A Modern Spin on Warewashing

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Lina Reid of Lakeridge Health in Oshawa has an additional item on her to-do list these days. The manager of Nutrition Services at the 400-bed hospital’s is often called upon to conduct tours of her newest investment in warewashing equipment.

She says the original 20-year-old system was constantly breaking down, labour intensive and the garbage created by its food waste took up a large footprint. “It was completely inefficient from a labour standpoint.”

The key criteria for the new system was it had to be safe, environmentally friendly and cost-efficient. “We needed to make sure it would fit the existing flow of operations,” adds Reid. Working with the engineer, her team decided on an E-Series conveyor system from Champion Moyer Diebel in St. Catharines, Ont. The technology not only reduces water usage and overall footprint, but the new exhaust system that draws moist air from the steam blower improves ambient air quality. The conveyor also has a button that can be pushed with a hip, freeing up workers’ hands.

The innovation drawing other operators to the site is the integrated EnviroPure digester, she says. “It has completely changed the way we interact with food waste. It eliminates odours and there’s no daily cleaning required; it’s self-cleaning.”

Here’s how it works: organic food waste is pushed into a Salvajor grinder which then pumps it into the EnviroPure digester in an adjoining room. The content is mixed with an all-natural bio-mixture to break it down, resulting in grey water that can be released safely to the street system.

Beyond the savings in sanitation and improved health and safety, Reid says the disposal process has reduced labour by four hours per day. “That’s an entire shift we were able to remove.” Overall garbage waste for the kitchen operations has been reduced by 50 per cent. “People don’t have to lift wet, heavy garbage to compactors.”

Danny Collis, president of The Collis Group Incorporated in Richmond Hill, Ont., says warewashing is no longer just about how clean the dishes are or how much water is used. Efficient food-waste disposal is an equally important consideration. “There are lots of different ways you can try to eliminate waste because it is costing [operators] millions of dollars.”

One of the biggest and most advanced systems you’ll find in the country is at CFB (Canadian Forces Base) Borden, north of Toronto, where two kitchens have identical semi-automatic flight systems in action. “It’s the largest institutional kitchen in Canada,” says Gary Lummis, president of Lummis & Co. foodservice consultancy in Fredericton, N.B. Each kitchen serves 6,000 meals a day and has the capacity for triple that during contingency situations. The first kitchen has a Meiko, the other a Hobart that together account for close to a $1 million investment. The only difference is the vacuum systems (one has a one-tank system, the other two).

“The great thing about these systems is once you drop food waste into them, it’s gone. That eliminates one of the biggest problems in HACCP [hazard analysis and critical control points] always forward-flow processes,” Lummis explains.

Efficient disposal systems are not all that is happening on the warewashing design front these days, he adds. On the under-the-counter and upright single basket side for example, operators are increasingly turning to ventless configurations to eliminate the need to run exhaust vents to the exterior.

Smaller units can also condense the steam so it doesn’t bellow out when the doors are open, making operation much safer, says Ron Sternig, product manager for Etobicole-based Garland Canada. “The technology started with upright and under-the-counter systems and has since expanded to other models.”

Tim Muehlbauer, chef and co-owner of the 80-seat East Coast Bistro in Saint John, N.B., says he decided to replace an old Jackson warewasher with a Hobart AM15VL ventless upright system not long after purchasing the bistro in 2013. He says the $16,000 he spent on the system was well worth the investment. “It would have cost us at least $5,000 to install venting alone; and it would take some of the power away from other appliances. Besides, adding a vent also changes air flow; your exhaust fan and intake have to be even so it needs to be looked at carefully.”

Another huge area of advancement is heat recovery, Lummis notes. Heat-recovery allows systems to use cold water and have the unit operate as a heat exchanger using heat build-up inside the system. “Hobart and Champion both have those types of features.Meiko has been a big leader in heat-recovery technology for flight systems with its M-Q. It’s about 15 per cent more expensive than a regular flight machine, but you save that on venting and energy savings.”

Many systems now come with electronic controls — allowing for self-diagnostics and built-in connectivity so operators can communicate with the machines to see how well they are working, he adds. “Most of the manufacturers are looking at ways to integrate that with smartphones and tablets.”

Whatever the size, configuration and added features, Lummis says it never pays to buy cheap. “Stick with a known brand and don’t base your choice on saving a few dollars. Bigger names make better machines that last longer.”

Muehlbauer agrees whole-heartedly. “Operators tend to go cheap on dishwasher purchases. There are plenty of things you should look for, such as all metal parts for the interior, how racks go through, how much water is used and how quickly it heats. The reality is, the dishwasher is the heart and soul of the kitchen. If it goes down, you’re in big trouble.”

Volume 49, Number 6 
Written By Denise Deveau 

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