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Taking Control of Energy Use

BY Marianne Wilson

Reducing energy use remains a critical priority for retailers, adding to their bottom line and helping the environment. Steve Dushane, president and CEO of thermostat and energy management system supplier Venstar Inc., spoke with Chain Store Age editor Marianne Wilson about how Venstar is helping small-box retailers decrease energy through better controls.

What are some of the most common mistakes retailers make when it comes to energy controls? 

A common mistake is for a retailer to view its energy management system purely as a solution for its energy usage. Most energy management systems can function more like a facilities management system if the user sets the parameters to do so.

For example, in addition to the energy savings, an energy management system can contribute to ongoing maintenance benefits and associated cost savings, allowing better overall management of the entire facility.

What best practices do you recommend? 

Start with setting up exception reporting to determine if locations are unusually warm or cool, so that broken or malfunctioning equipment can be repaired or replaced. Also:

How do you see the technology of HVAC, lighting and refrigeration controls evolving? 

The energy management industry itself is evolving in that it is broadening out to encompass much more than just energy use. As a result, the energy management system of today will become the facilities management systems of tomorrow, expanding to monitor maintenance functions and implement work order systems.

Venstar has launched a new energy management system product, Surveyor, for retail chains and other multisite businesses. Tell us about it. 

Surveyor is an Internet-based energy management system that allows small-box retailers, restaurant chains and other multilocation businesses to remotely monitor, manage and control their energy usage.

With Surveyor, one person can easily manage a chain’s entire portfolio, regardless of whether it encompasses hundreds or thousands of locations.

Surveyor is currently installed in nearly 13,000 locations, primarily small-box retailers. We are also in the testing phase with other retailers, including many Fortune 500 companies.

What makes Surveyor unique from other EMS products on the market? 

Surveyor is one of the most affordable energy management systems available, giving customers a very fast return on investment of typically less than 18 months. Venstar can deliver this affordability since it designs and builds every piece of the Surveyor energy management system.

Also, Surveyor was designed specifically for the small-box retailer. We are not trying to shoehorn a large, overly complex building system into a small location. And Surveyor’s architecture was designed so that it requires very little of the customers’ network bandwidth. It has minimal impact on our customers’ IT infrastructures. Venstar is one of the world’s largest thermostat suppliers, giving us insight into how best to manage energy needs.

What type of energy savings can Surveyor customers expect to see? What about return on investment? 

Our Surveyor customers, which include AutoZone and Family Dollar, typically see 20% to 35% energy savings. It can vary both from chain to chain and from store to store. We’ve seen stores that were so poorly managed that they realized a 70% to 80% energy savings using Surveyor. Across larger chains, the typical savings is about 25% to 30%.

As for ROI, Surveyor pays for itself very quickly, and most of our customers have been seeing a return on their investment in about 18 months. But the energy savings can go on forever.

What other products/services does Venstar offer retailers? 

Venstar provides a strategic partnership to our customers. We help each one with the analysis of the data and suggest steps to implement, to avoid energy waste and provide a good environment for customers and team members alike.

In addition to our Surveyor energy management system and top-notch support, Venstar offers a full line of thermostats that employ the latest technologies, including wireless products, voice recognition and full-color touch screens. We have a number of exciting new products coming soon.

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Five ways to reduce risk and increase efficiencies with the right service provider

BY CSA STAFF

By Monte Boyer, [email protected]

For more than two years now, retail facility managers have been hunkering down; deferring maintenance and postponing facility upgrades until the economy shows signs of improvement. Although "waiting for the dust to settle" is an understandable strategy for survival, it is not without risk. Dollars deferred today may pale in comparison to the ultimate cost of postponed maintenance. Equipment that hasn’t been properly serviced can become increasingly inefficient, unreliable or — even worse — prematurely fail.

Retail facility managers can reduce that risk, and at the same time increase efficiencies, by partnering with the right service provider. A good HVAC partner can help facility managers overcome some of the challenges posed by today’s economic environment through consolidation of efforts across both facilities and services, and by creating operational and energy efficiencies.

As a facility manager, here’s how you can reduce risk and increase efficiencies with the right service provider:

1. Select a vendor with the largest reach possible
Do yourself a favor; reduce your dependence on multiple, local vendors to perform maintenance. Instead, select a vendor that partners with you across your portfolio — preferably someone with national capabilities. Whether you’re responsible for eight facilities or 8,000, you can drive down costs through consolidation to one vendor that can meet all your needs. They’re out there. Some national service providers have thousands of technicians in place across the country. Service providers that are backed by a national or global infrastructure offer:

  • Quality control: By working with a national vendor, you can eliminate the huge variations in quality that are inevitable when contracting for service with a variety of local vendors.
  • Efficiency: Consolidation streamlines the maintenance process. Instead of dispatching calls, statusing issues and reviewing invoices of multiple vendors, one call to a single point of contact is all that is required. With the time saved, you and your staff can turn your attention to revenue-generating activities.
  • Reliability: Service calls can’t always wait. Larger service providers are available 24/7/365.

2. Select a vendor with single-source accountability
Not only should you select a vendor that can execute nationally, choose one that delivers expertise across multiple services. Here’s where the efficiencies grow exponentially. Top-tier service providers offer expertise in everything from HVAC, janitorial, lighting, refrigeration, fire and safety to energy efficiency and sustainability; a suite of expert services managed by a single point of contact. One call ensures consistent performance, value and responsive service across all sites.

3. Select a self-performing vendor
Avoid working with a vendor who will manage contractors but outsource the work. Instead, partner with a provider whose employees actually perform the facility services. Self-performing providers make you their only priority. They take ownership of the work. And with a self-performing vendor, you can avoid subcontractor markups. With a national HVAC consolidator, you may have passed along the headache of managing multiple HVAC providers but you have not eliminated it.

4. Select a single-source provider to increase operational efficiency and effectiveness
Choose one provider that can see the big picture. If you currently work with 15 different HVAC vendors, and ask them to prioritize equipment replacement, you’ll get 15 different perspectives. Conversely, a single-source provider will consider all equipment from all facilities when identifying critical needs and setting priorities. By working with one point of contact who has a greater view of your portfolio, you can be confident that priority is given to issues most critical to your business. Strategic investments made today when costs are lower can provide your organization with a competitive cost advantage for many years.

5. Select a single-source provider to increase energy efficiency
Partner with a provider that can show you how to increase energy efficiency. The key will be getting access to facility data that’s relevant, meaningful and actionable — which the right service provider can deliver. Today’s most advanced technologies allow you monitor building performance in real time; identifying trends within buildings and across portfolios, spotting areas of concern and flagging underperformers. Some commercial control systems actually monitor themselves and send notifications when there’s a noteworthy event or when it’s time for a service call.

When priorities do call for the replacement of equipment, the right providers make sure you’re choosing the most energy-efficient solutions. Ideally, they even help to identify ways to leverage federally- or utility-sponsored rebate programs.

The right service provider
Choosing the right service provider requires careful consideration. Take the time to identify vendors who have national reach and are single-source, self-performing providers with demonstrated expertise in energy and operational efficiency. By partnering with a top-tier vendor, retail facility managers can reduce risk, increase efficiency and overcome some of the challenges posed by today’s economic environment.

Monte Boyer is VP and general manager, Johnson Controls National Service. Johnson Controls is an OEM supplier with over 125 years of experience in the HVAC industry. With more than 150 local branches throughout the United States and Canada, Johnson Controls National Service provides retail customers with innovative solutions and an expertise in HVAC, refrigeration, security and fire safety, as well as lighting applications. For additional information on Johnson Controls National Service visit www.johnsoncontrols.com or contact Monte at [email protected].

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Staples puts Kindle on Christmas list

BY CSA STAFF

Beginning this fall, Staples will offer several variants of Amazon.com’s popular Kindle wireless ereader device in its nearly 1,600 U.S. stores, the company announced Tuesday. Staples will offer a base model Kindle for $139, the Kindle 3G for $189 and the large-screen Kindle DX for $379.

“As part of our efforts to offer customers a wide range of top technology products and services at amazing values, the new Kindle is a natural fit,” said Jevin Eagle, Staples EVP merchandising and marketing.

Staples is the first office superstore to offer the Kindle, however, Target became the first conventional retailer to stock the product when Kindle endcap displays hit its stores several months ago.

The Kindle is Amazon’s best-selling, most-wished-for and most-gifted product for two years running. Although, it is unclear how much demand remains for the device after such strong sales, Staples has secured distribution of the compelling item just in time for what promises to be a challenging holiday season. Kindle promises to bring some needed energy to the office products retailer with interactive displays that allow customers to experience the product before they buy and to learn more about the product. Plans also call for Staples to offer a full assortment of Kindle accessories.

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