Back Story: Basket Lift Troubles

A busy, 220-seat casual-dining restaurant in Vancouver, B.C., was testing a new fryer model, one that featured automatic basket lifts. They installed three identical fryers in their cookline. The fryers worked fine at first. But after a while, the automatic lift on one of them stopped working.

“When we got to the site, we found that the shafts controlling the basket lift were bent,” says Ken Beasley, President of Key Food Equipment Services, Burnaby, B.C. “We assumed this was a parts issue, so proceeded to replace the shaft as a warranty call.”

A few months passed. “We get another call—same store, same fryer, same problem,” Beasley says. “The restaurant had three identical fryers, yet it was the busiest of the three units that had the issue—the one used for quick-fry items, such as seafood, that are done in about 30 seconds.”

“We highly doubted that the same part would fail again so quickly,” Beasley says. He repaired the shaft for the second time but decided to hang out for a bit to watch the fryer in action.

When lunch rush was in full, chaotic swing, Beasley watched as the cook pushed the button to lower the fryer basket into the oil; then, to save time, the cook detached the basket from the lift and dropped it into the oil directly. The lift assembly, however, continued to descend. When it reached the basket’s top edge, this particular model’s design forced the assembly to bend around the basket edge to get into its proper position to lift the basket out at the end of the fry cycle. Each time it forced its way into position, it pressed against the shaft.

“The cook had been trying to save a few precious seconds with the quick-fry items—pushing the start button then manually dropping the basket,” Beasley says. “He wouldn’t have known there was an issue, because the unit would lift the basket up again as usual and beep to indicate the cycle’s end.

“Do that a few times—no problem. But do it constantly, and you end up with a bent shaft,” Beasley says.

Now that they had identified this as a user issue, Beasley and the manager had two courses of action. Of course, they retrained staff at that restaurant. But they also realized that they’d identified a design issue.

“We contacted the manufacturer’s engineering head,” Beasley says. “He understood the problem as soon as we described it. We suggested they add a hinge to the lift assembly.” This would allow the mechanism to swing up when it encountered the basket edge, stopping it from pressing against the shaft.

The manufacturer not only acted on this suggestion, it also sent out a new hinging basket lift retrofit to all the fryers and covered the cost of repairs. “Manufacturers are open to design suggestions, so always engage your supplier if you think a piece of equipment can be improved,” Beasley says.

Copyright FER December 2013


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