With the coronavirus having transformed the landscape of practically every element of daily life, even if the hospitality industry gets up and running again, its operations will look very different. One appliance that is going to be key in the fight against further outbreaks in the foodservice industry is the humble warewasher.
Wares will need to be cleaned to the highest standards, so when dealers come to recommend the most hygienic warewashers to operators, just who can they rely on?
At Hobart UK, equipment division sales director Tim Bender believes: “Ensuring ware can be sterilised in temperatures of up to 100°C has long been a consideration in hospitals, hospices and care homes, so this type of functionality has been built into a number of specialist Hobart machines. The Covid-19 crisis has simply made this type of machine more in demand.”
He reported: “Since the beginning of the crisis we have seen a steady rise in dealers coming to us for quotes on specialist machines. This swiftly ramped up as the scale of the challenge deepened, especially in healthcare sites. Because of this, Hobart ensured a significant stockholding of such machines early on, making sure supply could meet demand.”
One of the manufacturer’s most popular of these machine types is a compact undercounter warewasher specifically designed for use in the care sector. Hobart Care’s patented technology means it is designed to deal with up to 80 racks per day, thermally disinfecting soiled ware with 100°C steam.
The compact (h x 820mm / w x 600mm / d x 600mm) undercounter machine is claimed to be 90% faster than a household model, using 80% less water and 65% less than its semi-professional counterpart.
Alongside this, as part of Hobart’s new generation of smart undercounter warewashers, the firm recently introduced a Premax Care S model – a double rack thermal disinfection dishwasher.
The machine features Vapostop² technology, designed to end to clouds of steam being generated when the machine door opens. It also includes a new Top-Dry drying function which should help to eradicate hand drying, and Wash-Smart connectivity which lets operators control the integral functionality of the new undercounter machines at the touch of a button.
A new Visiotronic-Touch control should simplify the functionality of the machine with a display that visualises information using both text and symbols.
Over at Miele Professional, recently-appointed category manager Claire Humphrey emphasised: “Sanitation offerings within warewashing products are now more important than ever. The best way to ensure optimum sanitation is through the use of fresh-water dishwashers – using technology that changes the water at each stage of the cycle. Thorough rinsing is carried out at the suitable temperature, which ensures a high standard of hygiene with every wash, exceeding the minimum hygiene requirements (49-60°C with final rinse of 82-88°C).
“Our intelligent dishwasher technology incorporates hot water connections, a three-phase current and a powerful heat-pump, to ensure optimum programme durations and high sanitation results.”
But has the coronavirus pandemic elicited an increased hygiene consideration at Miele? “We have always produced commercial equipment with exceptional hygiene standards, and we will continue to do so,” responded Humphrey. “Our German manufacturing uses precision engineering to deliver quality products with the latest in dishwashing technology.
“We have always kept an optimum balance between wash process efficiency and hygiene standards. Advanced programme design within our design and manufacturing process allows us to achieve a highly efficient wash process and speed of cycle without compromising on the hygiene factors.”
Other hygiene-related product developments include optional drying at the end of a cycle to avoid the need for drying items by hand, automatic detergent dispensing, using a dispenser module to avoid the selection of a program with little to no detergent by mistake, as well as a final rinse temperature that can reach 85°C.
For Winterhalter, its models’ rinse cycle can reach 82°C, which it believes ensures that crockery is sanitised and is hygienically clean and safe. According to UK MD Stephen Kinkead: “Sites with high risk requirements may decide they need a machine that offers thermal disinfection. This means they meet HMT2030 regulations by washing at 73°C for 3 minutes. Winterhalter offers a range of thermal disinfection models.”
Thermal disinfection uses a combination of higher water temperature and longer wash times. Kinkead advised: “Obviously this will mean the machine will take longer to run through a wash cycle, and it will require more energy to heat up the water. Specifiers need to take these factors into account when selecting the machine, to ensure it is large enough to handle the expected load.”
He detailed that during the coronavirus crisis: “We have been contacted by customers wanting information and reassurance in terms of the effectiveness of the sanitising in a wash cycle. Provided the machine is operating correctly and has been well maintained, then the wash will be effective.”
Kinkead also believes the manufacturer’s Connected Wash remote appliance monitoring capability will be able to help with hygiene, as it can warn if a machine’s chemicals are not being topped up correctly, for instance, or can also monitor the temperature of a wash.
Winterhalter also recently launched the CTR, a compact rack conveyor system, showcasing the company’s latest washing innovation: hygiene mode. This is designed to detect change in the temperature of wash water, automatically slowing the rack speed down, to enable a thorough, hygienic wash, even if the temperature drops.
Over at Meiko, it claims its dishwashers are proven to deliver a high temperature wash and rinse sufficient to achieve sanitisation. UK MD Paul Anderson said: “Our machines are tested and certified to European standard DIN 10534 which kills coronavirus and a host of other bacteria such as E.coli.
“For Meiko, uncompromising hygiene is our first priority. This has become especially important recently. Our decades of experience in disinfecting medical devices has turned us into hygiene specialists – and we are in demand. This also goes for our commercial warewashing technology, which is coronavirus free at the end of the washing or cleaning process.”
Business at Meiko Group headquarters in Offenburg, Germany continued mostly as normal throughout lockdown, with social distancing measures implemented. The R&D team did not have to change its overall direction to respond to the coronavirus crisis though, according to Anderson: “Given that Meiko dishwashers are already proven effective against viruses etc, the question for the R&D and our marketing teams is: how do we better communicate that the machine has achieved sanitisation?
“Meiko leads the field in ‘hygienic features’; such as the colour coded handle on our M-iClean dishwashers which confirms from a distance to the customer and the user that the wash load has been successfully washed and sanitised. Records of final rinse temperatures are easily downloaded, and built-in safeguards ensure the rinse cycle will not start until sufficient temperature has been achieved.”
However, he underlined: “It must be emphasised that achieving ‘sufficient temperature’ is only ensured by the use of regular preventative maintenance by properly trained professional engineers. Their role includes calibrating the relevant devices in the machine to ensure continued accuracy.”
At Wexiödisk, it feels that its compact WD-4S model can help with sanitation concerns, featuring rounded corners plus a door which can be placed in a hygienic position in order to prevent the growth of bacteria.
David Glover, UK and Ireland country manager, analysed: “Whilst the coronavirus pandemic may have elicited an increased hygiene consideration for some manufacturers, at Wexiödisk, hygiene has always been top of the agenda. In fact, one of our company missions is to ‘always be clean’, with our products and our ethos.
“Still, that does not mean to say that there aren’t new solutions that we are currently looking at. Plus, at this time, we are encouraging dealers and operators to prioritise hygiene by investing in a complete warewashing solution, rather than just a single unit.”
When asked how the crisis impacted the Swedish manufacturer’s product development, Glover said: “Whilst the pandemic hasn’t yet prompted a change in direction from a R&D point of view, it has pushed us to launch some of our most popular public sector models here in the UK. This is due to increased demand for superior, sanitary systems. For example last month, we launched our automatic cutlery sorter, the ACS-800, to the UK market.”
However, he was also keen to emphasise: “It’s worth noting that it appears to be an industry-wide misunderstanding that commercial warewashers are capable of disinfecting items. Disinfection is a task required in medical environments. Still, whilst you cannot disinfect dishes in a dishwasher, you can ensure the highest hygiene possible, particularly when investing in a quality warewasher with HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) system such as those offered by Wexiödisk.
“Coming as standard with all of Wexiödisk’s UK models, this HACCP system automatically monitors a number of critical hygiene points such as water flow and temperature. These critical control points will then be flagged on the machine’s control, and will set off an alarm/automatically shut the unit down, depending on the severity of the issue.”
Elsewhere, Electrolux Professional’s design and product manager Steve Bowler urged: “One of the best ways to maximise sanitation is to ensure the design of a warewasher reduces the amount of surfaces within the machine that dirt can collect on. For example, Electrolux Professional’s green&clean hood type dishwasher has rounded corners in the cavity, and is designed to be as smooth and easy to clean as possible. The wash tank and bottom section of the cavity are pressed from a single sheet of stainless steel, meaning there are no dirt traps or corners that could impact on overall cleanliness.”
He added that on the double skin models of this warewasher, a slanted ceiling means the wash water runs down to the bottom of the slope, which should avoiding dripping.
Bowler underlined: “Electrolux Professional products have always been designed to provide the best wash results possible, with sanitation of the wares an integral part of this process. The main question that we are being asked at the moment, understandably, is if our dishwashers kill the virus.
“The rapid onset of Covid-19 means that we have not specifically tested our machines against the infection, but all of our warewashers have been designed to offer the highest levels of sanitation. In terms of medical-grade warewashing, we have the Medical Line undercounter dishwasher which fulfils hospital requirements over thermal disinfection levels.”
Over at Smeg, UK commercial channel director Phil Coulstock stressed: “Smeg has fortunately always considered high levels of sanitisation a priority in the design of our commercial tank dishwashers. It’s easy to go chasing the lowest rinse water consumption or lowest running costs but it’s vital to strike the right balance between the affordability of running a machine day to day and being able to guarantee high levels of wash performance and sanitisation of the things being washed.
“The key features Smeg uses to strike this balance are the high temperature rinse system (HTR) which ensures the water leaving the boiler during the critical rinse cycle is as hot at the start of the rinse cycle as at the end, as well as guaranteeing the water pressure via our rinse booster pump (standard on all Smeg machines) and the time it is dispensed for too. The guarantee in rinse temperature is achieved by preventing fresh cold inlet water into the boiler until the rinse cycle has finished avoiding contamination and dilution of the rinse water temperature.”
Coulstock commented: “I hope the devastating events of recent months help to improve the UK buyer’s considerations for sanitisation and hygiene features on the machines they purchase and specify, whether this is distributors, buyers for groups or single site end users.
“The health and wellbeing of the people they are catering for has never been in greater focus than now and although economically the world has suffered greatly, this situation should highlight the avoidance of buying equipment (not just warewashing) with just purchase price in mind. It is as much the duty of the buyer to insist on the right product for them as it is the role of us as the manufacturer to produce affordable, feature packed products able to do the job they were designed to do well.”
He concluded: “Smeg has a full range of machines designed by our instruments division, who for over 40 years have been designing and building machines capable of fully disinfecting medical and surgical instruments. Therefore, Smeg is extremely well equipped to offer high specification products such as our SWT range that combine the features and build quality of the instrument world with the disinfection requirements of the foodservice industry.”
How are warewashing manufacturers going to ensure that their machines help to maintain high hygiene standards going forwards? According to Miele Professional’s category manager Clare Humphrey: “We will continue to design and build our products with hygiene and disinfection at the forefront of our creative vision. Our dishwashers are designed to carry out thermal disinfection of their contents and are certified with WRAS Fluid Risk Category 5 approval. This is to the standard required for healthcare establishments and meeting these guidelines has helped us to be prepared for the effects of Covid-19 and gives us scope to adapt easily to any future government guidelines that may come about as a result of Covid-19.”
And at Winterhalter, UK MD Stephen Kinkead emphasised: “During new product development, all Winterhalter warewashers are tested and retested to ensure the disinfection and hygienic cleanliness of the wash results. It’s our mantra. To be fair, it is almost certainly the mantra of all quality manufacturers. That ethos will continue in the future.”
While Electrolux Professional’s design and product manager Steve Bowler explained: “Given that the primary function of a warewasher is to clean and sanitise its contents, our products have always been designed to provide the best wash results possible. Moving forward, there may be greater cooperation with test labs that are capable of testing for bacteria and viruses to certify the models, but purely from a design perspective it will be business as usual i.e. the highest standards of sanitation possible.”