Remanufacturing standards would promote the reuse of commercial kitchen equipment
Everyone in foodservice has seen them–hulks of strong, heavy-duty commercial kitchen equipmentthrown away or abandoned because they are no longer needed or are considered too expensive to repair. Sometimes the equipment is sold for scrap, but often it is broken apart and ends up in a landfill. Not only is this hard on the environment, but the owner loses the full value of the original investment.
The cost of stainless steel has virtually doubled over the past 12 to 18 months because of surcharges for nickel prices. Carbon steel and cast iron also have seen dramatic prices increases, contributing to a huge run-up in cost for commercial kitchen equipment. Yet many foodservice operators discard the shells and frames of products that are clearly reusable if they could be updated with new electromechanical parts. It’s time to reconsider remanufacturing.
Dishwashers, reach-in refrigerators, ice cream freezers and dispensers, food-prep equipment, ice makers, and heavy-duty ranges and fryers are all good candidates for reuse. Almost all steam equipment, such as kettles, braisers and convection steamers, that have been well-maintained could be rebuilt and reused.
Remanufacturing is becoming common practice in manufacturing and with transportation equipment. Remanufactured products include diesel engines, copiers, disposable cameras, compressors of all types, carpet tiles, and even computers and cell phones that are rebuilt for warranty replacements.
Remanufacturing works best when the material cost averages 70 percent of the new equipment cost. When equipment is remanufactured, the material cost drops 30 percent to 40 percent of the total product cost, providing a good economic incentive for the both rebuilder and the customer.
Remanufacturing should not be confused with the pressure washing and silver spray painting done by some used equipment dealers. Such dealers sell equipment that has been cosmetically refurbished, but has no updates to the electromechanical parts, like steam boilers, burners and motor drives, that likely prompted the problems that caused the equipment to be discarded.
To differentiate cosmetic refurbishing from true remanufacturing, some means of certification needs to be developed to assure customers that they are getting a unit that is indeed as good as new. An appropriate warranty also must be provided. Perhaps the Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association or the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers could develop and publish a series of standards that would provide the same quality assurance as those offered with some luxury recertified automobiles.
A few years ago Hobart remanufactured a number of its food-prep machines and other equipment coming off lease. The rebuilding process was done so well that the product appeared to be new. Unfortunately, unscrupulous dealers reportedly were buying the products and selling them as new, confusing customers and diluting Hobart’s sales of new units.
For this reason, factory remanufactured equipment needs to have a stamped or etched label to indicate that it is used, as well as when and where it was rebuilt. A stick-on label is not acceptable.
Remanufacturing works best when equipment is originally designed to accommodate changes and updates. Internal components need to be accessible without breaking apart the equipment shell or body. Electromechanical assemblies should be screwed or bolted–not welded or riveted to frames or enclosures. Remanufacturing provides the most value to the customer when the equipment is updated, not just repaired. Whenever possible, the rebuilding process should include installation of the latest controls as well as energy-saving and safety devices.
One of the biggest problems with remanufacturing commercial kitchen equipment has been dealing with grimy, greasy cooking equipment and dishwashers, ice machines and boilers that are coated and clogged with minerals. Chemical baths can remove most of this nasty residue, but it can also damage plastic parts and controls.
With growing interest in remanufacturing, new cleaning technologies have been introduced using blasts of ceramic pellets–similar to those used in some silver burnishers–and baking soda. Some of these innovations come from the National Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery, or NC3R, at the Rochester Institute of Technology. According to a recent Business Week article, the NC3R baking soda blasters were used as part of the process to “remanufacture” FETCO Lexus coffee urns used by Seattle-based Starbucks Corp.
Most buyers of commercial foodservice equipment are concerned about the ever-rising cost of these products. Operators need to encourage manufacturers to offer factory remanufactured products as part of their product lines, and develop systems to allow chains and volume users to do in-and-out exchanges of refurnished equipment.
But the process will work only if customers are assured that they are buying equipment that is truly rebuilt and backed by an appropriate warranty. To ensure buyer confidence, industry associations need to develop standards and certification procedures.
Frable, Foster, Jr.