There’s a lot of investment happening in stores at the moment to make things better for colleagues and customers – initiatives like Shifts, How Do I, and new technology like headsets.
We also told you about a very special project last year to connect all the refrigeration in our stores, and now that’s being taken to a whole new level. It might sound simple but what we have is a ground-breaking bit of kit that saves time, money and energy by monitoring almost every fridge round the clock. Our CEO Steve Murrells visited the Technical Services Bureau on his visit to the South West last year, calling it “a real WOW moment”.
The project came about as a way to reduce the workload for colleagues who had to manually check the temperature of refrigeration units. This is now done by technology instead, as the system monitors all 60,000 connected fridges every 5 minutes, 24 hours a day 365 days a year, ensuring food safety and product quality. The team at the Technical Services Bureau in Gloucester makes sure the fridges are set up to perform at their best, and tell us when they’re not.
The fridges are so smart they can help fix themselves if they break down too – by automatically raising a work order, calling a store to prompt them to check if doors are open, or calling an engineer. All the data is logged too, so we know the exact time a fridge malfunctions and can build patterns that help predict future issues.
Phase 2 will help us use energy better
The next step which we’re working on now is integrating our heating, lighting and temperature data into the system to help us make better decisions to save energy and money.
With all this data held centrally, we can make smarter decisions about how and when to use energy in our estate. Linking in with our Co-op Power team, we can make sure that we use low-demand (so low price) periods to do more of our energy-intensive work, and during high demand (high price) periods, temporarily reduce our energy footprint through some clever use of our connected refrigeration, heating and lighting devices.
Another benefit of using energy this way is being greener – if everyone puts demand on the network at the same time when there’s a huge demand, not only do prices go up, but the National Grid has to use gas or other non-renewable sources, so it might not be green energy were getting – something we try and use for our estate where possible.
By integrating lighting data we can make savings too – we can control external lighting and only use it when and where it’s needed, without bothering the stores who have better things to get on with.
The team headed by James Lawson in Co-op Property has been working with Food for two years now and the business is really starting to see the benefits. Their ambition for the future is to support other businesses like Funeralcare with their temperature controlled environments, and give them the same level of heating and lighting control to make sure people’s loved ones are looked after.