Ocean Spray climbs the ladder of smart lighting (MAGAZINE)

April 1, 2019
The cranberry company has already used LED luminaires embedded with wireless sensors to slash energy costs. Now it wants to use the lights for other purposes, like tracking assets including people, ladders, and forklifts. MARK HALPER reports.

Here’s a head-scratching question that the hard working crew at Ocean Spray’s Middleboro, MA cranberry processing plant often finds itself asking: “Hmmm. Let’s see, where did I put that ladder?”

It’s a costly one for them to ponder. The 652,000-ft2 facility runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, drying gazillions of cranberries, infusing them with syrup, and converting them into 80 million lb of Craisin snacks and toppings that it packages for supermarket retail shelves and wholesale customers like General Mills, Mars Inc., and Dunkin’ Brands.

When someone at the plant needs to quickly fetch a ladder, it’s just not always possible. As everyone knows, mere human beings just don’t always put tools back in their proper place. You can count ladders among the casualties.

“People aren’t supposed to move the ladders, but they do,” said Nelson Rego, the facility’s maintenance supervisor. “They get misplaced, we order new ones, and then we find the old ones. We spend a lot of money every year to replace ladders.”

Now, Rego thinks he has figured out a way to correct the problem. He wants to track the facility’s 50-some ladders using location technology embedded in the company’s smart lighting. While he’s at it, he’d use the same lighting-based system to keep tabs on other assets in the warehouse and the processing plant. Those assets would include, among other things, forklifts and, yes, people.

For Rego and Ocean Spray, solving the mystery of the missing ladders in such a way would reaffirm something that they have already proven: Smart lighting, in which sensors and intelligence reside inside luminaires and transmit data wirelessly to an IT network, can help improve operations and slash costs.

Lighting-based asset tracking would be Act II in a smart lighting play at the cranberry stalwart, and would extend the intelligence beyond the realm of lighting.

It started with energy savings

For now, Ocean Spray is benefiting from the fruits of the lighting-centric Act I: By replacing some 3000 fluorescent luminaires with 2800 LED sensor-equipped luminaires mostly from Boston-based Digital Lumens, Ocean Spray has slashed its lighting-related electricity consumption by a staggering 87%, from 270,000 kWh per month to 34,000 kWh.

Digital Lumens, acquired by Osram back in August 2017, has been one of the earlier movers in connecting solid-state lighting (SSL) to information technology networks in Internet of Things (IoT) schemes. Now the company says it has deployed more than 500,000 smart nodes across more than 550 million ft2 of industrial space.

Working with Digital Lumens and with Beverly, MA-based energy services contractor Groom Energy Solutions (now owned by French energy giant EDF), Ocean Spray switched on the new lights in August 2017, and by 2018 the results were in. The precipitous decline in power consumption for lights led to an overall drop of about 14% of the plant’s electricity bill for those 12 months, with the total tumbling by $410,000 — from roughly $3 million to $2.6 million.

While an estimated $280,000 of the total came simply from switching to energy-efficiency LEDs, the remaining $130,000 resulted from the intelligence and programmability of the Digital Lumens building management system, Rego said.

The Digital Lumens system, called SiteWorx Tune, embeds passive infrared (PIR) occupancy sensors in each LED luminaire, so they switch on when needed and off when no one is present.

On top of that, maintenance supervisor Rego has taken full advantage of the luminaires’ programmability. He set lumen levels at 70% in the warehouse and processing areas, which contain most of the facility’s luminaires. Rego has programmed them to reduce to 1% brightness after 5 minutes of no occupancy, and to switch off altogether after another minute.

“Part of my building, the lights are off for 16 hours a day due to the technology that we installed,” said Rego, who applies the same concept to the 200 or so office luminaires but with different light levels.

He cranks up lumens to their maximum levels — 100 lm in the warehouse and processing areas, and 60 lm in the office — only when absolutely necessary, such as during inspections.

The scheme is changeable at any time via commands in a simple app-based user interface, which can reset duration and brightness for individual lights.

“The technology has given me the flexibility of changing those settings at any time,” Rego noted. “So if someone is going to be working in a space, I can change the settings on my phone so the lights don’t dim while they’re working, and once they’re done working, the lights go back to the original settings. I can adjust each light for each space, from my computer, my iPad, or my iPhone.”

Always fine-tuning

Using those devices, he is constantly tweaking the settings as he tries to tease even more savings out of the system.

“I’m trying to save half a million this year,” said Rego. In other words, by fiddling with lumens, time settings, and the rest of it, he hopes to extract an additional 25% savings over the $410 million he garnered in the first year. “I’m always tweaking the settings,” he noted. “I’m always making changes. I monitor month to month.”

While Act I has focused on lighting controls and energy savings, it has also included some non-lighting benefits through a sensor network called SiteWorx Sense.

Ocean Spray has begun adding temperature sensors in key areas to ensure the correct climate for any given area. For example, after discovering that a door on a walk-in freezer was not closing properly, in December 2017 Ocean Spray mounted a temperature sensor on a column inside the freezer after repairing the door.

The sensor communicates wirelessly with the same Zigbee network that connects the lights to the app controls. Ocean Spray has since mounted sensors in other temperature-sensitive areas of the facility. When temperatures go above or below the parameters that Rego and his staff prescribe, then Rego and crew receive alerts — via text message, e-mail, or however they program the system to deliver. For instance, the freezer sends such a notification when it rises above freezing.

Not only have the temperature sensors provided operational benefits but according to Rego, by tying them into the lighting communications network, Ocean Spray has done so at a fraction of the cost had he used a conventional building management system (BMS). Whereas a traditional BMS approach would cost $5000 per sensor, the wireless system from Digital Lumens costs on the order of $300 per sensor, he said. Digital Lumens used 3-D printing to make the first couple of sensors that Ocean Spray trialed and has since provided a total of about 25 factory-made temperature sensors.

In another non-lighting use, Ocean Spray has fitted sensors to power meters in the seven substations where power enters from the electricity grid. These communicate via Zigbee to the system. They were scheduled to go live by the time this story went to press. Rego said the company will probably apply similar monitoring sensors to water and gas meters.

It is considering adding HVAC sensors as well to monitor the performance of the heating and cooling system. The information from all the lighting and non-lighting operations is displayed on a central dashboard.

In the SiteWorx system, Ocean Spray is using Zigbee wireless technology. Ocean Spray had considered running lighting controls over Wi-Fi, but as Rego recalls, “My team was very concerned about piggybacking on Wi-Fi. They were afraid that if we added all the features for light, the bandwidth wouldn’t be able to handle it.”

Tracking people and things

In Act II, Ocean Spray would outfit the infrastructure with asset tracking to keep tabs on all those ladders, and, similarly, to help make sure that forklifts don’t go wandering. One issue with forklifts is that propane-fueled models are not supposed to enter Craisin processing areas, where only electric-powered models are permitted for health reasons.

Ocean Spray would also like to use asset tracking to monitor employees and visitors.

“You don’t want people in parts of buildings they’re not supposed to be in,” said Rego. “We have some areas of the building, like tunnels, where only maintenance is supposed to go into. And in the packaging rooms, you don’t want foreign materials. We have a lot of contractors, so we try to keep them out of those areas. If someone goes into a space they’re not supposed to go into, we get an alert. We don’t want foreign material inside our packaging rooms, so we keep a lot of contractors outside those areas.”

Human asset tracking would also help find missing people in the event of a fire drill. Today, if the headcount is low at the assembly point in a drill, the fire department has to physically sweep the building for missing individuals. But the Digital Lumens technology could provide a heatmap displayed on a central computer or possibly a tablet showing their location.

“With this new technology, I’ll be able to know exactly where they are, and I can tell the fire department,” said Rego. (Watch for an LEDs Magazine article soon about a smart lighting system dedicated to security and safety operations at a research park in Sweden).

Rego said Ocean Spray is talking with Digital Lumens about how to implement the technology. One challenge is that the assets — ladders, forklifts, people, and so on — would have to be tagged with radio emitters, via conventional security badges or other means.

But it looks set to happen, as Digital Lumens plans to push into asset tracking for both new as well as existing deployments such as at Ocean Spray.

“In discussions with our customers such as Ocean Spray, use cases around asset tracking increasingly become a topic of interest,” Digital Lumens CEO Wolfram Unold said. “Hence, we are currently adding asset tracking capability to our portfolio and plan to release first applications by the end of 2019.”

Notably, the asset tracking will use Bluetooth rather than Zigbee to send signals between the asset and the network. While this “last mile” of communications will ride on Bluetooth, the SiteWorx technology will interpret the location and transmit that information centrally via Zigbee.

Asset tracking could become a feature at other Ocean Spray locations, as Rego said the company is interested in deploying Digital Lumens technology elsewhere. Middleboro is the largest of 11 plants for Ocean Spray, a cooperative of about 700 cranberry growers, with processing facilities in the US, Canada, and Chile for products including Craisins as well as cranberry juice and sauce.

And whether asset tracking catches on at those locations, it’s likely that smart lighting controls will. And that Ocean Spray will then enjoy the large fruits of additional energy savings.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).