The race for washing WiFi

Hobart recently launched the WashSmart app for its machines.

Recent times have seen a raft of commercial warewasher manufacturers join the race to connect their machines to the internet in a bid to assist operation, remote monitoring and diagnostics. So how can these features help distributors and service companies selling and repairing the units?

One of the most recent developments is from Hobart, as it has launched a new app allowing users to control the running of multiple machines from their phone or tablet. The WashSmart software is available to download and lets operators control the integral functionality of multiple machines at the touch of a button.

Compliant with all new Hobart purchases, the app is designed to make it simple to monitor levels of detergent and water in real time and determine overall operating costs. Users can download hygiene reports, quote and order necessary consumables and receive error reports for any machine breakdowns.

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According to Tim Bender, Hobart Warewashing UK sales director: “Significantly cheaper than our competitors, moving forward our WashSmart app is set to revolutionise how operators manage and maintain the essential pieces of Hobart kit in their armoury – connecting users to their machines remotely allowing for ultimate economy and control.

“Not only does it give users a straightforward overview of all the machines they have running, it delves into far more detail, meaning users can rest assured that they will always have a handle on outgoing costs, can deal effectively with potentially problematic errors and uphold operating standards.”

Looking forward, he analysed: “From a Hobart perspective, the element of connectivity that is of greatest benefit to the customer is to provide a passive, as opposed to active, service. That means we receive information from a machine – diagnostics to tell us that it is functioning correctly to ensure minimum downtime – rather than passing it information.

“You will always need people as an interface somewhere in the warewashing role, but having operational and machine status information delivered to them remotely and proactively helps improve efficiency and reduces downtime. But an app providing ‘remote control’ is not something we envisage manufacturers exploring any time soon.

“In terms of innovation it’s currently the customer that will be receiving data but what if you’re a multi machine or multi-site operator? Going forward we can see the end user being taken out of the loop, resulting in a machine that can self-diagnose to a point where it makes contact with a service department upon breakdown. This would remove many customer headaches at a stroke; instead the machine talks to us, prompting an automatic service response.”

Over at Meiko, it has years of experience with connectivity. More than a decade ago, the manufacturer introduced MIKE, a communication technology compatible with the full range of Meiko products, which enables access to detailed service diagnostics, such as temperature records for wash and rinse, number of cycles, duration of cycles, time of switch on/off etc.

However, 10 years ago, accessing and using the data was limited to the then current communications technology. Cabled and then Bluetooth wireless login allowed for quick access and fast downloading of this system-relevant data. Cabled access meant engineers could plug in their laptop – typically on larger rack and flight machines – to speed up the process of diagnosis and fault finding. Hand held devices, such as a PDA, were used to access data on undercounter machines.

CCInsight software was then developed by Meiko into a multi-level package which contains all system-relevant data functions and operating processes. Separate data streams can be created, for example, for the kitchen porter and for engineers and management, which has more detail and functionality. It also enables users to integrate their equipment into a network, to link up multiple units and to connect machines to a control room or a kitchen or facility management system.

With Meiko engineers and those of its distributor partners being able to use this technology to help them with fault finding and repair, the manufacturer can access data such as a history of wash or rinse tank temperatures, and number of cycles/door openings. The firm’s research department also got the benefit of data which detailed the reliability/fault history of crucial components, such as wash pumps.

As the technology and software has developed, Meiko has taken advantage by creating The CC Touch electronic control panel, which provides a visual means of controlling all dishwashing processes, which can be useful when kitchen staff speak multiple languages.

The CCInsight expansion module is a software ‘add-on’ that lets the user perform analysis – such as a history of rinse temperatures – diagnostics and even modify parameters, such as rinse duration or rinse temperature, from a central control system.

Dave Kemp, Meiko UK technical services director detailed: “We take great pride in providing the very best technical services training to our distributor partners, to ensure they fully understand the installation, commissioning and fault-finding requirements of Meiko warewashing products.

“A decade ago and more, Meiko introduced software technology into its dishwashers to gain access information which, at the end of the day, is to the customers’ benefit. It also allows Meiko engineers and those of its partners, to offer and deliver the very highest levels of customer service.

“It is no longer about just repairing a broken-down dishwasher. The latest generation of Meiko’s software control systems give us even more comprehensive usage and fault data, helping us take preventative measures.”

He added: “For example, the technology allows us to identify the running time of components and see how hard the machines are working, which – because we have a decade of collected date on machinery faults against run-time – also allows for more comprehensive and effective preventative measures.”

Elsewhere, Winterhalter has recently launched a new system that exploits the latest networking and digital technologies and is designed to make warewashing more efficient, reliable and controllable. Initially available for Winterhalter’s UC Series of undercounter machines, Connected Wash allows the manufacturer’s warewashers to be networked to provide more continuity and efficiency in the kitchen – or in multiple kitchens.

Paul Crowley, marketing development manager of Winterhalter UK, revealed: “We’ll soon be extending it to other product ranges like passthrough machines, so that customers can see the full benefit of the technology in their restaurants. Beyond that we’ll be looking at how we can develop the technology to pull as well as push – so that, for example, we can change programme settings remotely.”

In terms of distributor and servicing company benefits he added: “The Connected Wash machines have been really popular, with around a 100 in the marketplace. Customers are appreciating that we can help remotely with any issues their machines may have, without engineers making unnecessary site visits.

“Data can be sent to Winterhalter for analysis and, if necessary, be converted into recommended actions for the customer. For example, if a machine reports a critical error, the system instantly sends a push notification to the nominated person’s smartphone or tablet. The speed of the system means customers can react quickly to warewash issues, minimising machine disruptions and increasing operational efficiency.”

He feels Connected Wash also gives Winterhalter customer cost-optimisation tips. “For example, often staff will turn on the machine first thing, but the timespan between start-up and the first wash cycle may be overlong, causing unnecessary costs. The system will highlight this.

“Empty detergent canisters are another common problem the system will solve. Connected Wash will warn customers when a refill is needed, so it’s easy to avoid the machine washing without detergent.”

Future-gazing, he predicted: “Automation, across the board, is making caterers’ lives easier. From Winterhalter’s point of view this would be the introduction of software-driven products, such as machines that can be adapted to precise on-site conditions, ones that can automatically adjust their pressure depending on what’s being washed, and units that will automatically replenish water when they sense it is too dirty. Many warewashers can also notify users if they detect basic errors, reducing costly downtime.”

At Italian-headquartered Krupps, it feels it was the first manufacturer to introduce WiFi control on its warewashers. First presented at Host 2015, the iKloud wireless connection is installed on all the manufacturer’s dishwashers and warewashers as standard and is said to require “very little extra” on its glasswashers. Error alarm settings can be tailored to each user or service company.

Marketing manager Manuel Petrucci said: “iKloud was conceived especially for service issues since it gives the opportunity to control every parameter remotely. The dishwasher is foaming? No problem, pick up your smartphone, open the iKloud app and adjust the detergent quantity. The customer is having an issue on its EL53E? Engineers will know it in advance since the dishwasher will send them a real-time notification. In that case they will operate remotely, if possible, or go just once to the end user in order to solve the situation efficiently.

“The system enables better communication, since the machine is connected directly with service engineers. This means better after-sales support with happy customers and no downtime.”

Krupps’ WiFi system can be connected to other appliances and in 2018 the company will introduce the opportunity to manage washing machines, ovens etc together. “This option will enhance and simplify rental activities, giving the opportunity to manage different equipment you find in a pub or in a kitchen by one only source,” said Petrucci.

“The pay-per-wash activity will be improved and better overseen from both the dealer and the end user, and that represents the future of the catering industry. More and more customers are asking for this type of contract that allow them to pay just what they ask for and to change their needs in the future according to their turnover improvement.”

He believes: “Machines will become smarter than ever and many features will be introduced, not only for service engineers but also for the end user. We hope that this will help them to have more awareness of the equipment they are using, what they can do to improve their business and how their warewasher can help with this.”

Fellow Italian manufacturer Smeg has been working with a WiFi expert trying to maximise the functionality and benefits of launching this kind of technology, according to commercial channel director Phil Coulstock. “At Host in Milan in October we showed an early prototype but the speed in which things develop and take shape in the tech world is so super-fast that we believe the products will be fully available by mid-2018.

“Initially the technology will only be made available on our new TFT screen Greenline range but as time goes on there is no reason why the technology can’t be rolled out throughout the Smeg warewashing range.”

As he feels that the ability to remotely access data is invaluable, Coulstock said: “Being able to make service interventions, adjustments and suggestions to the customer’s appliances from the data being viewed could massively reduce the appliances’ servicing costs, downtime and needless chargeable service calls, freeing up engineers to better respond to actual service issues.”

However, he warned: “One area of concern for a number of people in the industry is the growing number of apps required on their devices, as each manufacturer develops theirs independently. The danger is that eventually you have an app for every appliance and the practicality and simplicity is diluted somewhat.

“Smeg believes there is clear added value in being able to combine information into one place and allow other systems to help control things more efficiently. For example it’s great that you have the ability to turn your appliance on from anywhere in the world, but wouldn’t it be better if your energy companies provided data advice or even turned the appliance on when it is the most cost effective time to run it, helping save money? This way, a gimmick becomes a tangible cost saver.”

Coulstock concluded: “Smeg believes the opportunities and capabilities of the future glass and dishwashers are limitless, much like we have seen with technology in the mobile phone industry – once you have a screen capable of displaying anything and the sufficient hardware in the machine, the options become very exciting. For example, video training and prompts via the appliance, instant ordering of spare parts or consumables items such as chemicals, tailored wash cycles for multiple sites washing unique items – the list is as long as the imagination.”

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