Commercial Kitchen Service Firm Tackles Challenges with New Diagnostic Technology

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An international fast food franchise with an inoperable gas “clamshell” griddle was forced to close early the day before. The manager who called the equipment service firm was panicked: the griddle had lost its flame and couldn’t be reignited. Their all-new commercial equipment wasn’t supposed to have problems like this!

Already, managers had made frustrated emails to the griddle’s manufacturer and sales rep who in turn reached out to Calgary, Alberta-based LDI Technical Services, Ltd. for help.

Commercial Kitchen Service Firm Tackles Challenges with New Diagnostic Technology, Calgary, Alberta-based LDI Technical Services, Ltd., gas metering

The service firm responded quickly, sending a technician known for his ability to troubleshoot. He soon found a vexing challenge: everything checked out fine; the griddle was working at the moment. They shouldn’t have a problem.

While LDI’s Senior Technician Ryan Marr was still on site looking further into the mystery, the griddle failed again, and couldn’t be reignited. He determined it was an intermittent building gas pressure issue of some sort.

“Marr texted me, as it was an early evening, after-hours call,” recalled service manager Bob Rogers. The 30-person firm (also with a shop in Edmonton), commissions and services commercial food service equipment.

Marr was one of Rogers’ best technicians; surely he’d have a resolution soon. An hour later, Marr was on the phone to say that it appeared to be a building gas pressure issue. They discussed their options, settling on a plan for Marr to recommend that the restaurant’s managers to call the gas utility, immediately.  Soon a utility trouble-shooter was on the way, yet his research merely dug them deeper into the mystery: pressure within the facility was optimal; no problem.

Commercial Kitchen Service Firm Tackles Challenges with New Diagnostic Technology, Calgary, Alberta-based LDI Technical Services, Ltd., gas meteringUnfortunately, that’s not what the restaurant’s managers wanted to hear. They were distressed to learn that two experts were mystified. Of course, they knew there was indeed a problem, and if it wasn’t solved they’d have no choice but to close the restaurant—again.

So, this was bad news. After all, the griddle was their kitchen’s crown jewel: burgers were their main offering.

Eventually, Marr and the gas utility tech left for home. The next day, Rogers got an urgent call during the lunch rush hour: the griddle’s down again!

It was a very fortunate coincidence for the restaurant that, a few hours earlier, Rogers received a package sent from Export, PA-based Dormont. In it was a hand-held diagnostic device—the FloPro™MD—a tool that allows technicians and installers to perform gas equipment start-ups, commissioning and maintenance with accuracy. The device quickly diagnoses gas pressure and flow for gas-burning appliances while logging data via Bluetooth connectivity.

Worthwhile tradeshow visit

(Rogers) LDI had purchased one of the tools a few weeks earlier. He’d sent three of his senior technicians to the NAFEM (North American Food Equipment Manufacturer’s) expo show in Orlando. They texted him from the show floor to say they’d seen and learned about the device from Watts sales pros at the show.

“Clearly, they were impressed with the tool’s capabilities and were excited about it,” recalled Rogers. “So I looked it up online while they were still in the manufacturer’s booth. It wasn’t long before I saw that it had exactly the capabilities we were looking for: fast, accurate diagnostics and to solve more challenging jobsite problems as well—so I placed an order immediately.”

Commercial Kitchen Service Firm Tackles Challenges with New Diagnostic Technology, Calgary, Alberta-based LDI Technical Services, Ltd., gas meteringWhen the package arrived, Rogers immediately reviewed the materials and an online video, then put it in his toolbag and told the dispatcher he and Marr would be at the restaurant that Marr visited the day before.

“Rather than sending a tech with a new tool, I was eager to see it perform personally,” said Rogers. “Besides, the restaurant’s call for help—now involving a problem that spanned two days—had already become an unusual challenge.”

“Sure enough,again: nothing was immediately apparent with the restaurant’s griddle,” said Rogers, recalling his visit to their location.

The Dormont FloPro-MD accurately provided gas pressure within, and outside the gas appliance, and flow available to the burners. With the device connected to the griddle, Rogers explained to the restaurant’s staff that he’d leave it there to monitor gas pressure conditions continuously—hoping that this target and identify the inconsistencies that eluded them previously.

“The tool’s capability to monitor conditions over time was invaluable,” continued Rogers. “Soon, I was receiving intel on my phone via the tool’s app— something that we’d never had before. Every 60 seconds, the tool measured all conditions.”

According to Rogers, there was no software to install, and everything worked just as promised. The Dormont diagnostics tool monitored gas pressure’s average, maximum and minimum. It also monitored gas flow within the appliance and—because the FloPro was also connected to the “suspect” gas line, he also received information about capacity (BTUs), based on pressure and flow.

Smoking gun

Another advantage to the tool was that, when Rogers received another call—with yet another problem to help solve, elsewhere, he could leave the tool to do its job.

“Within 3 or 4 hours, it was apparent that the utility’s pressure was . . . inconsistently inconsistent,so there was real value to the longer-term readings. It was no surprise to me that the griddle wasn’t working,” said Rogers.

Commercial Kitchen Service Firm Tackles Challenges with New Diagnostic Technology, Calgary, Alberta-based LDI Technical Services, Ltd., gas metering“I returned to the restaurant that evening after receiving another urgent call—the griddle was down again,” continued Rogers. “Of course, I also wanted to check data that the tool had developed during its monitoring.

“Data was revealing: I had to explain to managers that the griddle was functioning properly when it had sufficient gas pressure,” he added.  “Yet, they did indeed have an issue with utility—outside pressures were fluctuating erratically. There was no question the problem inside was coming from a problem outside. I provided them with the reports—which in essence became the smoking gun.”

Rogers said that, so armed, the restaurant’s managers were able to substantiate their claim to the utility. Fortunately, utility technicians were ordered to move swiftly to correct the problem.

“We now have two of the FloPro-MDs here at the shop with three more ordered so that, whenever a tech goes out on a call to commission, service or troubleshoot gas appliances, one is ready for use,” said Rogers. “It’s become one of my favorite tools. A FloPro connects quickly and is easy to use. With it, we can ‘be live’ readily with real-time data.”

Other functions, which the tool could have provided but Rogers didn’t need at the time, included barometric pressure and ambient temperature. More common use of the tool may be to diagnose an appliance’s incorrect burn, or combustion, or insufficient to gas flow.

The FloPro-MD generates easy-to-read data that can be uploaded to an iOS or Android smart phone or tablet via Bluetooth Connectivity (BTLE) and used to generate reports. By emailing those reports to the equipment manufacturer, or to a customer, technicians can clearly validate the performance of their customer’s equipment.

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