Martin FlusbergCEO, Powerhouse Dynamics
Powerhouse Dynamics was founded in 2009 with the vision of providing tools to help identify and eliminate wasteful energy consumption in the built environment.
Today, multi-site Food Service organizations house the most extensive set of equipment, from refrigeration and food prep to HVAC, hot water, and more, essential to their business operations. But managing that equipment for organizations that can be spread out geographically in hundreds of small locations and generally have very small operational teams (a typical 500-store restaurant chain will have five facility managers) is a real challenge. Moreover, as a result of that equipment, a typical restaurant or convenience store will spend three or more times per square foot on energy than an office building or other large commercial enterprise. And the costs of maintaining all this equipment can be significant as well. Alongside, it is not just the operational cost that is a challenge in this market. These organizations must maintain a safe environment for their customers. The public has become much more aware of food safety risks over the past several years. This is a critical issue that affects safety, cost, and brand reputation
Powerhouse Dynamics has responded with a solution that addresses all of these challenges on a single platform. Open Kitchen (known as SiteSage outside the Food Service and Food Retail Industries) provides real-time, remote visibility into equipment operations across the enterprise. In addition, it offers remote control of equipment - in the kitchen and beyond. This combination enhances equipment performance and extends life, reduces food safety risks while enhancing food quality and reducing waste, significantly reduces energy spend, and increases the customer base’s overall operational efficiencies.
Powerhouse was acquired by one of the world’s largest Commercial Kitchen Equipment manufacturers, Middleby Corp., in 2019. The founders started Powerhouse Dynamics to find a way to monitor energy usage to allocate the cost of solar panels being shared by multiple homes and then expanded the concept to circuit-level home energy monitoring in general. But when a CEO came on board before the product was released the focus shifted to remote monitoring and management of equipment for small commercial facilities such as restaurants, and that focus has continued to evolve based on feedback from customers.
“When I joined the company, I saw an immediate opportunity with small commercial facilities that had huge challenges and few if any technology options. The product has since expanded into a comprehensive IoT- based solution” says Martin Flusberg, CEO of Powerhouse Dynamics. “First of all, we connect to and monitor equipment – from ovens to fryers to refrigerators to HVAC equipment - and leverage both alarm codes generated by the equipment itself and patented analytics to provide advance warnings of equipment issues. For example, an oven may report that a motor is failing. Alternatively, we have set up alerts to indicate that food is cooking at the wrong temperature or was put in the oven before it was defrosted.” These types of alerts help to dramatically reduce food safety issues, enhance quality, and reduce waste. By monitoring the electrical usage of a refrigerator in real-time, they can alert to compressors that are short cycling or overloaded, both of which can be early signs of problems and generally result in wasted energy. “We also offer controls that ensure that equipment is only on when it needs to be, and that settings – such as thermostat settings – follow company guidelines at all times. A smart defrost control enables walk-in coolers and freezers to initiate defrost cycles only when needed – instead of multiple times per day as normally done – significantly reducing energy usage,” adds Martin.
Open Kitchen is unique in multiple ways. It is essentially the only platform that combines digitally connected equipment, food safety automation, equipment monitoring, and energy management on the same platform. While the system is modular and allows customers to use just the features they need or want, those that look to deploy all of these features have them on the same platform, which offers major customer benefits. Secondly, Open Kitchen is the only connected equipment platform for Food Service and Retail that is truly open. Open Kitchen is already connected with more than 30 brands of kitchen, HVAC, and other equipment. A proprietary “Integration Layer” makes it very straightforward to add new equipment to the platform at the customer’s request – or the OEM’s. The ability to remotely monitor equipment, get advance notice about equipment issues before the equipment fails, be warned about threats to food quality and safety, and remotely manage when and how equipment is used delivers on the commitment to revolutionize not just kitchen but overall facility operations.
The company’s largest customer is Arby’s, and Arby’s has done a great job telling its own story about the value of the product. “Our system is installed in all 1,200+ Arby’s corporate locations, and in close to 1,000 franchise locations spread across more than 100 franchisees,” explains Martin. “Arby’s refers to the product as their Energy Management and Smart Connected Kitchen platform. (The system is digitally connected to more than 5,000 pieces of kitchen equipment at Arby’s corporate alone, monitors an additional 2,500 pieces of refrigeration equipment, and monitors and controls over 3,000 HVAC units).” Arby’s has reported a 15% annual reduction in energy expenditures – generating over $5M in annual savings - and many millions more in savings from the Smart Connected Kitchen, most of which they report as personnel savings from the automation of reporting, among other things. They also believe that the system has had a real impact on food quality and waste and food safety
For the foreseeable future, the company plans to continue to expand the numbers and types of equipment that the platform integrates with. Powerhouse Dynamics will continue to regularly release software updates that address all aspects of the application and have just released a major upgrade to the user experience.
“We also regularly, albeit with much less frequency, release new hardware components, but are in fact just about to announce a major new hardware release as well,” adds Martin. “ConnectWare provides an external communications module that relieves OEMs from the need to develop, certify and support their own connectivity option, and from the added BOM cost that is present regardless of whether the customer takes advantage of connectivity. ConnectWare also provides an additional layer of security to our already highly secure (PCI Level 1) platform.”