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For Smooth Installs, Turn to the Supply Chain

At some point, all operations will need to purchase a new piece of kitchen equipment. While an operator may be able to order that unit with just a few clicks on a computer, ensuring a smooth installation is much more complicated.

According to Donny Smith, service manager for the Columbus, Ohio, branch of Commercial Parts & Service, many equipment installation problems arise due to a piece being incompatible with an operation’s utilities. Different buildings have different types of natural gas supplies and capacities, as well as different electrical wiring (both in voltage and phase). All of these can be incompatible with specific pieces of equipment, especially those ordered without proper research.

In the best case, the operator, supplier or installer will catch these differences before actually installing the unit. This can allow the operator to work out some sort of equipment exchange with the supplier. Worst-case scenario: an unqualified party unable to identify these issues installs the equipment, which essentially gets destroyed when it is first used. “They don’t know that they can void the warranty and also damage [the unit]. You could end up never being able to use the equipment again,” says Smith.

A Better Approach

To avoid these problems, Smith says, operators should work with reputable dealers and manufacturer’s representatives to make sure they order the best piece of equipment for their needs and their facility. They should also partner with a reputable service agency, such as one certified by the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association (CFESA), to help plan and perform the installation.

The service agent, says Smith, should be central to the entire installation process. This should start with a site inspection, where the agency technician will confirm the utility hookups and plan the easiest way to get the new unit into the kitchen. While this may seem simple, requiring nothing more than a pallet jack, getting a piece of foodservice equipment in a kitchen can get complicated quickly. It’s not uncommon, says Smith, for operations to have large windows removed in order to pass big pieces of equipment through. While this certainly drives up the installation costs, it’s better to know what’s necessary going into an installation than to rely on luck.

The service agent should also be able to help with the initial delivery from the manufacturer. While a lot of operations don’t have the infrastructure or space to receive and store a large piece of equipment, many dealers and service agents do

Using reputable members of the supply chain and having them inspect the equipment increases the likelihood they will identify any problems, from dings to defects. “Everything we get in here, we do that. The trucking companies, if you’re going to do a claim, need to know immediately,” says Smith.

Installation Process

Once delivered and inspected, the service agency should work with their operator to arrange for the final installation. This includes setting a time that works best with the operation’s schedule. The service agent should also make sure any necessary pallet jacks or lifts (provided by the operator or the service agent) are on hand, as well as any other tools and supplies needed for the job.

After a piece of equipment is delivered to an operation and moved into the kitchen, the service agent or installer should perform the actual, final installation, including wiring, plumbing, leveling, etc. “You really need to have a trained, certified technician in there that really knows what connections need to be made. They cross their Ts and dot their Is and make sure all your connection are tight,” says Smith.

After performing these final hook-ups, the unit is ready for the official start-up — a task that by contract should only be handled by the manufacturer’s authorized service agent, ideally the one handling the installation. Once complete — with the unit calibrated and working at its peak efficiency — the installation is final.

While most operations want to avoid the expense and hassle of purchasing and installing a new piece of equipment, it cannot be avoided forever. By being methodical in purchasing and planning an installation, however, the entire process can end up being a positive business experience for everyon