It is mainstream knowledge that energy efficient catering equipment can save foodservice operators money and help towards securing a more sustainable future. Manufacturers and equipment dealers alike will commonly market their portfolio on the merits of how little energy they use and by extension how much money they can save. But how committed are catering equipment firms to efficient and ‘green’ manufacturing at their factories? Some, it appears, do indeed strive to extend the efficiency of their products to the processes by which they are made.
Warewashing specialist Winterhalter is one such manufacturer which has adopted environmental policies and a dedicated environmental, health and safety team at its plants. Its marketing and development manager, Paul Crowley, notes how its manufacturing process has been audited by the Carbon Trust as part of the carbon footprint labelling process. Crowley claims Winterhalter is the only catering equipment manufacturer which has taken this step of independent verification. The company also manufacturers to ISO 14001 standards as part of its commitment to energy efficient manufacturing.
Winterhalter is not the only catering equipment business however that operates to strict environmental standards. Both Frima and Falcon Foodservice Equipment operate according to certified ISO 50001 requirements. For Frima, efficient energy management systems have been put in place as an important part of its corporate strategy, rather than for the sake of ‘being green’. In addition to this accreditation, the manufacturer invests heavily in R&D and insists its new state-of-the-art factory built last year uses the latest energy saving materials and design.
Similarly, Falcon instils a ‘lean manufacturing’ philosophy at its facility, which is its main user of energy. Engineering director Alan Turnbull explained: “Energy use is now a major component of the decision making process of any potential capital investment. Recent examples include the replacement of all our lighting systems with LED technology and replacing old cutting machines with the latest fibre optic laser equipment.”
Lean manufacturing methods are also employed by Unox to minimise waste at the product development stage. Kate Brooman, marketing and media manager for Unox UK detailed how the company manufactures 96% of its oven components in-house at its Italian headquarters, helping to reduce its transportation footprint and costs. Its factories not only produce all the electronics and stainless steel and plastic components, but go as far as making the detergent, further reducing its need to move materials. Unox holds energy efficiency as a priority and makes extensive use of solar energy to power its assembly lines and offices.
Energy efficient manufacturing can of course save manufacturers money but how, if at all, does that filter through into the costs dealers have to absorb? Crowley details how it can keep costs down or at least proportionately even for dealers: “If manufacturers don’t invest in geothermal heating or rain water harvesting, for example, production costs would rise at a more rapid rate,” he said, continuing: “It’s well known how much energy costs are set to rise. Being an energy efficient manufacturer is a way to manage costs. Ultimately, the lower our costs are, the lower our prices are – which will benefit dealers and their customers.”
It seems logical that if the manufacturer’s energy costs are kept at bay, then so too are the knock-on costs for dealers. However, it is not always this simple. Turnbull explained how with energy costs rising above the rate of inflation for a number of years, reducing energy usage does not always deliver adequate net savings that then filter down to dealers. “Sometimes we have to run very hard just to stand still. Since 2012, for example, we have reduced our energy use by 32%, but costs are only down by 12%. Like any business our efficiency savings need to be balanced with increasing costs. In recent times this has been made very difficult with currency fluctuations and raw material price increases,” Turnbull commented.
On the other hand, Frima maintains that keeping production costs down by delivering efficiencies at the factory means it can improve products whilst avoiding increasing its prices. Further to this, Graham Kille, technical sales director of Rational, Frima’s parent company, said that Frima saves users money further down the line. “The multifunctional VarioCooking Center replaces many individual kitchen appliances, reducing the overall carbon footprint of a kitchen – especially when you include packaging and transportation.” He added: “This also reduces the disposal costs. It’s cheaper to dispose of one unit than several. Plus, up to 98% of each Frima unit can be recycled.” It could be argued that the consequences of having to transport and package less equipment could save dealers money to a degree, even if it means shifting fewer units.