Combi­na­tion ovens: Anything but half-baked

With a new gener­a­tion of combi­na­tion ovens, RATIONAL is setting a new industry stan­dard, partly thanks to inten­sive consul­ta­tions with partner ebm-papst.

With some 1,300 exhibitors from around 25 coun­tries and approx­i­mately 95,000 visi­tors, the Inter­norga is a special event in the German gastronomy trade fair calender. In normal circum­stances, cooking systems manu­fac­turer RATIONAL would have presented its new prod­ucts to gastronomers from far and wide in 2020, who would have eagerly awaited to see what new prod­ucts might make their lives that little bit easier. And in normal circum­stances, the order book would already be looking nice and full after the three-day event. But this past year has been anything but normal. Due to the corona­virus pandemic, the trade fair had to be canceled and RATIONAL was forced to present its new gener­a­tion of combi­na­tion steamers online.

And so, a few weeks later than planned, RATIONAL intro­duced its latest gener­a­tion of iCombi Pro devices online to the general ­public — and some of the feed­back was nothing short of exuberant: “What an excep­tional device. It’s what all chefs dream about,” was a response. Or: “When is it being launched to marked? I’d like to reserve one or two right now!”

Others pointed out how RATIONAL never ceases to improve its prod­ucts and that it had a status akin to that of Apple. The presen­ta­tion, given via a YouTube video, made sure not to leave any ques­tions unan­swered: with the new iCombi Pro, food can be cooked to the exact desired cooking point — no matter on which level of the oven. You can even cook a combi­na­tion of dishes at the same time: for example, salmon at the top, roasted vegeta­bles in the middle, and chicken breast at the bottom. The device’s smart tech­nology regu­lates aspects such as the temper­a­ture, steam inlet, and cooking times for the selected cooking process. The user controls the cooking process via a simple touch pad, which displays all of the para­me­ters.

“For us, tech­nology is just the means to an end — and it is the bene­fits of the device that are always front and center of our work.”

Michael Schmidt, Strategic Buyer at RATIONAL

Customer-centric approach

“For us, tech­nology is just the means to an end — and it is the bene­fits of the device that are always front and center of our work,” says Michael Schmidt, Strategic Buyer at RATIONAL. Customers, including inter­na­tion­ally renowned brands want greater capacity and more conve­nience in oper­a­tion. Conse­quently, the new iCombi Pro can take up to 20 trays, enabling chefs to cook, for example, between 250 and 300 steaks simul­ta­ne­ously. A special assis­tant can even make sugges­tions as to how to load the trays, to save time or energy for example. “With our devices, you don’t have to know every step in the program. You just state what the result should be, and the device will do the rest,” says Schmidt.

Good Part­ner­ship

RATIONAL once again approached its long-standing partner ­ebm-papst during the devel­op­ment of its new iCombi Pro gener­a­tion. The require­ments spec­i­fi­ca­tion stip­u­lated the need for up to three (instead of the usual two) high-effi­ciency motors for the drive of the fan impellers, with the addi­tional require­ment for the motor elec­tronics to be easy to replace.

However, the amount of instal­la­tion space avail­able for all remaining compo­nents was to remain the same. Thus, the matter of instal­la­tion space became the hardest nut to crack for ebm-papst. “There was very little space in these devices before,” says Alexander Remmele, Key Account Manager for Sales at ­ebm-papst in Land­shut.

“And with the new gener­a­tion, we were going to have to take the depth of inte­gra­tion to a new level.” A total of 13 ebm-papst employees working across three sites were enlisted to address this chal­lenge. Although nothing could be done about the number of motors and gas blowers, the archi­tec­ture could be tweaked. “We devel­oped an inte­grated housing for the blowers and gas valves and used our existing plat­forms for this purpose,” says Remmele.

“The collab­o­ra­tion went bril­liantly. In terms of the gas blowers, ebm-papst supplied a system that houses the gas and air modu­la­tion system, gas valve, and venturi in one.”

Michael Schmidt, Strategic Buyer at RATIONAL

Making space where there is none

The devel­opers at ebm-papst Heating Systems in the Nether­lands maxi­mized the space they gained by using combus­tion controllers. This type of controller actu­ates the blowers and valves and moni­tors the combus­tion process. “For the new series, we were able to increase the func­tion­ality of the machines, thus reducing them from one or two per device to just one,” says Remmele.

This gave the experts a bit more breathing space, in the prover­bial sense, so their colleagues in Mulfingen were able to focus on the matter of the motors. In order to make the addi­tional motor more main­te­nance-free, the elec­tronics that are usually installed inside the motor were relo­cated to behind the drive, where, under a cover attached with four screws, it is more easily acces­sible. This makes the main­te­nance process much faster, as it is not neces­sary to replace the entire motor in the end device.

New, better, evenly cooked

The devel­op­ment of the new iCombi Pro gener­a­tion was a chal­lenging project for ebm-papst. “From a tech­nical stance, things got very deep,” recalls Alexander Remmele. “That’s why we agreed to have meet­ings with RATIONAL on a four-weekly basis for the entire dura­tion of the project.” The meet­ings took place alter­nately in Mulfingen or at the head­quar­ters of RATIONAL AG in Lands­berg. RATIONAL AG was very happy with the project.

“The collab­o­ra­tion went bril­liantly,” says Michael Schmidt. “In terms of the gas blowers, ebm-papst supplied a system that houses the gas and air modu­la­tion system, gas valve, and venturi in one. This is more cost-effec­tive for us and makes instal­la­tion much easier because all the neces­sary hose connec­tions are already inte­grated. There was also a signif­i­cant improve­ment in terms of the motor. Now, where we no longer have to remove the entire motor and impeller in the event of a malfunc­tion, main­te­nance is much easier. After all, most faults came from the elec­tronics, and the removal of the motor would other­wise damage the impeller,” explains Schmidt.

The result of this collab­o­ra­tion is more than impres­sive: a new, more powerful device gener­a­tion that is also more main­te­nance-free. There is nothing half-baked about that! 

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