Conference debates future tech

A session on warranty issues generated lively debate.A session on warranty issues generated lively debate.

Now in its fifth year, the Industry Technical Conference has become a staple in the catering equipment sector for those wanting to know more about the maintenance and regulatory side of the business. With the theme of this year’s event, once again jointly organised by CEDA and CESA, being ‘Focus on the Future’ it was appropriate that new standards and recruiting future engineers topped the agenda.

Delegates at the Nottingham Belfry Hotel on 11 October saw Martin Dagnall, technical training manager of First Choice’s Training arm, Combico, kicking off the main proceedings with an update on the CEDA/CESA training licence programme. First Choice’s new headquarters at Cannock have been a boon for training, with dedicated facilities meaning that the engineers taking courses there are being assessed on the elements they should be, rather than any domestic equipment modules.

The firm is in the early stages of bringing onboard a managed learning programme for new entrants into the industry, which starts with initial candidate assessment and should culminate in them obtaining ACS gas certification. Furthermore, the electrical competency course launched in June has been developed specifically for commercial catering engineers and accredited by City & Guilds. Dagnall revealed that over 80 engineers have already taken and passed the course.

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Continuing the training theme, Semta’s (Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance) Allan Macdonald, commercial team – special projects, and business development manager Malcolm Healey detailed that new employer-designed apprenticeship standards could benefit the catering equipment industry. Employer groups are empowered to tailor standards to their requirements, but Macdonald suggested that initially overlaying them on a similar sector’s standards and basing them on NVQs could mean they would be ready in a matter of months.

Healey reported that the new government apprenticeship levy was introduced due to lack of employer investment in training. Explaining that the current engineer shortage means the UK needs 182,000 new science, engineering and technology technicians per year until 2024 to meet demand, he outlined that all apprenticeships meeting English frameworks standards will be funded through the digital apprenticeship system. This can give up to £27,000 of funding per apprenticeship.

Next to the stage was BESA technical consultant Peter Rogers on the subject of the updated DW/172 standards for kitchen ventilation. This covers solid fuel appliances, demand controlled kitchen ventilation (DCKV), appliance coefficients and temperature schedule, grease separation, lighting and cleaning and maintenance. The guidelines recommend that systems with total extract flowrates in excess of 2.5m3/s should be considered for DCKV, a minimum background ventilation of 20 air changes per hour must be maintained and that carbon monoxide and dioxide monitors must be incorporated to override the DCKV system. Roberts advised that the best position for the monitors is at head height.

In terms of solid fuel appliances, the standards treat wood-fired appliances separately from charcoal ovens. Wood-fired units should be housed under a dedicated ventilation canopy with a stainless steel extract duct and fan, and all solid fuel systems must have a carbon monoxide interlock. Enclosed smoker units were not included in the scope of these specifications.

Solid fuel equipment was also the main discussion topic for CEDA’s technical support, Peter Kay, who waxed lyrical about CEDA and HETAS’ just-published guidance document on the subject, which the trade bodies hope will become a standard for the industry. The document warns that the carbon monoxide production danger level for these appliances is 30ppm, and wood burning also creates creosote so will require a separate extraction system.

The document also lays out equipment choice, maintenance and positioning considerations; fire suppression system advice; how to operate and shut down the appliances; ductwork and equipment cleaning guidelines; as well as advising on the storage and handling of fuel and ash removal.

In an information-packed presentation, CESA director Keith Warren brought delegates the latest views from Europe. He reported that energy and the environment are high on the EU agenda, especially given that there has been a tipping point for renewable energy sources this year, with renewables outstripping fossil fuel usage on some days. Warren cautioned that all businesses would have to reduce carbon usage, in light of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive aiming to transform all buildings into energy efficient and decarbonised stock by 2050.

To that end, Warren underlined that smart metering and connected appliances will help manage catering equipment energy usage. The ‘connected kitchen’ will involve digitisation of traditional cooking and beverage equipment, as well as the outright automation of work processes with rapidly emerging new technology, he believes. Furthermore, he predicted an increasing move towards preventative maintenance systems, with sensors applied to all appliances.

While Warren emphasised the need for harmonised water standards across Europe, in the first of the day’s two seminars, Brita business development manager Steve Buckmaster highlighted the difference between water types just within the UK. He recommended that distributors and service companies should test water hardness before any equipment installation, as one of the consequences of fitting a water treatment system to an appliance in a soft water area could be making the pH more acidic, with the acid water then causing pitting and corrosion. He also demonstrated the different types of hard water, commenting that permanent water hardness causes gypsum deposits, which can be combatted with a de-mineralisation unit.

The second seminar saw Tony Mooney, director of Live the Dream UK, advocate using ex-military engineers to meet any engineer recruitment shortages. He feels they have a hardworking, can-do attitude and are already highly qualified. His company can help to place the ex-military personnel with catering equipment maintenance firms, and he interviews candidates three times before putting them forward for any roles. Military personnel have a termination period of up to 12 months before they leave the armed forces, during which they can accept work placements and obtain training.

A panel discussion on warranty issues during this year’s Industry Technical Conference saw dealers in the audience clash with panel members Mark Bloyce, Rational’s national service manager; Iain Munro, director of Hobart Cooking Solutions; Graham Skinner, sales and marketing director at Serviceline; and Falcon Foodservice Equipment’s Glenn Wild.

Distributors questioned the panel as to why suppliers rarely accept the costs for a warranty call-out, and blame end users if they can’t initially find a fault. Munro responded: “Staff training is a large part of that issue. We may need to improve communication about warranty terms and conditions too. Warranty isn’t preventative maintenance cover, it’s there to capture defects.”

Wild suggested: “CEDA and CESA could get everyone’s thoughts down about what they want in a warranty and feed it back to the industry.”

Furthermore, others in the audience were concerned that a 48-hour warranty call out response was not good enough for end users in a 24/7 hospitality industry. Rational’s Bloyce detailed: “Rational’s service network does have a 24 hour provision for response, but sometimes this is not possible. We do KPI all of our service providers on first time fix and response rates though.” According to Skinner: “Pricing pressures mean manufacturers offer minimum cover as the norm.”

Conference host Richard West closed out the day with a presentation looking how the catering equipment industry can be inspired by other sectors, drawing upon his experience as a business coach and motivational speaker. He believes we are living in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) time and therefore companies have to focus on strategies that take account of a new world order in the decades to come.

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