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’
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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!
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!
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!
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