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Opinion: The spare parts problem: OEM or generic?

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CESA is advising that a perfectly-matched part ensures a first time fix and keeps a kitchen running.

CESA director Keith Warren is cautioning dealers and servicing companies to carefully consider which spares are best to supply and specify for end users’ appliances:

The thermostat on a restaurant’s fryer breaks down. Their service supplier sends an engineer who fixes it, but the cooking results take a dive and the operator complains about how greasy the food is now. The restaurant decides to up the temperature and there’s a fire in the kitchen.

It’s a potential scenario that highlights the problem of generic spares (made by a third party) vs OEM (original equipment manufacturer). The main reason for fitting a generic component is price – it’s usually the cheaper option. One of the main reasons for fitting a genuine OEM component is that you can be sure it will function efficiently and to the original parameters, as per the manufacturer’s original design. Fitting a generic part might compromise efficiency, increasing running costs and so negating any short -term price advantage.

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The question is, how do you make the right choice, OEM or generic? The important thing is to make an informed decision. Make sure that you know what you are getting – ask the spares supplier or manufacturer if it’s a generic or OEM part, and make sure they are charging the appropriate cost for it. Equipment is mission critical to the operation of a kitchen, so it pays to get it serviced to the same specification as when it was sold to the end user.

This also becomes a sustainability issue: anything that compromises the efficient operation of foodservice equipment means the operator is wasting resources. Plus, fitting a generic part usually voids any obligation the manufacturer may have for the operation of the appliance, even if it is still under warranty.

Of course, safety has to be the prime consideration for every dealer and operator. If the functionality of the generic part differs from the genuine article, it could compromise safety, not only of staff using the equipment but also the operator’s customers – since, if the appliance isn’t operating correctly, it may impact on food safety.

There’s also the safety issue concerning hazardous substances. Original equipment manufacturers have to comply with the EU directive on the use of hazardous substances (RoHS). This prevents manufacturers from using certain hazardous or environmentally damaging materials containing more than agreed levels of, for example, lead, cadmium and mercury. Only by complying with the directive can the OEM gain the CE mark for their products. However, generic spare parts, manufactured by a third party, may not necessarily comply in the same way. Only by fitting original manufacturer spare parts can you be certain that the replacement satisfies the objectives of the RoHS directive.

Another reason for fitting OEM parts is that manufacturers sometimes change the components they use in the production of a particular model, usually because they find a better one which improves functionality or efficiency. When you order a spare part, the manufacturer will be able to supply the right one, because the model’s serial number will let them locate the relevant data. Generic parts suppliers may not have all the information they need to ensure the part they have is the right one, or is even compatible with the specific version of the appliance. A perfectly matched part ensures a first time fix and keeps the kitchen running.

The best way to protect the operator’s investment is to understand the respective role that a spare part has in relation to the equipment’s performance. The bottom line is that the functionality of a generic spare part may differ from that of an OEM part, which could impact on its performance. Make sure the part your engineer is fitting is fit for purpose.

Tags : catering sparesIndustry ExpertOEM partsopinionpartsspare partsvoice of the industry
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

3 Comments

  1. Great article. This is an area which is often misunderstood.
    There are also two distinct (at least) types of repair parts eg operational thermostats or gas valves and non operational parts eg control panels, broiler cooking grids etc. Some of the same considerations apply, particularly if the broiler grid is manufactured from a particular material and in a certain profile.
    Additionally, as we get closer to seeing internet / remote connections to equipment it will be vital that any replacement parts can communicate exactly as per original specification.

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