||In Food Distribution, Technologies to Improve Convenience
and Save Labor and Energy
In Food Distribution, Technologies to Improve Convenience
and Save Labor and Energy
The increasingly critical labor shortage in the food distribution industry is accelerating the fierce competition to secure workforce. The diversification of workers calls for easy-to-use products and pleasant working environments. Meanwhile, consumers’ needs also diversify and the demand for high-quality products and services is increasing. Fuji Electric’s customers now face various challenges, such as new modes of operating physical “real stores” in the era of e-commerce, labor shortages, the aging population, and energy. In order to address each of these highly changeable challenges, Fuji Electric pursues research and development of relevant technologies based on the keywords of “Enhanced convenience,” “Labor savings” and “Energy-saving technology” to supply products that meet customer needs.
This Issue introduces the core technology for the food distribution industry, including heating and cooling technology, mechatronics and the IoT. It also introduces elemental technologies for our vending machines and store and distribution equipment.
[Preface] Expectations for Technological
Development to Improve Convenience in Food Distribution
In Food Distribution, Technologies to Improve Convenience and Save Labor and Energy: Current Status and Future Outlook
The labor market today, with diminishing working population and increasing foreign workers, demands user-friendly products and worker-friendly environments. Fuji Electric is pursuing the development of technology relevant to the food distribution industry to respond to the changing market needs, such as demand for high-quality products and services based on the three keywords “Enhanced convenience,” “Labor savings” and “Energy-savings.” In terms of the enhanced convenience and diversification, we have developed a vending machine that can sell -5°C beverages, cloud-based vending machines, and ICT solutions. For labor savings, we have developed a showcase with built-in cooling unit, labor-saving showcase, automatic change dispenser and drip coffee extraction technology. For energy savings and environmental conservation, we have established a positive pressure control system and freshness-keeping technology.
Vending Machine That Can Sell -5°C Beverages
Asahi Soft Drinks Co., Ltd. and Fuji Electric have jointly developed a subfreezing beverage vending machine. Opening the beverage container triggers the contents to turn into a sherbet-like state. This unexpected event is caused by the supercooling phenomenon, that is, the liquid starts freezing as the internal pressure is altered by the container being opened. To consistently reproduce this event, we adopted the hot gas defrosting method, which does not affect beverage temperature. The vending machine has three zones, sub-freezing temperature zone, preliminary cooling zone, and replenished product cooling zone and allows the change of the maximum number of beverages to be sold per day. This structure enables the machine to stably supply sherbet-like subfreezing beverages.
Cloud-Based Vending Machines Quickly Responding to Market Needs
TANAKA, Seiichi; KOGA, Tsuneharu; YAMADA, Takahito
Vending machines are being required to quickly respond to dramatically changing needs as the market is growing outside Japan, notably China. To meet these needs, Fuji Electric has developed a cloud-based vending machine. We replaced some common functions of vending machines, such as payment and the display of product samples and their prices with functions on smartphones and cloud-based servers. Equipped with a minimum set of software, such as for product dispensing and heating and cooling, the vending machine helps significantly increase operational efficiency, despite the low price.
Vending Machine Business Processes Enhanced with ICT Solutions
PERERA, Madhura; KIMURA, Tomohiko; YANAGAWA, Hiroyuki
The diversification of vending machine functions has increased and complicated business operations. At the same time, the declining birthrate and aging population has made it harder to secure workers. Fuji Electric has thus started offering services that improve business processes of vending machine operators by building an operation support system that utilizes information and communication technology (ICT). This system consists of service applications, cloud data services, and a global communication platform. The system connects vending machines, communication devices, base stations, switching centers, cloud servers, and customer systems via communication lines.
Showcase Using HFO Refrigerant with Built-In Cooling
Unit to Render Installation Work Unnecessary
WATANABE, Tadao; YANO, Takayuki; IWASAKI, Takahiro
Fuji Electric has developed an environmentally friendly showcase for the convenience store industry. It is designed to be installed in stores that have imposed restrictions on installation work, such as those inside buildings, helping locate a store in excellent property and further improve consumer convenience. The showcase comes with a built-in cooling unit system to simplify installation work and maintenance. Equipped with ducts below the product showcase shelves and airflow guides at the edge of the shelves, it optimizes the amount of airflow to reduce invading heat by about 30%. Moreover, it is the industry-first showcase in the Japanese market to use HFO-1234yf refrigerant, which has a proven track record of use in vending machines, to significantly reduce the environmental burden.
Labor-Saving Showcase Reducing Operational Workload
KINOSHITA, Suguru; MAEGAWA, Katsuhiko; NIWA, Yoshiyuki
The advancement of population aging and declining birthrates in recent years has been increasing the need for labor savings in relation to showcases. To reduce the workload in operating showcases, three labor-saving items have been developed. Firstly, the easy-slide sloping shelf, which can be pulled out for stocking and easily put in a sloping position for display to simplify operational tasks. Secondly, the “swing rack,” which controls physically demanding tasks with movable racks that assist the transfer of heavy items when stocking products. Third, the showcase with a built-in cooling unit and equipped with an easy-filter-access mechanism that makes it easy to clean the condenser air filter.
Store Air Conditioning Solution to Save Storewide Labor and Energy
TERAWAKI, Hiroyuki; TAKANO, Yukihiro; MASUGI, Takuya
In the supermarket and convenience store industries, there has been an increasing demand to save labor and energy for store equipment. We have developed an in-store heat balance analysis tool that targets storewide heat load and airflow. The accuracy of heat balance calculation has been improved dramatically by performing analysis in consideration of store location conditions, size, equipment configuration, and layout. By using this tool, we found that the intrusion of outside air through the doors is responsible for a large percentage of the store’s heat load. To reduce the air invasion, we developed a positive pressure control system that equalizes differential pressure inside and outside the store. We confirmed an energy savings effect of about 10% for stores that implement positive pressure control using our equipment for evaluating store performance.
Drip Coffee Extraction Technology for Coffee Machines
NAGAYOSHI, Kenya; NISHIKAWA, Yohei; ITO, Shuichi
Fuji Electric has developed drip coffee extraction technology for coffee machines that rapidly prepare tastier coffee in large quantities. The coffee mill, which determines the quality of the coffee taste, is protected from static electricity and enhanced in the precision of the grinder blade gap adjustment to equalize grain size. For the brewer, which extracts coffee, a system that adds hot water during extraction and a tapered filter block are added to shorten the serving time and continuously extract a large quantity of coffee. Furthermore, as paper filters are sometimes unavailable outside Japan, we have developed a mesh filter that is finer than paper filters.
“ECS-777” Automatic Change Dispenser That Meets the Needs of the markets
NAKAMURA, Yoshihiro; CHIKUNI, Kazuya; KATAYAMA, Shugo
In recent years, the distribution industry has faced increasing difficulty in securing labor force, and self-checkout systems are actively employed to enhance efficiency, reduce labor costs, and minimize checkout waiting times. Change dispensers in such systems are operated by customers instead of the checkout staff. Therefore, easy operation, prevention of jamming of bills and coins, and safety in use are demanded more for present change dispensers than for previous ones. To meet these market needs, Fuji Electric has developed the “ECS-777” change dispenser and the “CST35” slim coin roll stocker.
Freshness-Keeping Technology with Ambient Humidity Control
ICHIHARA, Shimoto; YAMADA, Tetsuya; HIRAKATA, Satoki
In recent years, food being discarded even though it is still edible (food loss) has become a social problem. Taking note of how freshness is lost as food becomes dry, Fuji Electric has developed technology that controls ambient humidity to keep food fresher for longer. This method applies Fuji Electric’s polymer electrolyte fuel cell technology. Using no liquid water significantly reduce the risk of bacterial and fungal growth that causes food poisoning. The technology allows users to determine appropriate humidity conditions for specific food materials, store them with little loss of fresh texture, and increase sales opportunities, reducing food loss.
Earthquake-Resistant Technology for Uninterruptible Power Systems
YASUMOTO, Koji; WU, Ping; SHIGA, Hiroshi
Uninterruptible power systems (UPSs) need to have adequate earthquake resistance because they are used as backup power during blackouts at data centers, financial institutions, hospitals and other places requiring a stable supply of power. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, the guidelines on the earthquake resistance of transformers have been established. Fuji Electric thus tested the earthquake resistance of its UPSs using seismic waves, for which the acceleration response of the building was considered, and confirmed their stable operation. On the basis of the analysis on the deformation of transformers by the finite element method, we took anti-sway measures and revised the housing frame of the transformer panel to improve earthquake resistance.
High-Efficient Power Supply Systems Utilizing 3-Phase 4-Wire Uninterruptible Power Systems
YASUMOTO, Koji; WANG, Fangfang; TAKIZAWA, Ayumu
In recent years, data centers have increasingly been using electricity, and their power supply systems need to improve efficiency. Fuji Electric has offered power supply systems using 400-V, 3-phase, 4-wire uninterruptible power systems, as well as 3-phase, 4-wire power supply systems using conventional 200-V, 3-phase, 3-wire power supply systems. Both types eliminate the need for a PDU transformer, achieving high efficiency. Using a current-limiting circuit-breaker enables short-circuit protective coordination. Furthermore, the Igr method allows users to reliably monitor insulation and reduces the effect of harmonics on the K-factor and transformer equivalent capacitance more than standard power supplies.
VVVF Inverters Using SiC Hybrid Modules for Renovated
5000 Series Railcars of Sanyo Electric Railway Co., Ltd.
To cope with environmental issues such as global warming, energy savings in the transportation equipment has been proceeded. In railcars, the energy losses in power electronic equipment such as variable voltage variable frequency (VVVF) inverters for propulsion and auxiliary power supplies have been steadily reduced. In this situation, Fuji Electric has developed a compact and lighter VVVF inverter applicable to urban and commuter railways using own developed low-loss semiconductor devices.