Most of us are familiar with that funny-tasting and cloudy-looking ice we get from our refrigerator ice trays. The reason has nothing to do with the quality of those trays — it does, however, have everything to do with the way the ice is created. Making pure, clean and clear ice that tastes good is serious business to Scotsman Ice Systems of Vernon Hills, Ill. — a division of Enodis Corporation and the world’s largest manufacturer of ice-making equipment.
There’s nothing more satisfying in a cold drink than ice that keeps the integrity of that drink. Those cute little crystal-clear ice cubes we’ve all come to love at fine restaurants and hotels were probably created by Scotsman Ice’s ice-making equipment. The company sells its ice-making and storage equipment to the leisure and hospitality industry, including large hotels, motels and restaurants throughout the world. Its markets also include institutions such as schools, colleges and hospitals.
“You get pure, clear ice from our machines. It’s literally clear, and the reason for that has to do with a physics concept,” says Darryl Hunter, vice president of purchasing and product quality. Pure water freezes only at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, while water containing contaminants such as salt or minerals will freeze at 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Hunter adds, “Water runs over the evaporator plate continually, which is set at exactly 32 degrees, and we control it so that only pure water freezes and any mineral deposits are flushed out.”
QFD = CM3
Making pure and clear ice is easy because of the engineering and design expertise built into every piece of equipment Scotsman Ice manufactures. In 1995, the company revolutionized the industry with its launch of the CM3 ice maker. “This was the first major product redesign for Scotsman,” says Hunter. “It was a brand-new platform offering the lowest operating cost over the lifetime of the product.”
Scotsman Ice is proud of its reputation of placing its customers’ needs and desires first and foremost. “Our concept is very simple. We start out with knowing what the customer wants and what they are willing to pay,” explains Hunter. “In order to develop this platform, we completed an intense two-year study called QFD, or quality functional deployment, which is a methodology of discovering what customers really want. It was a very intense and high-security study, and no one in the company but the president and six people in a cross-functional team knew what was developing. Because when you understand what the customer wants and that happens to leak out, then anyone in the industry can grab that idea. Once you figure out what the customers want, you prioritize those desires into a prioritization grid. So, everything in the CM3 came out of that QFD.”
The CM3 was the first ice maker manufactured completely with solid-state electronics, rather than with the electromechanical controls that were the industry standard at the time. “It also offered a state-of-the-art plastic base instead of the usual steel, and this improved its insulation value. So there were a lot of improved feature benefits to our customers,” Hunter says.
This revolutionary product was the result of the efforts Scotsman Ice began in 1990, when it inaugurated its total quality management environment; and then again in 1992, when the company began to use cross-functional team approaches to its product development and manufacturing processes. “We were able to cut the development cycle time by about 50 percent while meeting our customers’ target price,” says Hunter, noting that the CM3 ice maker offers the most reliability and the lowest warranty cost of any product.
Before the CM3 was launched, Scotsman Ice subjected it to “the most intense reliability testing ever done by this company,” Hunter says. “We put 150 units out in the field and hooked them up to modems that collected data on operations for about six months before we ever released the
product to customers.” In order to determine not only its reliability but its ruggedness as well, Scotsman Ice put these machines into the harshest heat and mineral-laden water environments it could find. “We were downloading data every week, and we did reliability testing of every key component to assure it met our design criteria. Right about this time, we also introduced design FMEAs, or failure mode effect analyses,” continues Hunter. FMEAs permit users to first anticipate what could possibly go wrong, test for it and then design around it.
Cross-functional teams examine target costs for each of the four distinct systems in an ice machine, including the water system, electrical and refrigeration systems, and the cabinet. “The teams are then charged to design such a product to meet the customer’s needs. We bring in our suppliers on the front end of the design, they sign confidentiality agreements and they are totally involved in our product development. So it’s really a collaborative effort,” Hunter says.
One of the most troublesome problems affecting ice makers is water contaminants, which can cause a number of components to break down. “Scotsman Ice’s patented equipment is designed to flush impurities into the sump or recycling area. So if the water comes from a harsh environment, the unit is set to handle this and it flushes more often. This is how we keep the system clean,” says Hunter.
Scotsman Ice systems automatically adjust to operate in temperature- and altitude-specific environments, as well as in other ambient conditions. The ice-making cycles depend on the size of the ice cubes desired. Scotsman Ice was the first in the industry to adopt a collaborative and cross-functional approach to developing and manufacturing new products, Its philosophy is based on its belief that it serves three customers: the shareholder, the employee and the customer. “We try very hard to balance that relationship because it’s easy to please shareholders and short-circuit employees. And it’s also easy to please customers and not shareholders with regard to their profit,” says Hunter.
Scotsman Ice employs 450 people in its two facilities, whose manufacturing space totals nearly one-half million square feet. It operates a manufacturing facility and a finished-goods distribution center in Fairfax, S.C., and an office and administration facility in Vernon Hills. The company instituted kanban and kaizen events about 12 years ago. Today, it continually examines how it can reduce manufacturing cycle time while improving quality for its customers.
As a key unit of Enodis, the world’s largest manufacturer of foodservice equipment for both both hot and cold food, Scotsman Ice plans to continue to lead in product technologies and innovation in the food-service industry, says Hunter. Scotsman Ice and Ice-o-matic, another company owned by Enodis, have the predominant share of the U.S. market, and each company will use Enodis’ leverage in purchasing and manufacturing efforts. Hunter says, “You can look to Enodis Corporation for providing technologies that lead the way in food-service equipment.”