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BACK STORY: Refrigeration Failure? Perish The Thought

Everybody knows it’s smart to go to the doctor once a year for a physical. For some reason, however, planned maintenance (PM) on your foodservice equipment, which is guaranteed to extend its life and performance, continues to elude most operators. For a large grocery store in the Virgin Islands, a lack of PM policy nearly cost the store hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory when the refrigeration system failed.

“It was a Saturday night,” recalls Annette Edenfield, Operations Manager at KLR Services LLC, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Local service companies and parts stores had closed down for the night to enjoy the weekend. At this time, Edenfield and her husband, Owner Lee Eisenhauer received an unexpected and urgent call at their home. 

“The customer was in panic mode!” she says. The grocery store’s refrigeration ran off of a single-rack system that was shutting down, exposing its entire supply of perishable goods to spoiling temperatures. Recognizing the urgency, KLR pulled a team together for an afterhours emergency procedure.

KLR’s refrigeration technician, the first to arrive at the scene, quickly discovered several leaks inside of the rack system. To patch the leaks, he’d first need to drain all of the fluids from the system, then find refrigerant to refill it after the repairs. “We only had a four-hour window to get this done before the store lost all of its cold food,” Edenfield explains. 

Divvying up duties, a couple of KLR’s technicians drained the unit and repaired the leaks while Edenfield located a sufficient supply of compatible refrigerant at a local parts shop whose owner was willing to reopen that evening. With the leaks fixed, the KLR team rushed to replenish the refrigerant and, with just 15 minutes to spare, the system once again was running at safe temperatures.

KLR’s lead technician determined that the leaks had sprung because of defects in manufacturing exacerbated by excessive wear from the rack unit’s vibration. The situation could have been prevented had the store conducted regular maintenance, a revelation that motivated the owners to enact a PM policy immediately following the incident. 

Four years after the fiasco, the grocery store is operating successfully with the same rack system. The event was a testament not only to the wisdom of putting a PM plan in place, but to having a dependable and dedicated service company that is willing to go the extra mile at all times.

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