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A Quiet Kind of Freshness

South African supermarket chain Shoprite relies on ebm-papst AxiCool fans in its new distribution center in Cape Town.

When Bobotie is served anywhere in South Africa, fans from ebm-papst have done their part to make it happen. At least when the ground beef for the traditional casserole comes from Shoprite — which is very likely. With almost 150,000 emplo­yees and around 2,700 stores in 15 countries, Shoprite is the largest super­market chain on the African continent. The purchases of 35 million people roll down the belt toward the group’s cash registers every day — at Shoprite or one of the Checkers markets that also belongs to the group. People who place the ingredients for Bobotie or other perishable merchandise like eggs, dairy products, etc. in their shopping carts probably have no idea how sophisticated the technology that keeps them fresh is. Because few know where the products were before they landed in the display counter: in the Cilmor Distribution Center (DC) on the outskirts of Cape Town.

Distribution center of wonders

In the new building that measures 144 x 123 meters, Shoprite opened a distribution center at the beginning of 2018 that handles goods from around 500 suppliers. “The distribution center is not only impressively large,” said Steven Friedmann, the head of sales for ebm-papst South Africa. “Those responsible at Shoprite wanted it to be the most progressive, energy efficient center of its kind.”

The clever cooling system is located just under the hall roof. (Photo | ebm-papst)

Challenges: Noise and energy costs

At the highest point of its distinctive, curved roof, the Cilmor DC measures 22 meters. And it hides a clever cooling system. Previously, the merchandise was stored in different distribution centers due to varying temperature requirements, but the Shoprite Group aimed to process all of the products under one roof. To achieve this, Shoprite divided the Cilmor DC into three zones. Two have -28 °C freezers measuring 4,500 square meters each and the third 12,000 square meter cooling zone holds the temperature at 1 °C.

Electricity is in high demand

Companies who build facilities like this are faced with a variety of enormous challenges, but one in particular stands out. “Noise!” said Hannes Steyn, the director of GEA Refrigeration Africa (Pty.) Ltd., the company that is responsible for the entire cooling system at Cilmor DC. Steyn explained that due to the highly reflective surfaces and many fans, a noise level results that makes it unpleasant to work in the facility. And the region is known for its energy scarcity and rising energy costs. As Friedmann explained: “As a result of failing to invest in new, higher-output power plants, the demand for electricity in our emerging market is greater than the supply. A constant supply of electricity is not always guaranteed. And the increase in electricity costs is partially due to the rapid expansion of our electricity grid.”

Thanks to their improved impeller design, the AxiCool fans are very quiet. (Photo | ebm-papst)

No louder than a quiet night in the city

To master these challenges, GEA Africa specified criteria that the fans for the evaporators in the distribution center had to fulfill. They were required to be efficient and have a maximum noise level of 48 dB(A) — no louder than a quiet night in a major city — and have a reach of at least 28 meters with 100% speed control.
This is where the fans from ebm-papst came into play. To be precise: 176 AxiCool EC fans in size 800 deliver strong air circulation above the heat exchanger surfaces of the evaporators. Equipped with streamers for improved air throughput and with an impeller design that keeps the noise level low, AxiCool fans meet the key requirements for use in the distribution center.

The temperature sets the speed

“The fans typically run at reduced speed. That has a significant impact on the noise level and energy consumption. When it comes to air flow and reach, they exceed our expectations,” said Steyn. The speed depends on the air temperature. When the required temperature is reached, it decelerates. For a warehouse facility that seldom operates at full capacity, this translates directly into savings — of money and energy. AxiCool EC fans feature infinite speed regulation. That saves energy. As Steyn also pointed out, AxiCool fans are easy to install. In summary: “We are extremely satisfied with this product.”

Hungry for Bobotie? Try our recipe:


The ingredients for Bobotie (For 4 servings): 500 g ground beef, 1 bread roll, 2 onions, 4 garlic cloves, 3 eggs, 50 g raisins, 2 tbsp mango chutney, 50 g almond flakes, 125 ml milk, 2 bananas, 1 tbsp lemon juice, nutmeg, 3 tsp curry powder, black pepper and salt


  • Soak the bread roll in water and press it out well
  • Add the roll, finely chopped onions and garlic, raisins, mango chutney, ­almond flakes and an egg to the meat and mix well
  • Season with salt, pepper, 2 tsp curry powder and the lemon juice
  • Put the meat mix in a greased casserole dish, spread it out smoothly and bake it in a preheated oven at 220 °C for 20 minutes. While the meat mixture is baking, mix the milk and the other two eggs and season with salt, nutmeg and curry
  • Peel and slice the bananas and distribute them over the casserole
  • Pour the egg sauce over the casserole and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes

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Axial fan AxiCool

AxiCool fans for evaporators and cooling units