Many warewasher manufacturers are competing to offer networked units which can assist with machine monitoring, operation and diagnostics. While all these elements can help the end user, can they assist dealers to seal sales and provide higher levels of support?
According to Hobart Warewashing UK sales director, Tim Bender: “Connectivity of equipment is very topical now and something we’re sure is going to continue. Smartphone and tablet apps mean an individual can communicate with the machine but what about 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.”
To that end, the manufacturer has created the WashSmart app, which is available to download and connectable to the new Hobart range of undercounter glasswashers and dishwashers – soon to be available across the whole range. This enables operators to control the integral functionality of multiple machines at the touch of a button, as well as monitoring the consumption of detergent and water in real time. It’s also possible to request a quote, order consumables, and receive error reports for any machine breakdown, all directly through the app.
Bender analysed: “It’s important to say that the sheer advance of technology and R&D has brought the modern warewasher to a state where it is almost as fast as it can be. There is of course room for improvement – for marginal gains – but for us, key factors such as capacity, footprint and smarter integration with the human operator are the places where there is plenty of room for evolution.
Looking ahead, he said: “For as long as there’s been plates, there’s been people, and so even as we move forward, you will always need people as an interface somewhere in the warewashing role.
“It’s rather like saying in the next 50 years there won’t be people doing the cooking. I don’t think that’s going to happen. But the role of the KP will doubtless evolve, perhaps with something like the introduction of an automatic loading system. So they’ll be taking dirty plates, positioning them in a certain way and the machine will load them automatically, wash them automatically, and then push them out the other end clean and dry.”
At competitor, Meiko, UK MD Paul Anderson advised dealers: “It is early days for wi-fi technology in a dishwasher that can be accessed by the customer and it makes for great marketing messages.
“First and foremost though, distributors need to know that the manufacturer can fully support the product, which means training their engineers to ensure they can handle whatever this new technology throws at them.
“The wi-fi aspect is cream on the cake; without strong technical back-up, no dishwasher sale is safe!”
However, he cautioned that: “The challenge is giving customers something that may interfere with the safe running of the machine. For care homes, for example, I would not want anyone to be able to download a new ‘faster’ wash programme that could potentially reduce levels of hygiene.”
Anderson believes: “I think it is inevitable that dishwashers get ‘smarter’; but applying smart technology requires smarter thinking about the application and I would be wary of giving customers – be they managers or bar staff – an overload of information and choice, which ends up wasting their time and possibly, the dishwasher suppliers’ as well.
“Meiko took the decision to use Bluetooth interface in our machines, which makes it easy to transmit service data to our engineers. Meiko was among the very first to use smart technology in our machines and we have had the benefit of this level of information for well over a decade, which is why our machine reliability is so outstanding.”
Winterhalter has also made a splash with its Connected Wash of late, which allows machines to be monitored remotely using a computer, tablet or smartphone.
UK marketing development manager Paul Crowley detailed: “The technology can optimise operations and show where doors are opened too early, when machines are being switched on unnecessarily before the first wash, if the machine’s self-cleaning program is not being used, and so on.
“It can also ensure that technicians can deliver a 100% first-time-fix rate, since data can be viewed by the engineer before arriving at site allowing them to bring the right equipment for the job. It can even warn of a potential component failure before it happens, so the engineer can fix it before it breaks down.”
In terms of dealer benefits, he underlined: “Wi-fi enabled warewashers allow dealers the opportunity to offer their customers improved levels of service, either directly or indirectly. Via a portal or app, access can be given to the dealer enabling them to monitor any machine that they’ve sold. Winterhalter can also offer this monitoring service. This option can help dealers assist customers with the day-to-day operation of their machine as well as provide them with advice on how to get more from their machine. Ultimately, it can help ensure that diners are eating from clean plates or drinking from clean glasses.
“The benefits of access to the portal/app allow dealers the opportunity to enhance the relationship with their customers and increase their opportunity of additional sales. For example, the app will flag up when a machine has run out of chemicals, enabling dealers to call the customer and advise that chemicals are required.”
Crowley revealed that the huge amounts of data which software-driven warewashers can amass can be effectively extracted from a machine through connectivity. “Analysis can be conducted on the machine data, facilitating optimum operation, ensuring the warewasher is operating at maximum efficiency producing hygienically clean results at every wash,” he said.
Nevertheless, he noted: “The main challenges revolve around the stability of an internet connection as opposed to the actual technology of the equipment. As internet providers invest in and improve the infrastructure and service, these challenges should reduce.”
Crowley predicted: “Smart features on warewashers will undoubtedly be the future because of the huge benefits they can offer operators. It is very likely that customers will increasingly trust manufacturers and dealers to remotely monitor their equipment, thus leaving operators to concentrate on the foodservice side of their business.”
Italian manufacturer Krupps was part of the first wave of professional machines to incorporate wi-fi. Export MD Riccardo Scuotto said that with the technology: “Dealers can guarantee a better after sales support to the client and be able to monitor machines during the course of the warranty. The service company can use the remote access for setting up, maintaining and checking the machine, giving an optimum response time and reducing the downtime and cost to the clients.”
He revealed: “At Krupps our priority is to support dealers and servicing companies without extra cost to the client by using a specific functionality that will help their daily activity. A machine’s functions can be run or upgraded remotely and the data can be analysed in infinite ways.
“The initial area of development will be training the engineer to become familiarised with wireless technology and with the use of the smart app. The engineer needs to have a basic knowledge of using a smartphone, internet connection, and using the app for reading and managing data. In order to support that, we at Krupps run free training courses to dealers and servicers.”
“Another benefit of wi-fi technology is the alternative use of remote access for renting the machine and charging the client only for the cost of washing cycle (pay per wash). So, the machine still remains the property of the dealer and the final client/user pays only for the required wash cycles.”
Scuotto continued: “Manufacturers will also benefit from smart systems. They can carry out diagnostic tests and monitor the machine remotely to verify cause of failure in order to authorise replacement of faulty parts in warranty and cover the cost. The same applies to dealers/servicing firms, who now have another tool to identify malfunctions even before they arrive on site.
“One of the most popular functions of the wi-fi is the ability to remotely modify machine settings in order to improve the washing in case of a change in circumstance during the use of the machine: alarms, different items to wash, change of chemical, etc.”
He concluded: “The future will undoubtedly be based on the use of new technology and the smart capability of a dishwasher. Therefore, it goes without saying that it will be a necessary requirement.”
Supplier association CESA has taken a keen interest in the cutting edge smart technology spreading through the UK catering equipment sector.
With regards to using this technology within warewashers, chairman John Whitehouse said that dealers “need to understand not only the capabilities but, crucially, the benefits those capabilities bring”.
He emphasised: “Connected warewashers can be monitored from a central computer, tablet or smartphone. They can warn if there’s a problem or an issue, from something simple, such as the need to fill the rinse aid dispenser, to something critical, such as a potentially failing component. In so doing, they can reduce costs, help make their customer’s business more efficient, reduce downtime, and maximise the lifetime of the warewasher.
“Also, because the service provider knows how the machine is operating, they can fix an issue before it causes a breakdown. Plus, because they can see what the issue is, they can bring the right equipment for the job, to fix it first time.”
He further advised: “Dealers also need to understand the connectivity criteria of the warewasher – how it connects to the internet, and what infrastructure and programming it requires. Compatibility with the customer’s wi-fi, firewalls, etc. will be essential.
“The key to understanding connectivity in warewashers is training – and manufacturers will be only too happy to supply it, given the enormous benefits connected warewashing can bring.”
Whitehouse did mention that there have been issues with the ease and reliability of internet connection, but that these are being overcome. “Warewashers are mission-critical in just about every foodservice operation. If they break down, it can cause havoc – especially as many sites have only one dishwasher and one glasswasher. Connectivity’s key potential benefits include minimising downtime and delivering a near 100% first time fix rate,” he said.
“Connectivity adds value to the operator by reducing costs and increasing efficiency. For the dealer and the manufacturer it helps deliver the best possible customer service. As the cost of the technology drops and the world moves toward the ‘Internet of Things’, foodservice operators will come to expect connectivity as part of the deal, and they’ll be increasingly familiar with how it works. Ultimately, what operators want is consistency in their warewashing results. Connected warewashers provide the most effective management of the equipment, helping to ensure that it is performing exactly as it should.”