James Hall and Company is the regional distribution centre for SPAR operations in the north of England and runs a chain of 90 fully-owned stores, with a further 350-plus outlets operated by franchisees.
Early on, Frank Frayling, the company’s group engineering manager, who is leading a drive to improve the energy efficiency of stores, identified the absence of a comprehensive control system as a major issue for the business. Plant and equipment had been purchased and installed over time, with the vast majority operated on a stand-alone basis.
As in many traditional convenience stores, control and monitoring was at the level of individual systems, with local managers required to monitor items of plant onsite to ensure it was running properly.
“This is obviously not an ideal approach,” says Frank. “Onsite staff can do the basics, but beyond that it is inevitably limited in terms of what can be achieved. It was clear that what we needed was a shop-wide monitoring system that would give us an overview of how all the plant was performing – from a single point.”
After researching the market, he selected the Data Manager system, manufactured by UK electronics and software pioneer RDM. The Data Manager is an advanced modular control system that links together all energy consuming plant and equipment in a store.
It gives users an easily accessible window on how all store equipment is performing, highlighting potential problems and providing opportunities for improving energy performance.
Importantly, it enables users to purchase the precise functions needed for their application from a detailed palette of options, making it highly cost-effective. If store plant is modified or extended at a later date, additional functions can be added quickly and easily for minimum outlay.
A number of trial stores were equipped with the Data Manager, linked to RDM power trays and refrigeration compressor pack control, to evaluate the system. Together it handles refrigeration, lighting, and heating and ventilation plant – in fact all major energy consuming equipment in the store except the chicken rotisseries.
Frank says: “All of the stores equipped with the RDM control have showed significant reductions in energy consumption. Average savings are in the region of 12% which translates straight to the bottom line in savings in energy bills.”
One store, based at Winsford, has recorded a 27% savings on energy usage.
Initial trials began three years ago. Now fourteen of the company’s SPAR outlets have been equipped with RDM control systems, and it is being rolled-out across the business.
“All stores undergoing refits will have the system, and we are specifying it for our petrol forecourt outlets,” Frank says. “It’s a no-brainer in terms of the energy savings, which are proven.
“On a higher level, it also opens up the possibility of monitoring and controlling the entire estate remotely.
“We believe there are significant benefits in this approach, and that we will be able to deliver even greater efficiencies. The RDM system makes this possible, and we are keen to explore this for the future.”