© ebm-papst

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