Catering engineers need to unleash their inner-geek

I only have to scroll down the most recent dozen or so new product announcements in my inbox for a reminder of just how intrinsic technology has become to the inner workings of catering appliances today.

Paragraphs on touchscreen controls, USB uploads, cloud storage and mobile compatibility wouldn’t be out of place in an IT journal when it fact it is meant to get users of prime cooking equipment and refrigeration excited.

The prevalence of reporting technology that allows operators to monitor the way their equipment is used and behaves only serves to reinforce the view that commercial kitchens are now gadget-savvy places.

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There is no telling where it will end. As manufacturers look to add more features and benefits to their systems, we can surely only expect more layers of technology to be built in.

This all has implications for the end-user, of course, but also the supply chain — none more so than those responsible for repairing the equipment when it fails or attending to customers in desperate need of technical support.

Manufacturers have technical helpdesks set up to deal with this kind of thing, but it is still clear that the next generation of service engineers will need a knowledge or general awareness of hardware and software issues that their predecessors didn’t.

As experts in the sector note, the skill set required of catering engineers continues to evolve, heavily influenced by the changing design of the appliances themselves.

A decade or two ago, most major foodservice appliances were typically mechanical in their operation. Today, just as many are electronically driven. As one service company noted, engineers must now have a good analytical mind and approach to fault finding.

Advances in technology means that a lot of core appliances contain self-diagnostics, but if these fail to make a correct analysis then it boils down to a capable engineer to step in and resolve the problem.

But as equipment becomes more hi-tech it also places a heavier burden on the engineer in terms of training. Yet even with the support of manufacturers it is simply impossible for companies to train engineers on every conceivable product line they may come into contact with.

Instead, training courses and programmes will need to be carefully selected and companies with large technical engineering bases will have to establish their priorities from a learning point of view.

It will be intriguing to see how the industry responds to the changes taking place. Technology is only going to become a bigger part of the kitchen. There will be no room for Luddites in this brave new era of maintenance.

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