Chains may resist networked warewashers if they think it adds complexity

There are still major hurdles for the industry to overcome before operators fully embrace the benefits of networked connectivity in their warewash environments, suppliers have claimed.

The notion of a ‘connected kitchen’ continues to shape much of the R&D activity taking place in the catering equipment manufacturing sector and the latest warewashing machines on the market suggest it is only a matter of time before internet connectivity becomes a fundamental part of warewasher fleet management among chain operators.

Electrolux Professional has observed a “gradual” shift in this direction, but Steve Bowler, category manager for warewashing at the brand, believes there are certain challenges to address before it happens more readily.

“Chain operators will be wary of any added complexity to equipment that could result in operator misuse and higher maintenance costs, while another source of hesitation is likely to be just how many apps there will be for operators to manage — not only for dishwashing but also across ovens and refrigeration equipment.

“That said, there are plenty of practical benefits to connectivity that will appeal to chains. The opportunity to improve advanced fault diagnosis and call responses will be particularly welcomed. Likewise, automatic water changes and chemical adjustment that helps give the result and reduce costs could also have a big impact on long-term running costs.”

Hobart is one of the largest suppliers of commercial warewashing products in the UK and from its perspective the element of connectivity that is of greatest benefit to the customer is to provide a passive, as opposed to active, service. That means it receives information from a machine — diagnostics to tell it that it is functioning correctly to ensure minimum downtime — rather than passing it information.

“As long as there’s been plates there’s been people and so even as we move forward, you will always need people as an interface somewhere in the warewashing role,” said sales director Tim Bender. “That means an app controlling a machine is not something we envisage manufacturers exploring any time soon. In terms of innovation it’s currently the customer that will be receiving data but if you’re a multi-machine or multi-site operator, going forward we can see the end-user being taken out of the loop, resulting in a machine that can self-diagnose to a point where it makes contact with a service department upon breakdown. This would remove many customer headaches at a stroke; instead the machine talks to us, prompting an automatic service response.”

The majority of our customers are still sceptical of this technology in a commercial wash-up environment, preferring to rely upon a human interface”

While the concept of internet connectivity seems a good idea in isolation, question marks exist over the practicalities of set-up in a commercial warewashing environment, with areas such as security a concern for some companies.

Julian Lambert, sales director at Maidaid Halycon, said the opportunity to collate data, set parameter cycle times and remotely monitor equipment offers clear benefits to operators, but sounded a note of caution: “Maidaid does not foresee the possibility in the near future of technology being able to replace the essential service a well-trained technician can provide by visiting a site and listening to the customer’s concerns and in many instances providing guidance on how to use the machine in the most effective manner. The majority of our customers are still sceptical of this technology in a commercial wash-up environment, preferring to rely upon a human interface.”

But with technology now prevalent in most areas of the kitchen, it seems inevitable that operators will come to expect the same standards and benefits from warewashing appliances that they are used to in other products.

Paul Crowley, marketing development manager at Winterhalter, which offers its ‘Connected Wash’ platform to customers, says the opportunity for operators to drive greater efficiencies amongst their machines and reduce downtime will eventually outweigh any initial barriers to new technology.

Referring to Connected Wash, he said: “The technology is about delivering the very best results and reducing downtime for operators. Technicians will now know in advance what’s wrong with the machines, ensure they’re carrying the appropriate part and potentially turn up on site before the customer even knows anything is wrong. It allows us to move towards a 100% first-time fix rate.”

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