Commercial refrigeration has a patchy history with quality and testing processes, with some brands ensuring their cabinets are vigorously put through their paces, and others seeking to cut corners in the name of economy. This can impact the lifespan of an appliance, the burden of which can pass to catering equipment dealers as they manage after-sales relationships with end users, especially during warranty periods.
According to True Refrigeration’s sales and key account director Scott Jones, the manufacturer definitely places itself at the quality end of the market. “Product research, development and testing are something True invests in heavily,” he revealed.
True is said to be the only commercial refrigeration manufacturer in the UK with in-house testing facilities independently accredited with ISO 17025. “This accreditation is a formal recognition of competence in laboratory testing and calibration, and is our evidence to customers of our ability to consistently produce valid test results,” said Jones.
The manufacturer works closely with customers who have a specific requirement, to test equipment under their parameters and obtain a more realistic data set, which should allow them to make a more informed purchase decision.
Furthermore, Jones stressed: “Every True refrigeration product is subject to a continual development cycle. We tend not to release ‘generational’ product updates like most, but are continually making incremental improvements to our equipment to keep them at the forefront of the industry.
“We also don’t have ‘good’ and ‘better’ tiers of the same product type, as has become common practice. True maintains a global leadership position by investing in the improvement of our products, not lowering quality for the sake of cutting cost.”
Jones feels True is the only manufacturer with the product confidence to offer a comprehensive 5 years parts and labour warranty across its entire range. He detailed: “In truth, some dealers see this extended support period a positive (typically those with their own in-house service, as it provides them an additional revenue steam), while others (who don’t have the facility, or are primarily focused on project delivery) may not.”
Elsewhere, Hoshizaki UK national sales manager Roz Scourfield had this to say on testing: “All Hoshizaki appliances are tested to either climate class 4 (30°C ambient temperature and 55% relative humidity) or the top-level climate class 5 (40°C ambient temperature and 40% relative humidity). As a result of our commitment to the highest standards of testing, we can be confident that not only are our appliances going to withstand the demands of a kitchen, but they’re going to do so in an energy efficient way.
“There is a significant amount of work that goes on behind the scenes at Hoshizaki to ensure refrigeration and ice machine longevity. From using the very best components to build our appliances to installing innovative technology, designed to monitor and precisely control the internal temperature of the refrigerator, our units are built to last.”
This point was reflected in the decision to temporarily suspend availability of a new range, as the warranty callout was at around 4% of sales volume, a figure Scourfield reports is considerably lower than the industry average. “Once the occasional fault had been rectified, the suspension was lifted and the equipment now has a remarkably low call out. That’s why we offer a comprehensive 5-year parts and labour warranty across our Gram refrigeration units,” she said.
However, should an issue arise with any of the company’s appliances, dealers can log a call with the firm’s service team, upon which an engineer will be dispatched and first time fixes reported in most cases.
Over at Pentland Wholesale, all refrigeration products it sells are tested and certified to recognised standards and clearly state the climate class the individual item is designed to function correctly in, according to operations director Dean Simpson. “It’s important to recognise a class 3 item will not operate efficiently in high ambient or high humidity areas where a class 5 product should be selected.
“Climate class should not be the only consideration when choosing a product for a certain location, for example a refrigerated serve over counter should never be located in a shop window where it can be subjected to direct sunlight or be positioned under an air conditioning unit or in direct airflow of a fan, as these external influences can seriously affect the performance of the product.”
He reported: “Or products’ quality is taken very seriously, failure rates are monitored and analysed on a monthly basis with constant communication with the factories ensuring consistency of manufacturing quality.”
Pentland assists dealers with providing after-sales support by using Microsoft Navision as its ERP system. At the point of sale all product details are recorded into the system to create a full log of warranty items. These can be searched by customer site, order number, postcode, serial number etc. Simpson said: “Our dealers can be assured we will always have an accurate record of all products purchased to quickly and efficiently process warranty claims. We also hold a vast inventory of spares in our warehouse to ensure repairs are attended to and completed as quickly as possible.”
For Banbury-based Valera’s products, marketing and sales manager Kurran Gadhvi assured: “All Valera and Jordao refrigerated cabinets and service refrigerators and freezers are tested in compliance with ISO standards and validated by independent laboratories/authorities. They are all ready to work in Climate Class 3 (up to 25°C/60% RH). When specified, the cooling system can be changed for Climate Class 4 (up to 30°C/55% RH). For professional kitchens, with harsh ambient conditions, our professional service counters, refrigerators and freezers Next A5 models are ready for Climate Class 5 (up to 40°C/40% RH).”
Noting that it’s not rare to see Valera refrigeration being used for more than a decade, Gadhvi commented: “All our supplier partners take great pride in their manufacturing process but also in after-sales service. We give our factories regular feedback to ensure R&D departments know exactly what UK-based engineers require for maintenance, and what end users require for ease of use.
“Our factories design cabinets that are easy to keep clean and hygienic, where technical parts are easy to replace, cabinet elements are made of high quality materials and highly rated internal components. Additionally, we have developed the J-SMART, a remote monitoring app that enables online control and preventive maintenance, reducing interventions time and costs on our Jordao range of service cabinets.”
He additionally advised dealers: “Each cabinet has its own specifications, concerning food categories, ambient conditions and temperature range, and it is absolutely vital that refrigerators are used for what they were designed for.”
While Electrolux Professional’s design and product manager Steve Bowler emphasised: “With the Energy-using Products (EuP) energy labelling directive coming into force in July 2016, manufacturers have been rigorously testing under the same criteria to certify their refrigerated cabinets. Electrolux Professional’s ecostoreHP refrigerated cabinets and counters have been tested to ensure they are fully energy-efficient and compliant with these regulations.
“Each of our ecostoreHP refrigerated cabinets and counters have achieved a Climate Class 5 rating, meaning that they have been recognised as able to preserve food at the correct temperature inside the cabinet, even when kitchen temperatures reach 40°C and 40% humidity.
“However, it is important that this classification is not confused with tropicalised cabinets – previously known as Class 5 – that are certified to work in up to 43°C. The testing for these cabinets only certifies that the cabinet will work in the specific temperature their ratings state, whilst the new EuP energy testing certifies that the cabinet will both operate in the temperature range it is rated for, and – most importantly for caterers – keep the food at the correct temperature.”
He further pointed out: “Those looking to purchase Electrolux Professional refrigerated cabinets and counters will have access to a range of after-sales support materials, such as handbooks, wiring diagrams, service manuals and technical bulletins. These materials are easily located on the Agelux platform, which is available to all our partners and allows the service technicians to always have access to the latest information and updates for our refrigeration products.”
Elsewhere, Foster Refrigerator has invested over £500,000 in state-of-the-art R&D test facilities that it believes are among the best in the UK. Senior product manager Gareth Hunt explained: “In each of our test rooms we can accurately climate control room ambient temperature, humidity, lighting and air flow, the key factors that replicate the conditions of the most demanding of professional kitchens.
“Our climatic test chambers take products beyond their normal operational environment; we can accelerate life test components and products to ensure the reliability levels expected from our products. We have two dedicated climatic test chambers solely for energy testing to accuracy levels that exceed that required in the EN16825, EN17038 and EN23953 standards.”
This is helping the manufacturer ensure its cabinets are long-lasting – indeed it located a 42-year-old operational model as part of its golden anniversary celebrations last year.
Hunt underlined: “Our products have been designed, engineered and manufactured in our King’s Lynn factory and we know them inside and out. We know how important it is to get refrigeration back up and running, so we have a dedicated spares warehouse and offer next day delivery.”
Should dealers need to make a warranty claim, he encouraged: “Our advice is to supply as much information in the initial contact as possible. To make sure we can fix first time, we would need details of what the actual fault is, who our contact onsite would be and whether RAMS (risk assessment and method statement) are needed. By doing this we can avoid unnecessary hold ups, making it as painless as possible for both the dealer and the end user.”
As highlighted by Stephen Ongley, Liebher’s GB national sales manager for business and industry in the refrigeration division, when choosing refrigeration, the climate class of the cabinets must be considered. He detailed that the brand’s cabinets will operate in ambient temperatures up to +40°C whilst maintaining internal temperatures of +1°C to +15°C. “Liebherr carries out rigorous testing in its own dedicated in-house test laboratories (18) for refrigeration within the manufacturing site at Lienz in Austria,” he said.
“Liebherr refrigeration products are designed from the outset utilising the very highest quality materials and components. Key components like compressors, gaskets and seals are designed and tested to last the rigours they need to endure in a busy professional kitchen. Many components are built in house. The 210,000metre² factory is dedicated to producing the highest quality refrigerators and freezers, chest freezers and wine cabinets.”
To assist dealers with after-sales, the manufacturer uses a monitoring system developed in conjunction with an international supermarket chain. This enables data collection of running temperatures, energy consumption and can help with predictive maintenance.
Ongley added: “When it comes to choosing the right refrigeration solution equipment, dealers need to make sure it is supported by a good warranty and after-sales support. In Liebherr’s case we offer a 2-year parts and labour warranty across our professional refrigeration range and this is backed up by 10 years spare parts availability.”
Elsewhere, the Nisbets group’s Polar brand refrigeration is said to be tested vigorously during development using climate controlled (temperature and humidity) test rooms. Product manager James Boast revealed: “The flexibility of using the test room supports the simulation of different working conditions, monitored using door openings and checking how quickly the air in the fridge gets back down to the right temperature. By constantly reviewing these test reports, we are continuously evolving our product quality, enabling us to tailor our refrigeration to the different requirements of the end user.”
He stressed: “Only approved components and raw material are used in the production of Polar products, with all elements subject to incoming quality control checks. Any component or raw material failing this check will be rejected, ensuring only the highest quality equipment is produced for the customer.
“Polar units have been designed with ease of maintenance in mind, for example, where fitted, filters are easily accessible for cleaning. This is important as dirty filters can block air flow to the refrigeration system, in turn reducing performance, efficiency and longevity of the unit.
Boast concluded: “If an engineer visit is required, the dealer can be confident that, with Polar’s own fleet of 24 engineers covering all national calls, extensive availability of spares and parts held on the engineers’ vans, downtime will be kept to a minimum.”