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Why looking after your refrigeration assets is important

by Sebastian Hills. In Africa the demands on refrigeration are compounded when compared to more temperate/cooler climates.

by Sebastian Hills. For most retailers, refrigeration is an essential part of their equipment base. This includes remote units as well as self-contained units with the role of keeping essential products cold or frozen. This is especially true in Africa where the demands on refrigeration are compounded compared to more temperate/cooler climates. The cost of this equipment is understandably large, so caring for and ensuring well looked after refrigeration equipment is a very prudent exercise for any retailer.

The cost of refrigeration does not stop at the CAPEX spend and items such as general maintenance, servicing and electricity costs, i.e., OPEX, should not be ignored or kicked down the road with the aim of getting a “bargain” at the CAPEX stage. There are a number of specification checks that should be performed when selecting the equipment. These include considering specifications that will increase its longevity and durability over its lifespan; its suitability to the environment into which it is being placed (can it work in high ambient temperatures) as well as features that decreases the impact of the electricity and maintenance costs to keep it working effectively.

Ensuring lifespan

The thought process should naturally move on to considering what you can do after procuring your equipment, that will further reduce the impact of that equipment on your operational overheads:

1. Ensure the equipment is installed correctly. Attention should be paid to ensuring adequate air flow to the condensing units and leveling/lining up of cabinets. Ensuring the positioning of shelves is such that adequate air flow internally can flow around the product. We at STAYCOLD have produced YouTube videos for the trade on various “How To” questions such as this, .

2. Regular housekeeping tasks. These tasks keep the units looking good, functioning at their best and ensure shoppers are impressed at the cleanliness and the coldness of what they see and feel. This can entail:

  • General cleaning of the cabinet, both inside and outside. Do not use abrasive cleaning agents or materials and do not leave water soaking in the unit. Ensure once cleaned, any water is wiped away and the unit “sparkles.”
  • While cleaning, cosmetic checks can be done on the unit, i.e. checking door seals are dirt free, intact and sealing properly; door handles are working; any globes that may need to be replaced are; grills are straight; header panels are looking good and all branding is in check.
  • Periodically a check of, and if needed, a clean of the condenser should be performed. Cleaning the condenser, the lungs of a refrigeration system, helps with energy efficiency and durability. This is crucial to ensure effective performance of any unit i.e. it’s running as efficiently as possible. A dirty/clogged condenser, which often happens is a dusty environment, will demand more energy consumption to function as it should. This substantially increases its energy cost burden and increases wear on the refrigeration components so they may need to be replaced sooner and reduces the unit’s overall expectancy.
  • Ensure the refrigeration equipment is periodically and professionally serviced, as you would with any other essential asset in your business, by a qualified service company.

In terms of resources responsible for these functions, the store manager can look to upskill a general worker to champion the general refrigeration care in the store. They can ensure training is done firstly on how to practically clean the equipment, do cosmetic checks and then a step further on how to check and clean the condensers. Our most viewed video on YouTube is, How To Clean Your Condenser. The Refrigeration Care Champion can also ensure servicing is done regularly, as specified by the manufactures.

The cleaning and servicing intervals should be dictated by the environment in which the units are located, ie a dustier, high traffic flow environment will require shorter intervals. A suggestion to manage this effectively is a well-maintained cleaning schedule, that the refrigeration care champion takes ownership of and updates. They can have a file which has checklists and specifies daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly cleaning and servicing tasks. The store manager can consult the manufacturers guidelines and then sit with the refrigeration care champion to ensure this file is drawn up for great looking and well-functioning refrigeration.

Bear in mind most manufactures may require evidence in the event of any potential warranty claim to ensure that the unit has been used and maintained in accordance with its design. This file will then be adequate to present, showing evidence of the cleaning and servicing tasks check lists, that have and been done and are being planned to be done in the future.

Cost implications

To bring this closer to the CFO’s table, we can reference the cost of not caring effectively for your refrigeration. A cooler that for example, uses 4 KW per hour in 24-hour period, will consume in the region of R2,900 of electricity over a year ($200.00). A reasonable lifespan of a unit would be in excess of seven years, so that’s +R20 300 per unit ($1 400.00). When you consider that this cost is more than comparable to the CAPEX cost of the unit and can also be multiplied over the number of units in the shop, you are not dealing with a small number.

If a unit is not operating at its optimal condition, with a restricted condenser for example, that could increase its energy consumption by as much as 30%. That R20 300 ($1 400) becomes R26 100 ($1 800) and is R5 800 ($400) less contribution to your profit line. We have not even considered the cost implications that are likely to happen because of more frequent breakdowns, as well as leading to unsatisfied customers if the product inside is not too their liking. So both yours costs could go up and your sales go down, which could sink your ship.

So, looking after your refrigeration assets is indeed a wise decision. This prudent mindset which can lead to double digit expense line savings in an industry where single digit profit margins are the norm, should not be overlooked or disregarded for a purchase price saving or lack of ongoing care over its lifespan.

 

Main image credit: Photo by Robert Nagy from Pexels.

 

Sebastian (Seb) Hills is the Sales and Marketing Manager for Staycold International. His physics background, experience in hospitality retail management, catering and refrigeration; as well as an interest in all things mechanical and technical, allows for a unique perspective on problem solving and finding solutions for customers’ needs.

 

 

 

Staycold International is a sponsor on RetailingAfrica.com and with Retailing Africa, will be publishing a series of thought leadership articles on the refrigeration industry in South Africa and Africa. Staycold International is a South African refrigeration company which manufactures self-contained commercial fridges and freezers for South Africa and the African continent from their factory in Parys, South Africa. Their business began in 1979 in Parys, where their home base factory is still located; and where they manufacture units primarily for the beverage and hospitality industries. They have been running for over 40 years with the principles of quality, efficiency, performance, reliability and durability.

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