Full steam ahead for Virgin Trains’ warewashing operation

Virgin Trains

Logistics giant DHL has been given the task of refreshing the on-board dining proposition for passengers using Virgin Trains and that has meant getting every aspect of the catering experience right. FEJ looks at how the replacement of heavy duty warewashing equipment at four of its main service centres has bolstered capacity and saved it costs.

By DHL Supply Chain’s own admission, it was a ground-breaking move when long-distance rail operator Virgin Trains awarded the business its first major rail contract last year.

The £30m three-year deal to manage on-board catering services across the strategically-important West Coast Mainline heralded both DHL’s entry into the rail catering sector and a new phase in on-board catering, with the global logistics giant vowing to revolutionise the entire food and drink experience.

Covering a route that stretches from Glasgow to Euston, and encompasses some 30 million passengers a year, DHL has been hard at work developing a range of innovative menu options using locally sourced and healthy ingredients.But while it’s all well and good creating a food and drink experience that satisfies huge volumes of travellers, how do you deal with the huge post-service requirements that come with it?

It was important to check on the way the supplier would apply itself to the working practices in addition to the wash quality of the product itself”

That has been one of the challenges facing Gary Rowles, general manager of DHL Supply Chain, who is responsible for the warewashing aspect of the business. He has considerable expertise in large dishwashing systems at DHL Passenger Gateway, covering warewash operations for British Airways and United Airlines.

“When it came to replacing the warewashing equipment at four service centres, I went to the market with knowledge and a working experience of the machines and services provided from a number of manufacturers,” he explains. “It was important to check the offer from a number of manufacturers, not only for price comparison purposes but to check on the way the supplier would apply itself to the working practices in addition to the wash quality of the product itself.

Following an exhaustive survey of what was available on the market, Rowles selected Germany-based warewashing equipment specialist Meiko as its prime supplier.

“Meiko is excellent at finding solutions to specific washing and handling issues,” he says. “We required a minor modification on one of the machines, as our old cutlery washing baskets did not fit the new machines, and they were happy to fix those issues for us.”

The partnership has seen Meiko effectively refurbish the entire warewashing network for Virgin Trains West Coast Mainline, which was not an easy project due to the logistical issues involved. For instance, the main Euston washing hub is located on the elevated redundant parcel sorting deck above the platforms. As it was never designed for warewashing, all the waste water has to be picked up from the machines, pumped to high level and then discharged into a downpipe some metres from the building. “Ventilation is also an issue because our buildings were not designed for dishwashing, therefore the integrated heat recovery systems have really helped with the climatising of the wash-up area,” notes Rowles.

The heat recovery system takes the warm exhaust air from the opposite direction of the dishwasher, blowing air back from the exit point to the point of entry. This means that it is no longer necessary to use an expensive-to-run-and-maintain heat pump to reduce hot air from the machine and to minimise the waste air discharge into the working space.

We required a minor modification on one of the machines, as our old cutlery washing baskets did not fit the new machines”

Exhausted air from the machine at a minimal discharge quantity of 150m³/hour and cooled to approximately 22°C is then fed directly back into the wash-up area to assist with the overall working comfort factor for the wash-up operators.

Meiko machines have been installed in Manchester, Preston, Euston and Liverpool, and the results have been tangible. AirConcept integrated condensate hoods fitted on the pass-through dishwashers dramatically reduce the heat output and help to make the working environment more pleasant for staff. The hoods save energy and can also eliminate the need for a dedicated dishwash ventilation system, because they recycle waste heat and steam to pre-heat the incoming cold water.

“At Preston, the Meiko double basket DV200.2GiO pass-through machine with integrated Air Concept energy saving condensate hood has not only doubled the capacity of the washing operation, but has eliminated an age old exhaust air issue and saved much needed space,” says Rowles. “The entire process has allowed growth for expansion to accommodate potential new routes.”

At Euston, meanwhile, where cleaned ware emerges from the Meiko M-iQ main rotables washing machine, an extra wide belt has been fitted to deal with peak volumes. This has improved capacity for processing crockery and cutlery, as well as glassware, at certain times. The extended loading area of the machines also enables additional staff to be allocated during busy times to the handling of the soiled ware and provides for any future expansion of the on-board service offering.

With DHL promising to pay particular attention to customer service at the outset of the contract, the improvements it has made to the warewash operation certainly give it the sort of first-class set-up that is needed to keep passengers satisfied as they travel the length of the country.

Sparkling results

DHL Supply Chain claims to have seen significant improvements in wash quality following a refurbishment of the warewashing systems for Virgin Trains. The company selected Meiko’s machine-integrated GiO Tech reverse osmosis water treatment systems for all of the equipment. The GiO Tech units provide sparkling clean, spot-free results and have eliminated the need to install costly-to-maintain water softeners and remote reverse osmosis plant. This has saved valuable floor space at all logistics centres, in addition to delivering considerable capital and revenue cost savings, it claims.

The amount of double handling associated with the previous systems has also reduced considerably. As soiled ware is stored onboard in airline-style trolleys and decanted when the train reaches one of the four logistics centres en route, the eggs from a Great British Breakfast or Eggs Benedict have plenty of time to dry hard on the plate.
But even this has posed no problem for the new Meiko M-iQ washing machines that the company has deployed.

The daily 16-hour dishwashing marathon

DHL Supply Chain has a three-year service contract with Meiko, ensuring its machines are working to peak efficiency and maximum reliability. The dishwashing operations at DHL run from 6am to 10pm, utilising two shifts and employing some 40 employees across the network.

Spec sheet

Manchester: MiQ-K-M54 V8 P8 TR800 plus DV80.2GiO Air Concept for glasses

Preston: DV200.2GiO Air Concept for all products

Euston: MiQ-B-L74 V8 N44 P8 plus MiQ-B-L54 V8 N44 P8 for all rotables

Liverpool: MiQ-K-M54 V8 P8 TR800 plus FV40.2G-GiO for glasses

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