Dishwashing machines – Purchasing

Purchasing Considerations:

False Economy 1:

It is easy to state ‘I want to save operating costs, just select the lowest KW and water consumption machine.’ However an incorrectly sized machine won’t do the job properly and cost you more time and money than what you saved by the lower cost smaller capacity machine in no time at all.

The machine has to be sized correctly for your operation; it must be able to cope with the anticipated work load, volume of dishes, level of soil/waste matter on the dishes before entering the system etc.

A low KW machine may not have enough power to ‘recover’ quickly enough to meet the workload and you are left constantly waiting for the machine to ‘heat up*’.

*Many customers are blissfully unaware that commercial dish/pot/ware washers are designed NOT to operate until the correct water temperatures are reached in the machine, both wash and rinse. Part of what makes a ‘commercial’ machine ‘fit for purpose’ is the high temperature rinse cycle, and unless the water temperature is at that correct level (normally min 75c) it often won’t start let alone complete a cycle.

 

False Economy 2:

The other unknown cost and consideration when selecting a machine is ‘technology cost’, (TC) what is TC cost? It’s when you get a really fancy machine lots of computer and digital controllers, lots of complex operation systems that when all working together operate the machine perfectly at the ultimate economic energy saving level, but it’s not IF but WHEN it breaks down…….disaster! They are complex pieces of machinery, and we live in a country that is normally at the farthest distance from where they were manufactured, (the high technical machines are normally made in Europe). The ‘local factory trained technician’ often doesn’t exist (despite what the manufacturers Sales Rep will tell you) and then you have a situation where local subcontractor trades are left to do their very best to understand and learn the machinery as they go. The high tech machines are not easy to diagnose (even with self diagnostic computers/digital on board) and everyone is flying by the seat of their pants to sort out the issues…it normally equals hours and hours or worse days of down time.

It doesn’t matter what sort of machine it is how great it is when it works, how energy efficient it may be, if its broken down it’s useless to all, and now you are washing dishes by hand, calling in extra labour and it’s costing you big dollars, even if it is in warranty period and you’re not paying to fix it, it’s still costing you.

 

False Economy 3:

Cheap Cheap! If the price is heaps cheaper than the other offers and you are wondering if it sounds to good to be true, then it probably is!

Most people wouldn’t buy themselves a new family car if it was half the price of all the other cars, they would be sceptical of why it was so cheap, how well built and reliable it was, how good the backup service, support and warranty was, especially if it was an ‘unknown’ brand within the industry/market.

It is no different with commercial equipment, there is a reason why it costs what it does, and most of the time it comes down to the points raised above.

If the Dish/Ware washer you are considering doesn’t have local offices in each state of Australia, technicians in at least each capital city and designated preferred technicians in regional areas then I would not suggest purchasing the machine.

Some may argue, what if it’s just a small little café/kitchen, surely just a cheap and nasty? I’d argue against for just the same reasons as a larger establishment needs to consider. In fact the pain at small kitchen/café end can actually be far worse as its normally owner operator, who feels it not an employee on wages/salary. Financial implications (like paying extra labour to wash manually) are felt in their own back pocket…or the poor owner is the one staying back late to wash dishes and wasting their own precious time chasing the service tech up! smaller machine yes, bigger pain for sure!

Decision Time:

Armed with all this information, what should you be looking for in your selection of brand and model machine?

  • Capacity, look at what rates the manufacture suggests the machine can perform to, consider your maximum peak loads then add 25% onto that figure and make sure that the machine meets these numbers. Plates per hour/racks per hour etc.
  • Energy, what power do you, or can you supply to the machine? Generally all power full machines will require 3 phase supply, lighter duty 15 -30Amps
  • Brand, is it a larger reputable brand? A quick ‘google’ search will highlight the main popular brands. Check that they have offices in each city.
  • Service, if in doubt contact the State office of the brand you are considering and ask to speak the ‘service’ department, have a chat with them, ask them about their service and support systems. You won’t get this conversation from cheap unknown internet brands.
  • Operating systems, how simple is the machine you considering, just remember it WILL breakdown at some point!
  • Systems, don’t forget if you don’t have sufficient soiled set down sorting space, pre rinsing, clean product space, space for sorting/storing then the best machine in the world won’t be much help!

 

Now that you have made it this far, click on and open the below link and watch this video to find your perfect dishwasher employee!

Plate Jockey Guru!

Dishwashing Guru

Commercial Dishwash/Warewash Design

Designing the Ware/Dish Wash Area:

Efficient and Ergonomic Space/Storage/Systems

This is in reference to everything except for the machine, especially for larger establishments and facilities, this part is as if not more important than the machine itself!

Is there enough ‘set down’ space for the soiled dishes/utensils?

Is there a proper sort scrape system in place, scrape holes in the set down bench or not? The Location of such and the big one, food waste/disposal machines/systems*.

*A subject to cover in detail another time.

Pre rinse sink or sinks, size, basket rack support frame in the sink or not, built in waste trap into the sink drain, remote drain valve opening device (OHS safety no cutting hands with rogue steak knives in bottom of sink!)

Dishwasher basket storage, plenty of and easy access, either under bench racks, or wall racks. Storage of cleaning equipment and chemicals, clothes brushes, scrubbers all need a home, well draining and on the ‘dirty side’ of the line. As do chemicals for the machine and general washing, a small amount will be required at or near the machine and or sink, again on a well draining rack or shelf, the bulk chemical storage will be located elsewhere in a suitably ventilated room away from food stores and preparation.

Clean racks space, in a small operation this may be as simple as allowance for 2 baskets on the exit side of a DW, not 1.5! It’s amazing how many exit benches even entry that are made that simply do not consider the standard requirements of a DW basket or 2!

Larger operations that may have exit rollers may hold many basket racks, and may need to as the operation system may be such that the staff member could be bogged down rinsing and loading dishes at the dirty end at such pace and volume that they don’t get a chance to get to the clean end for a while to sort and stack, if there is insufficient ‘parking space’ the machine will stop (sensor at end of bench tells it to!) and then you can’t load the machine until baskets are cleared. This may mean extending the exit roller bench around a corner to gain more meters, if this is the case the corner roller bench often requires ‘power assistance’ to help the baskets along.

Sorting racks, in larger operations the ability to place racks of cutlery aside onto a shelf for sorting can make a big difference to efficiency of the operation, freeing up valuable ‘parking space’ this can be a simple shelf above the bench that holds the baskets ready for this task.

Finally all these dishes, cutlery and crockery need homes, where possible storage should be provided nearby to allow for bulk stacking in peak times before transfer of the utensils/crockery to their final homes.

You need to have the best possible solution of stacking, sorting, parking and sorting in place with the space available to you to make the most of any machine you have, if you get this part right it can mean a huge difference is labour savings for a larger operation, perhaps one staff member instead of two in peak times.

Warewashing floor plans

typical DW elevated drawings
typical DW elevated drawings

Noise:

Commercial machines are noisy! The water pressures and volumes are much greater than domestic machines, that after all is how you get a 3 minute wash cycle not 30! It is not ideal to have them near the front of house if it can be avoided, especially larger rack machines. Most manufacturers do have a specification upgrade or model that includes ‘insulated hood/body’ and this is the model that should be selected anywhere where noise or heat is a consideration.

Water Quality:

Know the quality of your water. The main concern it is what is known as ‘hard’ which refers to high levels of minerals in the water, particularly ‘calcium’. On its own all this may do really is show up as a kind of dirty water mark on stainless, fine white lines around water drops stains etc. But when this water is exposed to constant heating such as the boiling/heating tank in the dishwasher, it tends to ‘calcify’ up around the elements in the tank, blocks jets/nozzles etc and can lead to premature element failure also.

If the water quality is poor than a high quality water filter or filters is recommended to be installed onto the incoming water supply, in some remote areas , especially where bore water is used a ‘Reverse Osmosis’ system may be required, which can be expensive. Some people just choose to use and abuse the machine and replace often knowing it will have a limited effective performance life.

Stand Alone Reverse Osmosis Machine

Sufficient Hot Water Supply,

When designing a facility your Hydraulics engineer should be requesting specification details about the machine/s being used and also gain a better understanding of the anticipated use rates and times to meet general use and also peak demands, from this they can establish recommendations for a suitable Hot water system to suit.

The hydraulics consultant/engineer will also require the above information for calculations required for your trade waste requirements.

The small print:

Australian Water Mark:

Quality machines as noted above will have an Australian water mark, sticker/badge fixed to the machine, which means the unit has been through a process of testing and certification to meet Australian plumbing standards, learn more here, http://www.abcb.gov.au/product-certification/watermark

WM

Back Flow Prevention Devices (BFPD):

Normally are incorporated into most machines a BFPD is a type of valve that is connected to the water supply (or is in the machine ) of the machine, its designed to prevent soiled/dirty water being forced back into the freshwater supply line where it could contaminate other fresh/clean water supply lines.

In some local council areas it has been noted that local plumbing inspectors have demanded BFPD be fitted to machines, even where such machines already have such a device either built in and or supplied with the machine. In some cases they specify a particular type of BFPD, which not only is expensive but is supposed to be inspected at least on Annual basis which adds frustration and costs to the business.

It’s something that customers need to be aware of and are normally not, and it’s an extra cost and inconvenience to the business. Your plumber and yourself can dispute it with the local inspector and you may or may not win your argument.

It’s something that your Hydraulics Consultant/engineer may be able to advise you with, again you will need to be able to provide them with full speciation details from the Manufacturer of the machine.

Canopies/Drains and Stainless Steel

Floor drainage, not only is it a requirement to meet Australian Standards to have a ‘draining floor to waste’ on this area it makes perfect safety and hygiene sense. In large facilities with large machines you should be using ‘floor drain troughs’ to cope with such a wet area.

Lower volume operations with pass through machines often a small round floor waste is suffice.

Dishwasher floor trough

To Canopy or Not to Canopy?

When you look at the Australian standards a Pass through Dishwasher generally the answer is YES, even if low KW. However local Authorities often consider the specific situation of its use. For example it is in such a location where the volume is so infrequent that its hardly used, and perhaps a simple ceiling vent may suffice (the steam has to go somewhere!) such a place may be a community hall, where the kitchen only gets used on a Saturday night once every now and then.

Or a small kitchen than opted for a pass through DW instead of an under counter machine for OHS reasons (avoiding heavy tray lifting and bending down). Higher volume Pass through and Conveyor machines its not negotiable. There is a bunch of reasons why the Canopies (Steam condensate hoods) are required, Hygiene, Working conditions and protection of the building materials are some of.

Built in steam condensate hoods, are now available on some machines. These have a filter system built in/on the hood that processes the steam in such a way a canopy id not required. This is great in locations where installing a hood and the duct work associated could be cost prohibitive. They are a more expensive machine, but the savings of the duct and canopy offset the cost.

Commercial Dishwasher Canopy
Commercial Dishwasher Canopy

Stainless Steel.

Generally lots of it! From floor to canopy or ceiling at least behind the Dishwasher and preferably the entire DW/Ware washing area.

You can use tiles which may be ok for lighter duty areas, but the upkeep and cleaning of them isn’t as easy as Stainless steel splash backs in this area. Under shelves should be ‘rack style’ to allow drainage as also for wall shelves, backs with 300mm splash backs well sealed to wall, both at the back and end sections if applicable.

Running Costs:

Saving money with hot air!

A clever energy saver most machines offer is a type of steam condensate/heat exchanger system, where basically a large amount the steam that escapes from the machine is captured and used to reheat water, this reduces energy consumption a lot as you are giving the water heating process a boost from the steam you have already paid to generate!

To Polish or not to Polish?

Totally up to each establishment’s style and type of service. Where once we were taught to polish all cutlery and glasses it’s not always seen as important in today’s age of ‘casual dining/drinking’ However if you’re a busy place 100+ per day and you are paying staff to manually polish cutlery/crockery you need to your maths and consider machines that do it for you. There are ‘cutlery burnishes’ that have tumble your silver ware with a special compound that makes them all shiny and spotless each time, they can be a bit noisy, but cheaper than paying staff to do it!

And for Glasses you should consider upgrading your glass washer to a machine that has a ‘reverse osmosis’ water demineralisation and filtering system either built in or attached, you will get close to ‘spot free washing as you can get and in most cases avoid the expensive chore of ‘polishing’, so it’s just a mathematical question of do I spend a few thousand more on such a machine to save XX$$$ PA in extra wages polishing glassware.

Saving Labour $$$

The other pre rinse method is in the machine itself. Applicable to flight and rack conveyor machines normally, although some high end Pass through systems offer something similar also. It’s normally a section of the DW system that is on before the main rinse body, rinses all the dishes before entering the wash cycle, not as energy efficient as the manual pre rinse, but saves labour dramatically by cutting back on the prep time of the dish washer operator, so in some cases the annual labour savings could offset energy costs.

Some larger systems also offer a ‘dryer tunnel’ section also, effectively a hot air blast as the dishes pass through a great luxury if you can afford it, very costly to run, and given that the dishes are going to be coming out of the machine at +75c minimum they generally air dry pretty well without too much help.

Saving running costs by choice of energy

Whilst not common in Australia, something different to consider, running your machine on Gas or Steam!

Gas is a no brainer on the KW Per Hour costs as you could be running at 6KWPhr instead of 24KPhr as an example, basically the system has a gas hot water heater to generate the hot water instead of electrical. The other great benefit of such a machine is that if a facility does not have enough power available or the costs to upgrade the power to suit it can allow a large capacity machine to be used without bumping up the power requirements.

Steam is even greater economically again, but in Australia almost unheard of these days, but still does happen in the Northern Hemisphere where steam heating systems in large commercial buildings such as hospitals occurs.

Gas Commercial DW

The inglorious subject of Commercial Dishwashing or ‘Ware Washing’ Part 1.

The inglorious subject of Commercial dishwashing or ‘Ware Washing’ as it known in the trade, is hardly the subject of any long passionate debates amongst hospitality and foodservice operators, it even struggles to get industry food service equipment professionals excited. The subject is massive and I’m only going to touch the outskirts of it all here, you could write a book on it, not sure it would be a best seller though! There is so much to cover that I had to break this topic into sections.

To state the obvious Dishwashing is a necessary part of any busy operation and the busier the operation the more important it becomes. It’s the one part of a kitchen that doesn’t produce income, is rarely seen by customers and simply is a just a cost of doing business to an operation. However a business can save HUGE amounts of money, tens of thousands of dollars a year easily in larger operations by simply taking some time to consider the operation of ware washing, the machines, the specifications but more importantly the SYSTEM of Work Flow and Operation.

Manufacturer Sales reps can, and will bamboozle (or put you to sleep!) about the wonderful technologies their machine has, words like, ‘eco’, ‘environment’, ‘heat recovery’, ‘water optimisation sensors’ ‘energy efficient’ ‘digital or computer controlled’, ‘pre wash’ ‘extra rinse’ ‘pre soak, ‘power corner’ ‘rack conveyor’ ‘flight conveyor’ ‘double pass through’ ‘reverse osmosis’ ‘high power rinse pumps’ ‘ electro mechanical’ ‘self diagnostic’ the list goes on and on and is endless. It’s enough to do anyone’s head in!

But the fact is every one of these statements and words DOES have a financial impact on YOUR operation.

In my many years of experience I would confidently say that 90% of operations purchase their Dish/Ware washer still on purchase price alone. Aside from very small/micro operations this is insanity at its best, everyone considers the running costs of their new Car/Vehicle they purchase, and in some cases some DW systems costs the same as car and in many cases much more. Yet when it comes to the purchase it’s rarely considered.

The manufacturers all have their energy ratings, water consumption/ usages all recorded and stated, that is the first step in your purchasing considerations. Lower KW rates and lower water consumption means lower energy costs, the water less obvious because you are actually using HOT water for your machine, so the more Hot water you use the more it costs to reheat that water to replenish the hot water tank, so it’s a double cost.

 

Common Types of machines:

  • Glass Washer, normally Underbench and designed to fit either 400 x 400 glass baskets or the old style 14” x 17”, the former becoming more the common. Some machines double as a compact general dishwasher for coffee cups etc also. A few designs are still available as ‘cold rinse’ machines as traditionally used in busy pubs where the glasses are chilled again quickly, so the cold rinse avoids breakage due to ‘thermal shock’
Washtec Glass Washer
Washtec Glass Washer

 

  • Under Counter, obviously designed as the name suggests but may be mounted onto a support for easier access. Generally designed to accept 500 x 500 baskets although there are few mid size 450/450 models. Normally 1-3minute wash cycles, most standard with chemical pumps built in and pump out drains for easy installation, your typical small cafe/kitchen specification. There are few models with higher opening also that can accommodate meal service trays 
  • undercounter and commercial pass through dishwashers
    undercounter and commercial pass through dishwashers

 

  • Pass Through, the steak and chips of most kitchens. The typical lift up hood style machine where baskets slide in/out at bench height. Can be installed in corners and there are large variety performance levels and specifications associated. Always built to accommodate a 500x 500 basket but rarely big enough for large pots or trays. There are a couple of ‘double baskets’ machines on the market also, where two baskets are washed at the same time, great for busy operations that perhaps don’t require the full capabilities of rack machine.
  • Hobart Double rack pass through dishwasher
    Hobart Double rack pass through dishwasher

 

  • Pot/Utensil Wash, as the name suggests wide and high opening to incorporate the larger pots, trays and utensils, longer wash cycles. Often front loading which can be annoying for designs and messy, a few ‘pass through’ options are now surfacing which has to be better method for the task. Various sizes of machine available to suit the requirements of the operation.
  • Commercial Pot Utensil wash machine
    Commercial Pot Utensil wash machine

 

  • Pot Wash – Manual, the spa bath for dirty scrubbers! Basically an oversized heated hot water spa bath, that bubbles away to soak large trays, pots, utensils before manually washing and rinsing in a heated sanitised sink.
  • Powersoak pot washer
    Powersoak pot washer
  • Rack Conveyor, this is where the fun begins! 2-3 baskets as a minimum in the wash chamber at once, being pulled along by a series of mechanical grab levers under until spat out through the exit end and pushed along a roller bench, eventually triggering the stop switch at the end. Add to this the options for ‘pre rinse’ sections to be added, ‘double wash’ sections, longer tunnels for more baskets in the wash at once, and even ‘dryer’ tunnels, combined with ‘powered’ corner roller units and you have yourself some serious capacity!
  • commercial conveyor dishwasher
    commercial conveyor dishwasher

 

 

  • Flight Conveyor, same as above except we have lost the baskets! We are stacking directly onto the moving rack system. Generally these machines are much larger and in very high volume specialized operations such as hospitals.
  • High capacity flight dishwasher
    High capacity flight dishwasher

 

  • Utility Washers, no not the place where you wash your ute or 4 x 4! Large capacity food operations that have lots of food service trolleys, GN rack trolleys, large containers and other mobile racks and stands that need to be washed and sanitized. Basically walk in washer height machines, single use at a timer  or conveyor for high volume requirements. Then there are crate washers, pallet washers, bin washers, you name it!
  • Commercial trolley washer
    Commercial trolley washer

 

  • Medical Washers, all variations of above units but with special performance characteristics as dictated by the medical/hospital industry with regards to pre rinse cycles, wash cycles , and insanely hot rinse and or steam cycles to ensure 100% sanitation and hygiene. Often built with very specific operational guidelines to confirm with strict guidelines. Dozens of different models to suit many different applications a very specialized area.
  • hospital grade medical utensil washer
    hospital grade medical utensil washer

 

Performance issues:

Some things that may result in you ‘waiting for your machine’ and or the quality of the cleaning results:

Machine is low KW and the usage is high and fast so and machine hasn’t had time to heat water due to ‘low KW’ design.

Hot water supply/unit is insufficient, either the water temperature coming through to the machine is not high enough or the supply of hot water from the machine has been exhausted, simply too small a capacity for the workload required.

The last paragraph catches many end users out, the belief is that the machine ‘heats its own hot water’ which is true to a point. However its designed and built to heat ‘warm to hot water’ that is supplied to the machine, as specified in the manufacturers manual/specifications. If the machine is fed colder water that what is specified it then has to compensate this by heating it itself, which will delay the cycle and process and also increase your KW use age rates.

Rinse, rinse, rinse!

Commercial pre rinse spray
Commercial pre rinse spray

Pre rinsing, it may sound simply obvious but after watching hundreds of professional plate jockeys in action it clearly is not….PRE RINSE YOUR DISHES before they go through the machine, it makes a massive difference to the clean result and your water quality and can save dishes having to go through twice, it also can mean a reduction in chemical consumption. Using a low water consumption, high power chisel style spray gun is the best way to do this, lots less water consumption that standard faucets or cheap poor quality pre rinse systems, and again less HOT water being used which means less $$$ being spent to heat that water again saving hundreds of dollars even a thousand or more PA in medium operations.

Consider a hotel chain of say 250 sites and swapping a pre rinse system over to low water consumption and saving from a poor quality high water consumption unit can save ‘conservatively’ $1,000 per site PA…now times that maths by 4 years, it’s a million dollar saving!

Chemicals:

A separate subject that could easily fill a book! And I must confess I am no expert in the matter, just the very basics. Suffice to say the quality and quantity of the cleaning detergent dispensed into your machine and the rinse aid/s and or sanitisers is such a variable from brand to brand, in a small operation perhaps not so important but when you are talking large operations its nothing to be spending $1,000 per month on chemical for your machines. It’s a serious subject that needs expert advice and assistance, as the right product dispensed into your machines at the right rate not only ensures a quality clean and sanitise but could save thousands on costs. It’s not ‘unheard of’ to suggest less than honest chemical suppliers have been known to ‘dial up’* the dispense rate to ensure a greater dispense rate, which equals more profit!

*this only works to a point because once too much chemical has been dispensed the wash will become too sudsy or not rinse properly, so the practice is easy to spot!

Maintenance:

There are a few things that an operator can do to assist with the operation of the machine. Follow the manufacturer’s correct daily procedure for emptying the machine and cleaning the machine out. Obvious you say, it is except when you see customers that haven’t changed the water in their machine for days or weeks that is!

Do not empty a machine without the drain filter basket in place!

Depending upon the size of the operation, disassemble the spray arms for cleaning out nozzles and sprayers weekly or more often as required.

‘Descale’ the machine regularly depending upon the quality of your water supply*, using a recommended descale solution. Clean/polish the entire surface of the machine at the end of each shift using a recommended quality stainless steel clean/polish product, this will prevent ‘pitting’ of the stainless, premature rusting and generally keep the machine looking clean, hygienic and professional.

*see notes in the design section to follow regarding water quality

For complete ware washing design solutions and or specification go to the site Commercial Kitchen Design

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