The ergonomics of a hood dishwasher are shaped by workstation thinking

11/10/23 12:25 PM
Ett välplanerat diskrum förbättrar huvdiskmaskinens ergonomi

With high-quality professional kitchen design, a functional dishwashing station can be built even in a small space. Dishwashing is one of the most labor-intensive tasks in the kitchen, so by improving the ergonomics of hood dishwashers, tangible results can be achieved quickly.


Hood dishwashers have maintained their position as the most popular type of dishwasher in professional kitchens for decades. "Put the basket in, lower the hood and start the washing program" is a simple process, but in terms of work ergonomics, there is much more to consider before the basket of dishes is clean and ready for use again.

Although the technology and features of hood dishwashers have developed enormously, they are not quite as ergonomic as the conveyor dishwashers designed for large volumes. Based on capacity calculations, the hood dishwasher is just the right solution for many kitchens. Sometimes it also replaces a conveyor dishwasher when there is no space for a bigger system in the dishwashing area. It's all about balancing investments, floor space and labor costs.

A compact hood dishwasher allows flexible design

The budget and volume determine the type of dishwasher, but fairly often some ideas are literally blocked by walls. Especially in old properties, the dishwashing area must fit in the available space, and there is absolutely zero room for expansion outwards. In this case, the importance of the worktops, shelves and carts that come with the hood dishwasher is emphasized. A small amount of stuff, but designed very carefully.

Dishes must not pile up waiting to go into the dishwasher. For this reason, especially the furniture on the input side and pre-washing as a process should be planned very thoroughly. A good-sized pre-wash table, an ergonomic pre-wash shower and a big enough sink with an easy-to-empty strainer. In addition, the dishwashing baskets must be easily accessible. Depending on the layout, either a trolley, a wall shelf or space for the baskets under the table could work.

Figure 1A: This type of a dishwashing area that forms a straight line is a fairly common choice with hood dishwashers. The inexpensive basic configuration has been created from warehouse products available for fast delivery. Trolleys and compact-sized tables enable flexible changes or, for example, moving the dishwashing area to another location. The pre-wash side of the direct line consists of a trolley and a pre-wash table included in the standard selection. The table has a tall splash guard, so the pre-wash shower is mounted on the wall. The size of the sink is also sufficient for cleaning fairly large cooking pots and pans. On the clean side, the guides for the dishwasher baskets are located under the counter. The biowaste solution is inexpensive, a biowaste container on wheels.

A functional dishwashing area is built from compatible parts

The fact is that washing dishes is not a job where you turn your brain off and "just wash it". By thinking things through, everyone can participate in the development of the process and thus make the work environment even more pleasant. A single factor that improves ergonomics can be as simple as the size, and location of the biowaste container and how often it is emptied. A 60 liter container is difficult to empty if it is full to the brim.

Especially when replacing a dishwasher, it is good to review the work that is done in the dishwashing area and what that requires. Extra baskets and other less frequently needed articles that take space should be removed. Often, one good drawer is enough for the necessary cloths, scrapers and other accessories. It's much better than cucumber jars or mustard buckets on the tables, where the items are scattered and half of them are never needed.

A mini design meeting is recommended whenever one of the kitchen's key appliances is replaced. The new products contain a lot of automation that speeds up work, improves working conditions and helps with quality assurance. The features of the best products in the selection include heat recovery, automatic start with basket recognition, automatic hood lifting, and systems that monitor the duration and temperature of the final rinse. The benefits are multiplied as the volume increases. A separate pre-washer is also available for hood machines, which saves water and frees up working time for other tasks.

Figure 1B: A variation of plan 1A. This version has a long pre-wash table built into one worktop, which improves ergonomics and offers flexibility in busy situations. The size of the sink is also designed for washing larger cooking pots and pans. The lower parts of the shelves are equipped with grid shelves, which together with the shelves offer plenty of space for storing dishwashing baskets.

Different dishes, different lead times

In smaller kitchens, the hood dishwasher is also used as a pot washer. Washing GN containers with burnt food in them is a process that often requires time and space. Dishwashing is a never-ending loop, where the dishwasher is only one part of the whole.

Regular soaking of GN pans in large sinks is not really the way things are done these days. Everything starts with the cooking methods. When the right temperatures and humidity control are used, even GN containers are easier to clean. The worst situation is when the dirt sticks and the pans are scratched with hard scrapers. Once the surface is sufficiently scratched, the dirt sticks to it even more.

Another detail to consider on the input side of the dishwasher is the washing of cutlery. Cutlery often goes from soaking to the dishwashing basket, where it is washed for the first time. The second wash is done using cutlery holders, where the cutlery is sorted vertically. This way the cutlery is returned to the customers clean and with as few touches as possible.

The dishwashing area must also have clear instructions on what can be washed in the machine. The grease filters of ventilation hoods may fit conveniently in a hood dishwasher but washing them in the dishwasher does not necessarily save working time. Once the filters are shiny, the dishwasher is often in need of cleaning. Grease filters can be washed effectively with, for example, a steam cleaner.

Lifting and carrying are heavy work

Diagonally placed handles make it easier to handle full plate baskets. The basket shown weighs 15 kilos with 18 plates.

You can recognize a well-functioning dishwashing area by the fact that all lifting and carrying has been reduced to a minimum. There is enough space for clean dishes being unloaded from the dishwasher, so you don't have to move things back and forth and empty each basket immediately after washing. There isn't always room for a long unloading table, in which case basket trolleys and plate trolleys are worth their weight in gold. With the trolleys, the dishes can also be conveniently transported to storage or the line system.

Compatibility can sometimes depend on half an inch

The importance of pre-washing is also emphasized. It is a time-consuming task that requires space. Good sinks, waste containers close at hand and a pre-wash shower at a suitable height are important tools. Insufficient pre-washing affects the other stages of the process. Washing the dishes twice or having to change the machine's washing water more often than usual will quickly eat away the benefits achieved by skipping steps.

In terms of ergonomics and efficiency, it is important to ensure that the parts of the system work together. Bad example is a dishwashing area where a new hood machine has been purchased in a hurry to replace the old one that was broken, but the pre-wash and unloading tables are from the old dishwasher. When there is a threshold of one centimeter at both ends, it really starts to hinder the work. The unnecessary movement is repeated even hundreds of times during a work shift, in which case a small issue becomes a big problem.

The basket selection should also be reviewed when replacing the dishwasher. Having enough baskets of the right size reduces the need to move items and helps keep dishes intact. The 500 x 500 standard baskets do work with both new and old dishwashers, but even baskets have a life cycle. A basket that has lost its shape can easily cause problems in the process.

Figure: In this kitchen, the dishwashing area has plenty of space and it is also needed, because the number of baskets to be washed on the busiest days is 80 baskets per day. Thanks to the long pre-wash table and the roller track on the unloading side, a very large number of baskets can be washed quickly without unnecessary lifting and carrying. There are waste holes in the long pre-washing table and a waste cabinet under it. There is a hole-bottomed drawer under the top for small accessories and tools. The corner installation has been implemented in such a way that instead of a dishwasher, there is a curve in the corner, which continues as a long roller track. The baskets move easily on the rollers, and the unloading side does not get congested, even if the baskets cannot be emptied immediately. The grid shelves and basket guides under the worktop offer plenty of space for storing dishwashing baskets. 

Automation reduces heavy and repetitive routine movements

In most kitchens, dishwashing has a higher turnover of staff than other positions, so orientation and instructions are necessary. Hood dishwashers are simple to use, so a quick guide with clear pictorial symbols often provides sufficient written instructions. In many kitchens, it can be found on the wall next to the hood dishwasher.

The Metos WD hood dishwashers have an automatic rinsing program, so daily cleaning is very fast. Using a 20-second program, the machine cleans itself well. Combined with the basic cleaning done once a week, it is a very efficient system. Some kitchens have to unlearn old ways of working, when the new dishwasher is  easier to clean than the old one. Sometimes old dishwashers have required really strong detergents every day to keep them clean.

In all kitchen work, automation should let handle heavy and repetitive work steps and routines that can be left to a machine without any problems. Such is for instance automatic hood lift and automatic start to the hood dishwashers. 

Figure 3A: This self-service sorting dish return unit is designed for daycares. On the return side, solutions have been created that are suitable for the children's reach and motor skills. The depth of the return table is 800 mm and it has also been squeezed into a small width. The table has openings for a waste container placed under the level. The special features include customized solutions for plates and trays, adapted from spring-loaded plate dispensers. Thanks to these, the stacks of returned plates and trays do not get too high for children. 
Figure 3B: This is a variation of plan 3A. The self-service return and the dishwashing area form a functional combination in the same way, but in this case the customer base consists of adults. The kitchen specializes in large coffee events, where the number of cups to be washed may exceed 200. For this reason, we designed a slanted basket shelf for the returned cups, which offers plenty of cup capacity and gives the dishwasher flexibility to change baskets. Trays are not used, so one additional space for baskets was added to the worktop instead.


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