SPECIAL REPORT: What really goes on in the R&D departments of the world’s top catering equipment makers?

Energy labelling

What steps are manufacturers taking to ensure their equipment is as efficient as they claim it is? FEJ shines a light on how products are put through their paces before taking their place in the kitchen.

Energy efficiency remains a huge issue for the industry and one of the major driving forces behind the product development work being carried out by manufacturers today.

This topic will take on even greater significance from this month due to the long-awaited introduction of regulations that require refrigeration cabinets to be labelled with an energy rating detailing how efficient they are, similar to the information already available in the consumer market.

The same is expected to happen in the cooking and warewashing segments, but the timeframe for that is not clear. In the absence of market-wide legislation governing testing procedures and formal benchmarking criteria, FEJ explores what some of the biggest brands in the market place are doing behind the scenes to measure the efficiency of their equipment.

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

It goes without saying that when developing a new product, or upgrading an existing one, manufacturers will look to apply techniques that lead to improvements in performance and efficiency. For some, this process begins in the design department but for others there is another step that precedes that.

“At Convotherm, a new product development always starts with the voice of the customer,” explains Steve Hemsil, national sales manager for the UK at Manitowoc, which owns the combi oven brand. “For example, when we started to develop our Convotherm 4 combi steamer range, one of the first processes was getting feedback from the market. From the feedback that we received, the energy efficiency and reliability of the equipment was key and is something which we have gone on to further develop within our latest combi steamer range.”

That feedback inspired the patented Advanced Closed System+, which works like a lid on a saucepan, keeping heat and moisture in and enabling the temperature to rise rapidly.

For Hobart, the warewashing manufacturer, product development starts with looking at the three main areas of consumption: water, electricity and the consumables (chemicals). “There is no generic solution to improve energy efficiency as such, as each machine or project is taken on its own merits — and this is key,” explains sales director Tim Bender. “The process starts with an idea — we then carry out feasibility studies and market research to confirm our ideas. Our technology team then looks at the options that are available within the constraints of the machines in question, such as where it is possible to reduce consumption by taking advantage of new technologies or perhaps replacing or substituting parts within the machine for more efficient ones.

“We also take into account the external factors outside the machine which may affect consumption of water and energy, such as the pre-scraping of plates, which our Permanent Clean ASR system is a solution to.”

A similar process is undertaken to identify where it can either reduce or recover energy used within the machine at the same time, by methods like drain heat recovery or reclamation of energy from the exhaust air, for example. “Ultimately, the quality of the wash and rinse result is paramount, so no developments can take place until all of this has been firmly tested.”

In the cooking side of the market, making gains will often come down to identifying and experimenting with new components and designs. Douglas MacLachlan, new product development manager at Falcon Foodservice Equipment, is a man who knows this process inside-out and says: “During component selection of a new product we review the latest technologies available in order to help us achieve the performance called for in the development brief. The drive is to look at alternative, more efficient techniques and technologies to achieve better performance, using less energy, compared to our current models and our competitors’ appliances. Every appliance is different, however burner technology, heat transfer materials, insulation and electrical heating components are key areas which affect efficiency.”

Most manufacturers adopt a very robust internal development and testing process to ensure that a product will do what they claim it will once it is in use in the field. At Electrolux, each device is thoroughly tested and monitored for its performance and energy consumption in a variety of different operating conditions, and that performance will then be benchmarked both against existing equipment and also against competitors’ products.

“In terms of targeting key parts of kitchen equipment for specific efficiency gains, we tend to adopt a holistic approach instead,” reveals Stuart Flint, business and training demonstration manager at the brand. “If you take refrigeration, for example, its efficiency is not just determined by how much it costs to run the compressors. You also need to consider the other components which make up the unit, such as the insulation qualities and type of foam used, or the type of door seals. With a combi oven, insulation is key as you want to keep the heat within the oven. Ultimately, all the different elements contribute to achieving the highest level of efficiency; therefore it’s not solely determined or measured by the kW rating of the appliance.”

The process starts with an idea; we then carry out feasibility studies and market research to confirm our ideas”

The inspiration for many new products is usually a mixture between creativity and science. Warewashing manufacturer Meiko employs a specialist product development team to ensure its product portfolio evolves and, according to managing director, Bill Downie, it’s all about being prepared to look at situations in unconventional ways.

“The first step taken by the R&D team at Meiko to improve energy efficiency involves thinking ‘out of the box’,” he says. “For example, when Meiko introduced the M-iQ range of rack transport and flight dishwashers, the M-iQ tank management system operates in reverse of the machine working flow. Rather than depending on the traditional cascading system to maintain the proper water level, M-iQ will automatically divert water to any area of the machine that is necessary, helping to save 30% energy compared with previous Meiko machines.”

PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES

So once a manufacturer has begun developing a product ahead of production, how do they go about determining the efficiency of it? “We measure against the European legislative standards, where available, and test products against draft energy labelling standards as they are released,” says Falcon’s Douglas MacLachlan. “We also rate performance against existing products — both Falcon’s and our competitors’. This procedure ensures that we not only exceed current performance levels, but also that we have our eye on the future.”

There are multiple elements that can improve efficiency and for fryer manufacturer Pitco one of the key weapons in its armoury is its patented burner, which it claims increases efficiency without sacrificing reliability.

“We utilise the ASTM-1361 test method which is an industry accepted test procedure for determining fryer performance,” explains Bob Brown, specialty product manager at Pitco. “And we try to exceed the current EPA criteria for energy star qualification that is utilised in the US. When making energy performance claims, it is prudent to identify the test method being used along with any estimations. Verification and certification have similar importance.  However, certification carries a higher cost, which is ultimately carried over to the equipment price.

In the refrigeration sector, Adande uses energy metres to monitor the power consumption of its refrigeration units, but it claims that what sets it apart from other brands is the environments in which it tests both its kit and the products of other manufacturers.

“Inevitably, some tests are conducted in sterile laboratory conditions, but we also replicate kitchen environments, with higher ambient temperatures and greater humidity, to provide more meaningful data,” says Dr Catarina Marques, engineering manager for foodservice at Adande. “We also conduct trials of our equipment and competitors’ products in our customers’ live working kitchens to achieve comparable information, based on real-world applications. Typically, our testing regimes involve a frequency of drawer/door openings above those specified in the relevant test standard to mirror use of refrigerators in the busiest foodservice operations.”

Adande’s testing regimes are conducted to PR EN 16825 (2015), which Marques says is the provisional standard for testing commercial refrigerated cabinets and counters intended for use in commercial kitchens. “The depth and integrity of our testing procedures have placed us in a strong position to address the EU Ecodesign Minimum Energy Performance requirements and the energy labelling of commercial refrigerators and freezers introduced from this month.”

For a multi-product manufacturer like Electrolux, the testing process varies for each product category. This includes a “very intense” internal procedure that examines a variety of different elements, as well as different operating conditions, to determine not only how efficient the equipment is, but the extent of its durability. Its blast chillers, for instance, are tested in higher temperature and higher humidity conditions, as well as standard lab conditions. A simulation programme is also used to replicate the projected lifetime usage, ensuring that when a piece of equipment is despatched to a customer’s premises it will deliver long-lasting levels of performance.

“For refrigeration, our product is independently tested as it is the only product category where the legislation or regulations allow for that external testing, and they can then be listed on the Energy Technologies List (ETL),” says Stuart Flint.

Inevitably, some tests are conducted in sterile laboratory conditions, but we also replicate kitchen environments, with higher ambient temperatures and greater humidity, to provide more meaningful data”

One company with an alternative approach to testing is Frima, the multifunctional cooking equipment manufacturer. It makes use of the German-based HKI Cert Database to have its models independently tested and certified. The energy consumption figures are then uploaded to the association’s database for complete transparency.

“This ensures that anyone buying or specifying modern kitchen technology has access to comparative energy usage figures, based on set guidelines, which can help them make informed buying choices,” insists UK boss Graham Kille. Compatriot Convotherm bases its measurements on internal methods as well as using official standards such as the DIN 18873 and the ASTM 2861, which it argues are “clearly defined” test methods. “It is hugely important to us that we follow reliable and consistent procedures used across the board to track the improvement of our equipment, as well to further enhance the performances of our combi steamers,” insists Steve Hemsil.

“Our products are tested in-house, as well carrying out independent third party tests such as TÜV in Germany or FSTC in the USA. This allows Convotherm to acquire an independent test report as well as certification that both ourselves and our customers can rely on. For example, we have the most units that are Energy Star qualified and this is something which we are exceptionally proud of. “

HobartEnvironmental protection and energy efficiency are high priorities for Hobart, and these are dealt with at the company’s headquarters in Germany. “We rely on ISO international standards to ensure the quality of our products and services is recognised,” says Tim Bender. “We use the international certification organisation, TÜV SÜD, which has certified Hobart for its exemplary energy management system in accordance with ISO 50001:2011. We’ve also been certified by TÜV SÜD Management Service GmbH, a company of the TÜV SÜD Group, for our environmental management system in accordance with ISO 14001:2004. In order to achieve this environmental certification, Hobart constantly defines numerous individual measures with the corresponding targets in production, purchasing, new product development and, above all, in product operation,” he adds.

The lack of any over-riding regulations in some sectors can be particularly frustrating for manufacturers, particularly those adamant about the quality and efficiency of their products. There is no uniform measuring standard for induction appliances in the commercial world, for example, but companies such as Grande Cuisine, supplier of the Adventys brand, hope this will change in the future as it will help to “de-mystify” the technology.
In the meantime, business development manager Dan Loria says the market has to make do with other methods for determining product credibility.

“When it comes to induction one of the critical factors is always the quality of the pan. As the ferritic properties of the pan dictate how well it will work on an induction hob it is crucial to ensure the same quality of pan is used for all product testing otherwise inaccurate results will be given.”

Loria concedes that without a common standard it’s very difficult to compare its units against competitors’ products because the testing environment and operating conditions are never going to be the same. “Like most manufacturers, we supply information on the output and energy consumption of our own products. However, it is crucial that a universal measuring standard for induction appliances is developed as soon as possible so that claims can be verified and standards adhered to.”

VERIFICATION

The work that has gone on at EU level to determine a system for benchmarking refrigeration efficiency really is a game-changer as far as the catering equipment industry is concerned. Glenn Roberts, managing director of Gram-Hoshizaki, is one of those who says that foodservice operators are set to benefit greatly from the regulations.

“The introduction of the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) will allow operators a clear and transparent system to assess the energy efficiency level of refrigeration products available on the market,” he notes. “Up until now, The Energy Technology List, which is managed by the Carbon Trust on behalf of the UK government, provides information on products that qualify for the government’s Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme. As well as the EU top 10, which presents the best appliances in various product categories, manufacturers can use the list to check the energy efficiency, impact on the environment and overall health and quality of their products.”

While in-house testing and self-certification procedures allow manufacturers to apply consistent parameters to all product research and energy trials, Adande says it also recognises the need for for independent verification of its findings and therefore it regularly engages fully-accredited third party testing houses to validate its procedures and results. “In our opinion, in-house testing backed by trials by external agencies enhances our reputation for the credibility and transparency of the data we publish in the market,” says Catarina Marques.

Frima, meanwhile, would like to see more brands from the sector follow its lead of working with the German HKI institution in order to bring greater cross-market consistency and transparency to the buying process. “Frima was the first multifunctional appliance manufacturer to join the HKI database for independent verification back in 2013 and we have urged other manufacturers to also contribute in order to provide catering equipment buyers with unbiased information,” says Graham Kille.

Frima VarioCooking CenterThe debate of self-accreditation versus third party accreditation is certainly an interesting one. Simon Aspin, commercial director at Hubbard Systems, agrees that third party accreditation is the more credible scenario, but for ice machine makers there are limitations where this is concerned.

“Sadly there are no standard benchmarks in the UK or Europe against which different icemakers can be compared. The US has the Energy Star rating system, and various ice maker brands, including Scotsman, have some models available in the UK that are accredited to this system.”

Winterhalter has adopted an approach to verifying performance that is an industry first. It has teamed up with the Carbon Trust and, through carbon footprinting, is now able to give accredited running costs, including energy figures, for the lifetime of its machines. The figures are independently verified and allow Winterhalter to carry the ‘Carbon Footprint’ label.

Paul Crowley, marketing development manager of Winterhalter, says: “While energy labelling under the Ecodesign Directive will tell buyers how energy efficient a piece of equipment is, it won’t tell them its lifetime costs, or its carbon footprint. In order to make a truly informed decision, and to enhance their environmental credentials, foodservice operators will need to know these figures — which is where the Carbon Trust’s expertise in footprinting comes in.”

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