM: We’re seeing an increasing demand for smart and connected devices in the HVACR industry. What steps – if any – is Viking Cold taking to make its products smarter? What steps is the company taking to make them more building management system (BMS), network or cloud-enabled?
Collin Coker: Our thermal energy storage (TES) systems leverage the natural thermodynamic properties of PCM as they transition back and forth between liquid and solid phases.
In order to benefit from this natural process, our intelligent sub-system controls constantly make decisions about how and when to run the refrigeration system based on factors such as air temperature, product temperature and utility rates at any given point in time. The system is continuously evaluating multiple variables and making decisions to store or release the energy in the thermal cells to maximize efficiency and minimize energy costs.
All this data is securely stored in the cloud for reporting, analytics and real-time monitoring and notification on any internet-enabled device. This database also logs temperature data that serve as a verification record for regulatory requirements.
MEM: What benefits do you anticipate the company will receive from these initiatives? What benefits will equipment owners/customers receive?
Collin Coker: Continuous monitoring and evaluation of data provides our customers with real-time information and early notifications of potentially dangerous or costly refrigeration system issues. This predictive capability has often prevented future equipment failure and expensive repairs.
These systems also benefit our customers by automating and optimizing the balance of temperature control and energy costs, so they can be confident their product is not compromised as they are minimizing operational expenses.
Additionally, our customers have a much more granular view into their operation to make more informed business decisions.
MEM: What are some of the trends and technologies that you see impacting/evolving the cold storage industry in the immediate future? How are these driving evolution and change in your products and product lines?
Collin Coker: The global cold chain is experiencing tremendous growth due to increased demand for quality food and an increased demand for frozen food. This has created a shortage of storage space that has spurred construction of new facilities and industry consolidation.
Cold chain operators, like other businesses, are also experiencing cost increases and more variable pricing for energy. As new facilities are being built and operators are looking to maximize profits, more intelligent and automated systems are required to minimize operating costs and maximize profits.
These market needs are driving Viking Cold to broaden our technology solutions to a wider range of temperature requirements between -20 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. We are also offering our Thermal Energy Storage as a Service (TESaaS) so customers can implement the technology with guaranteed energy saving and without upfront capital costs.
MEM: Is Viking Cold planning anything exciting for this year’s ASHRAE event? What news or announcements will the company be making?
Collin Coker: With a growing number of installations around the world, TES is rapidly becoming more recognized as a valuable tool for added efficiency and flexibility in refrigeration. We are proud to be one of the leaders bringing this technology to the industry, and it was an honor to present this year at the ASHRAE Winter Event to further educate HVACR professionals about the benefits of TES.
There will be several announcements in the following weeks about new technology installations and partnerships with energy service companies, retail energy providers, and utilities.