Skip to main content

How to Properly Manage Obsolescence in a Commercial Kitchen

an old obsolete fridge sat in a field

Unplanned downtime of equipment can have a dramatic effect on the performance and efficiency of a business, particularly a commercial kitchen. Recently, a study by Vanson Bourne found that over the last three years a large percentage of companies suffered from an unplanned equipment outage. Often a result of poor maintenance planning and estate management, downtime can often be avoided with a proper obsolescence management process, which we’ll discuss here.

Technological advances mean that whether your equipment fails or not, it could soon become obsolete and leave your catering facility playing catch up or struggling to perform. One of the main causes of obsolescence is when a part or a machine is no longer produced by the manufacturer. Frustrating as this may be, it is possible to regain some level of control and ensure that your kitchen isn’t left behind. Handled poorly, obsolescence of equipment can result in high, unexpected placement fees or repairs, affecting your profitability and edge in the market.

To keep on top of obsolescence and protect the business from unplanned outages and costs, it is vital to implement a rigorously monitored management process of your entire estate.

How is this possible? David Khanna, Operations Director at Arolite, explains further.

Fully Understand Your Commercial Catering Estate 

A detailed understanding of your commercial catering estate and all legacy equipment therein is essential. Keeping an up to date database of all units with proper asset tagging, usage and maintenance logs, helps identify equipment that could be at risk and also what the impact would be if said equipment became obsolete.

Without a database, you have no idea of what your staff are using most and what would cause the biggest headache to replace at short notice. Save money, time and worry by keeping proper records.

An excellent example of obsolescence that affects a large number of businesses is F-Gas Regulations. The law is intended to limit the damage caused to the planet by out-dated, harmful gases found in commercial refrigerators. By 1st January 2020, if equipment is using these gases, it could mean that the machine becomes unserviceable. This means that thousands of businesses are at risk of having obsolete equipment in their estate.

While it directly impacts the equipment and gas manufacturers, there is also a domino effect on the businesses that use the refrigerants. Having a detailed database will make identifying and replacing affected equipment so much easier.

Keep on top of Industry News

The key to obsolescence is being proactive as well as reactive to industry changes. Take the time to learn about what is going on before being told and you could put your business ahead of the game. In the case of F-Gas, if a company was only now learning about the regulation and it’s wide reaching effects, they’d be working at a competitive disadvantage and leaving themselves open to high costs of replacing equipment at short notice.

While monitoring your estate is crucial, keeping an eye on the environment and industry you operate in is equally key to staying on top of equipment obsolescence. Sign up to manufacturer blogs, create alerts, read regularly, attend industry meets or simply seek support from consultants, like Arolite, who can advise and provide solutions for your entire obsolescence process. External consultants have the expertise to support you and make sure your business is at the forefront of any innovations.

Risk Assess and Adapt

Risk assessments are a familiar task across all areas of business, but how do you assess obsolescence risk?

Keeping an obsolescence risk assessment register as part of your wider estate database will allow you to identify periods of use within your business and any risk factors that could mean assets will become obsolete. It is crucial for industrial obsolescence management.

An obsolescence risk assessment register should consist of a rolling timeline and any factors including news, laws, regulations, technological advancements or simply the age of the asset that could indicate if and when it’ll become obsolete. Doing this diligently can make it far easier to see your ‘at risk’ pieces of equipment and plan accordingly.

The type of questions you should seek to answer when conducting an obsolescence risk assessment are:

  • How likely is it that the unit could break down?
  • How much of an impact would it have if a piece of equipment broke down and was unserviceable?
  • What about the chances of an asset being discontinued?
  • What is the average lifespan of the piece of equipment?
  • Is there something else on the market that is clearly better/more advanced than what you have?

Equipment Obsolescence Strategy

Once you’ve completed your obsolescence risk assessment and identified any weak points, the next step is to define a strategy to address issues. Summarise what the impact would be if assets with the highest obsolescence risk did become obsolete, this will help you decide what remedial steps should be taken.

  • Do you need to stock more spares?
  • Is there a better, more efficient alternative on the market?
  • Do you need to rethink your suppliers and/or supplier management?
  • Can an end to end commercial catering equipment support service, like Arolite, help?

Prioritising at-risk assets as well as regularly checking on lower risk equipment over a period of time can drastically reduce your risk of unplanned downtime and obsolescence nightmares.

A general lack of understanding about obsolescence across the commercial catering industry causes millions of pounds of lost revenue, increase equipment and repair costs and inefficiencies every year. Don’t let your business fall into the trap of ignorance. Put simply, everything has a life cycle, and obsolescence is an inevitable part of doing business. Plan effectively and keep your catering facilities running.