Asian innovation keeps Coke cool

Think the Coke Freestyle machine with its more than 100 beverage options is cool, check out what’s happening in Japan where Coca-Cola has developed something called the peak shift vending machine.

It’s being called the most innovative vending machine of the past 50 years by Coke representatives in Japan because after running at night when power consumption is lowest the machine can deliver cooled product for 16 hours the following day. The result is a 95% reduction in daytime power consumption during summer months and a 20% reduction during winter months.

Development of the peak shift machines began last May, several months after a major earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan, by Coca-Cola Japan and Fuji Electric Company. Field and laboratory testing was conducted this past July and now Coke is ready to move forward with a 10 billion yen ($123 million U.S. dollars) investment in 2013 to install 25,000 of the machines throughout Japan.

"After the earthquake disaster last year, the need to reduce energy consumption has increased and we take our responsibility as market leader very seriously," said Tim Brett, Coke’s EVP and general manager of franchise operations and commercial leadership. "With these peak shift vending machines, we have realized environmentally friendly innovation. These could be called the most revolutionary vending machines in the past 50 years of vending machine history. Vending machines have evolved in many ways over the past 50 years, but peak shift vending machines are a breakthrough in the true sense of the word and I am sure that they are the most important innovation yet."

The huge reduction in daytime power usage required Coke and Fuji to re-imagine the vending machine and integrate new technologies and materials into the design. Koji Sugimoto, general manager Fuji Electric Company’s food and beverage distribution business group explained it this way.

"Conventionally, power consumption is controlled by only cooling the minimum amount of products necessary. However, peak shift vending machines brought forth the idea of cooling all products during the night and not allowing that cool air to escape during the day. This was realized with improvements to thermal insulation and air tightness, Sugimoto said. "The use of large amounts of vacuum insulation materials, which boast 10 times greater thermal insulation performance than conventional urethane materials, successfully resulted in the cooled products themselves maintaining the cool air environment within the machines."

The new design also means the time required to cool products placed in vending machines at room temperatures has been reduced by 25%.