Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

OCT 2017

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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30 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • OCTOBER 2017 consider two types of ergonomics. The first is the physical, or anthropometric: How tall am I? How far can I reach? The second is the cognitive, which he describes as the mental capacity to process information. There is a limit to how much information an individual can process, he says. "You can tell someone 10 things at one time because you think it's efficient that you told them 10 things at one time — but they can't process it." In the workstation design process, both types of ergonomics carry equal importance. The anthropometric means placing equipment and stor- age within reach, and the cognitive requires logic to the placement. The vertical placement of equip- ment, for example, represents one of those factors where the physical layout of the workstation becomes critical. Martinez has seen workstations that, in order to raise microwaves, were placed so high that shorter workers couldn't reach them. "Employees just deal with it," he says. "They figure it out at the cost of efficiency, and the impact is worse quality, worse throughput and discomfort." Height used intelligently, though, can free up valuable counter space, for example, when mounting a horizontal conveyor bun toaster just slightly above the sandwich area to clear up room on the production counter. Another consideration in workstation placement is the width of the aisles. It can be a challenge to find that sweet spot with just enough room for the kitchen crew to pass each other comfortably or work in parallel. It's critical to note the steps between the processes, Sedej adds. Aisles that are too wide can lead to increased steps and can also eat up valuable kitchen space. While an added step or two might seem unimportant, in a busy, high-volume QSR or casual environment, one or two extra steps multiplied many times over the course of a day can result in a major slowdown in the production process. No matter the design of the workstations, they have to feed the workflow of the operation in a logical and efficient way. "Location is critical to facilitate flow and efficiency. If I'm assembling and I'm getting fed by the grill, and then I have to put it in an expediter station, the grill better be close to me. And the expediter station better be close to me," Martinez explains. SUITE STUFF One workstation approach is the all-in-one cooking suite, generally viewed as a beautiful (albeit expensive) piece of equipment. But is it right for all operations? We asked our design experts to weigh in. "It truly depends on what you're trying to accomplish," says Sedej. "To put a cooking suite into a 24/7 diner doesn't make any sense." Martinez agrees. "For a typical fast-growing QSR, fast casual or even a casual dining operation, all-in-one suites really aren't the best," he says. "The challenge with bigger suites is that they can become inflexible when it comes to production because you can't move them." As Martinez notes, the very thing that makes worksta- tions so attractive — the all-in-one concept — may also work against them in the future. Menu innovation is critical to long-term success in the restaurant industry, he adds. "The menu of today will not be the menu of tomorrow," he says. As menus evolve, workstations have to keep up. But unlike standalone pieces of equipment, which operators can move, swap out or upgrade individually, the all-in-one suite and its individual components remain unchangeable for the most part. For an operation that wants the "wow" factor of showing off their culinary crew, though, suites can be an attractive option. But it's important that the cooking suite features the necessary pieces of equipment in an ergonomic placement. "They're beautiful and can be very efficient if they're designed right," says Sedej. WORKSTATIONS THAT WORK TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS Industry consultants Juan Martinez and Kristin Sedej have some tips for planning and executing workstations that work. Martinez says to consider custom-made workstations, claiming they can often result in more efficiently designed workstations than off-the-shelf models. "Off-the-shelf pricing is better. Custom made is more expensive." But, he says, "custom made can be more efficient, where off-the- shelf may not be as efficient." He also points to the fact that some manufacturers make so many custom models nowadays that the end cost may not be significantly higher than for off-the-shelf models. To Sedej, the key to effective workstations starts with asking the right questions at the beginning of the design process. "Every design goes back to, 'Do we know what we're going to be and what we're trying to accomplish?' " she says. "Ask as many questions as you can in the beginning, but be flexible to allow those answers to change. You've got to keep labor costs and food costs in control, and design is a major tool in the toolbox to do that. It's important to try to get it right."

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