Magazine Article | March 20, 2008

Save Money, Save The Planet

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Green is gold when it yields more green.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, April 2008

I spent 4 hours last month with Dean Lindstrom, president of a company called Novar, and his team at the company's Cleveland headquarters. I came away from our time together impressed with the thought that his company is doing the right thing in the right place at the right time.

Among the issues generating major headline news in the recent mainstream media are two challenges that Lindstrom's company helps retailers deal with: environmental responsibility and impending recession. To be fair, Novar is one service provider among many that offer energy management services (some others include Energy Management Systems and TEMSCO). But I was especially pleased to spend time with Novar, which offers its services almost exclusively to our industry and boasts the lion's share of the market in retail. Its client list reads like a who's who of top 100 chain stores, and many of them are singing the vendor's praises for significant fiscal guidance.

For his part, Lindstrom doesn't mince words about the en vogue green trend. His approach is bottom-line; when it comes to energy management, environmental responsibility, he says, is a by-product of fiscal responsibility. After all, you have to consume less energy to pay for less energy. But it's difficult to maintain fiscal responsibility in the market where Novar plays — major retail enterprises with hundreds to thousands of stores and tens of thousands of employees spread far and wide. That's why the company starts with a consultative approach to energy management, helping retailers establish best practices for store temperature management, lighting protocols based on store hours and sunlight, and equipment power consumption. But that's just the beginning. It's when companies choose to place controls on and gain insight into energy consumption that things get really interesting. 
Tech Progress Benefits Business, Conservation
The vendor's Opus software enables machine-to-machine and machine-to-enterprise communication, which allows retailers to monitor the energy consumed by their HVAC, lighting, and plug load (responsible for roughly 40%, 40%, and 20% of energy consumption, respectively). Sensors attached to energy-consuming equipment and thermostats feed the software program, which does some pretty impressive alarm and reporting work. For starters, remote monitoring enables maintenance alarms to be sent to a 24/7/365 support center for immediate service dispatch. But better than that, a BI (business intelligence) tool gives corporate management the ability to run temperature and lighting scenarios that have a measurable impact on reduced energy consumption and the bottom line. For instance, picture this: A graphical user interface shows a CFO a thermostat control. The CFO clicks on the control with a mouse, knocking the temperature in his 800-store chain from 69 degrees to 68. Simultaneously, the display calculates the energy consumption and cost savings associated with the temperature drop. Think about that. Does consumer spending have you lamenting a bad quarter?  Knock the heat back a couple of degrees and save a few hundred thousand dollars. The vendor offers controls that ensure compliance with temperature mandates such as these (with overrides, of course).

That's a snapshot of the functionality modern energy management controls offer, and there's plenty more where that came from. Forgive my excitement for this topic and this company. It's hard not to be bullish about technology that helps businesses save money and the earth all at the same time.