Laws of the lab

Making sure equipment satisfies all the standards it needs to can be an expensive process for foodservice manufacturers. Catering Insight caught up with Mark Bristow, UK managing director of refrigeration manufacturer Liebherr, to discuss what happens before a product enters the commercial supply chain.

What sort of independent testing procedures does your equipment typically go through before it reaches the UK market?

All machines are designed, built and tested in house — in simple terms this means that quality control is greater than if sourcing machines via third parties. All models also carry a two-year parts and labour guarantee as standard. Liebherr has a number of test labs that are independently certified to EN 153. These tests are undertaken in one of the six test labs at the factory in Austria. The test facilities have been independently checked and certified by Intertek and VDE. This enables Liebherr to accurately measure the performance of their cabinets to recognise standards and against competitor’s machines.

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What does the facility consist of?

The facility has 16 climate-controlled test rooms with six test terminals each, so there are 96 terminals in total. Each terminal has 31 measurement channels — 2,976 channels in total. In a different location within the factory there is one acoustic test room used to test and determine noise levels to IEC 704-3 / IEC 60704 with the object of reducing noise levels and developing quiet appliances. The climate-controlled test rooms are divided into independent sections to avoid the risk of a malfunction affecting all rooms at once. Eight rooms have electronic humidity control and two rooms are designed for commercial testing to EN 23953-2 with horizontal controlled air circulation.

What are the primary types of certification that are typically achieved by the equipment that you manufacture?

Liebherr has NSF certification on certain models (for the North American range of products) that meet the strict requirements to comply with the standards imposed by the NSF and its product certification programmes. Liebherr operates within ISO 14001 environmental standards, which only 20% of manufacturers can actually claim. We also hold the ISO 9001 certification and are committed to operating within this quality standard framework. All products are CE certified and 14 models are listed with the ETL, part of the Carbon Trust’s scheme. Liebherr’s commercial product range has the ability to consistently perform to withstand time with lower energy consumption levels, less downtime and longer replacement intervals. The range is cost-effective for the customer and better value for money for their businesses.

What standards do you value most or regard as being really important for your brand?

Caterers should consider at length quality control and the environmental standards suppliers are employing. Back in 1993, Liebherr was the first manufacturer to change over to CFC-/HFC-free refrigerants for its entire range of freestanding domestic appliances and the commercial range followed after that. Liebherr uses Hydrocarbon refrigerants as standard throughout its commercial range of refrigeration — these refrigerants are extremely environmentally-friendly as they have a very low global warming potential and zero ozone depletion properties. They also allow the machine to function more efficiently. All the components of the appliances are in conformity with ROHS and WEEE guidelines.

Are there any certifications that you don’t have which you would consider investing in?

Liebherr currently holds most certifications. As an organisation we are keen to have an energy management standard for commercial refrigeration, which Liebherr is currently working on with Europe to follow in the footsteps of the domestic market. No market competitor has the facility to self-certify and Liebherr sees that the sooner a standard is introduced the better, as companies will have to honestly state their product’s credentials. Liebherr has a pioneering approach to environmental standards, which has been deep-rooted in the history of the company from the Liebherr family ethos, which significantly remains today in the brand’s values. Liebherr’s professional appliances are characterised by a combination of excellent energy efficiency, the use of environmentally friendly refrigerants that are CFC-free and outstanding performance. Within the scope of the Liebherr ‘Active Green’ philosophy, the focus of the commercial product range is on exceptional energy-saving refrigerators and freezers.

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What sort of innovations can be found in your latest models?

The latest energy-optimised ProfiPremiumLine models, the completely new wine cabinet range in the best energy efficiency classes as well as display and beverage refrigerators with an innovative LED concept are all part of the latest product offerings. Compared to conventional models with neon lighting, the refrigerators with LED illumination combine the highest level of light quality with energy savings of up to 30%.

Do you make dealers and distributors aware of the certifications that your equipment has achieved? Should they even care about it?

The CSR policies employed by both supplier and caterer are increasingly important to the staff, customers, suppliers and, essentially, the bottom line. Liebherr’s commercial range is cost-effective and better value for money for the customer, enhancing brand values through CSR. Building a reputation and publicising ethical attributes to customers, suppliers and staff will enable you to stand out from competitors and build a potentially powerful brand.

Moreover, customers have a preference in their criteria to use a responsible supplier which is now becoming a key objective within a brief as standard. Suppliers and service providers are informed about Liebherr’s environmental protection principles and they are integrated into the process at an early stage. This enables aspects of environmental protection to be incorporated into upstream and downstream processes.

Keeping the conveyor belt moving

The Liebherr Group’s annual sales grew 10% to €8.3 billion last year (£6.6 billion), although with interests in industries such as plant machinery and tower cranes, refrigeration equipment contributes just 10% of its turnover.

Out of the €844m (£671m) that it did make from refrigeration sales last year, the majority came from domestic appliances where it remains a dominant player.

There have been some key developments in the commercial sector, though, with the Swiss-based company completing its product range for laboratory and medicinal purposes, where it has seen strong growth in recent years.

Additionally, the division has developed new products combining design quality with energy efficiency for high volume customers in the drinks industry. The new generation of impulse-purchase appliances has LED lighting and high-quality glass elements in the plinth area and the side panel, according to the firm. Another new departure in the presentation of freezer contents is a back-lit insulating glass panel of customer-specific design, for optimal brand and product presentation.

Apart from these developments, activities continue to be devoted to a new generation of built-in appliances that is scheduled to enter production early in 2013. Liebherr spent almost €38m (£30m) last year on an automated packaging area, a new storage facility and a testing laboratory for its domestic and commercial appliances division.

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