© Mariusz Smiejek / Fotogloria

Conway’s travels

Newcastle, Belfast, Coleraine – Joe Conway trav­eled around Ireland’s green coun­try­side and lively cities for several months. He was targeting the country’s super­mar­kets.


Joe Conway’s head is deep inside a freezer cabinet. He has been counting all the fans and every single light fitting. Then he comes out, writes down the numbers, and pulls the folding rule that he uses to measure the surfaces in the frozen foods section from his pocket. The commer­cial manager of the Cross Group is exam­ining the SPAR super­market in Belfast; just like he previ­ously did in Newcastle and Coleraine. He has been exam­ining Northern Ireland’s super­mar­kets like this for several months.

“I went to each of the 70 stores myself.
This was the only way to pinpoint the project’s scope.”

Joe Conway, Commer­cial Manager of the Cross Group

Conway has a major project underway: in only three months, the cooling tech­nology expert must replace 2,000 fans and just as many light fittings in the freezer cabi­nets in 70 of the Henderson Group’s stores. The company is one of the largest retail brands in Northern Ireland. In addi­tion to the company’s own 85 stores, it has the SPAR and EUROSPAR brand fran­chise for the country, comprising over 450 stores. The main chal­lenge: “We have to keep the stores open while replacing the parts,” said Conway. “This is why we had to create the optimal plan. We didn’t want to disturb the store customers.”

Impres­sive savings poten­tial

But first, back to the begin­ning: The retrofit was Dr. Glen Crumley’s idea. He is the Henderson Group’s energy manager. “Part of my job is to propose a measure for lowering the Group’s energy costs and carbon emis­sions every year,” Dr. Crumley said. When he met Tony Wright from ebm-papst UK at a confer­ence in London, he learned about a new option. “Wright’s presen­ta­tion there was about how much energy you can save by replacing AC fans in cooling systems with EC fans,” he added. Since cooling systems consume between 30 and 60 percent of the energy in super­mar­kets, he consid­ered it a key point of depar­ture. “I was impressed by the numbers, but also appre­ciate the quality of the prod­ucts and ebm-papst’s guar­an­tees and company history. So I gave the order for the retrofit to Cross Group and required them to procure the EC fans from ebm-papst,” he explained. Along­side the fans, they were asked to replace all the light bulbs in the freezer cabi­nets with LEDs.

Nothing left to chance

After manage­ment at Henderson gave its approval, the Cross Group kicked off the plan­ning phase. “I received infor­ma­tion from the store managers,” said Conway. “But I couldn’t use it for detailed plan­ning. So I went to each of the 70 stores myself. This was the only way to pinpoint the project’s scope.” The Cross Group trained six subcon­trac­tors to do the replace­ment work. Conway supplied them with plans. “The plans told them where they should park to avoid any incon­ve­nience to store customers and how they had to behave inside the store and deal with customers, for example,” he said. But they also spec­i­fied how many fans had to be put in which refrig­er­ated display cases, which ones needed adapters and which precau­tionary safety measures they would have to take.

“The retrofit went smoothly.”

Dr. Glen Crumley, Energy Manager of the Henderson Group

“The Henderson Group’s stores are very busy, people are always entering and leaving. We didn’t want to get in the way.” Since the Cross Group needed the assis­tance of the store employees, who had to empty the refrig­er­ated display cases before their arrival and fill them imme­di­ately after the work was completed, the work could only be done during the day, although some of the Group’s stores are open around the clock.
After a six-month plan­ning phase, the subcon­trac­tors started retro­fitting. They replaced between 20 and 60 fans and light fittings per store, which took anywhere from a few hours to a maximum of two days. “The retrofit went smoothly,” said Dr. Crumley. “They did not have to do any mechan­ical work on the unit bases and the fans could be replaced one-to-one. Only 15 percent of cases required an adapter. And for the most part, the stores could operate normally.” After three months, the retrofit was completed.

Store employees had to empty the refrig­er­ated display cases and fill them imme­di­ately after the retrofit work was done. (Photo | Mariusz Smiejek / Fotogloria)

Savings for the bottom line and the envi­ron­ment

The Henderson Group is really saving now. The retrofit reduced the fans and lights energy usage by 70 percent. As Conway explained: “The EC fans are not only more effi­cient, they give off less heat — which trans­lates into less cooling. The savings are tremen­dous.”

By replacing the fans and lighting the Group saves over 200,000 euros per year.

In total, the old AC fans consumed almost 800,000 kWh per year, but the new axial EC fans use just under 150,000 kWh. By replacing the fans and lighting the Group saves over 200,000 euros per year. The invest­ment will be paid for after 20 months and the new fans are more reli­able, quieter and have longer service lives. The envi­ron­ment also bene­fits: After the retrofit, the Henderson Group emitted 550 less tonnes of carbon per annum. “The project was defi­nitely one of our largest and most compli­cated,” said the commer­cial manager. “But it was well worth the effort.”

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