Refrigeration Equipment Simplicity Might Be the Way to Go

A Consultant Looks at Drawing in and Retaining Refrigeration Techs

Attracting young people to the industry (such as this contestant at a past SkillsUSA competition) is becoming more important as older techs retire.
Attracting young people to the industry (such as this contestant at a past SkillsUSA competition) is becoming more important as older techs retire.

Here’s a sobering thought for you: The average age of a refrigeration service technician that works on supermarket equipment is greater than 55. That’s according to Terry Roberts, president of Merchandising by Design, who gave a talk on the topic “The Art and Science Behind Compelling Fresh Food Formats” at last fall’s Food Marketing Institute Energy and Store Design Conference.

Her question was, “Who’s going to maintain these stores” after these ‘seniors’ leave the industry?

In one respect this goes back to the oldest (pardon the pun) topic in the industry: finding, training, and holding qualified service technicians. Roberts referenced that issue in her talk, and offered some approaches for the supermarket refrigeration sector to do a better job in that regard.

She encouraged simpler system designs so the learning curve isn’t that steep for young folks as one way for the refrigeration sector to gain and retain techs. She has a point. We in the industry keep talking about how complex our systems are as if it is a badge of honor. But a counter argument is, “Can we actually make systems simpler?” Like Roberts, I’m not an engineer, so both she and I don’t have the answer. We are just posing the question.

A second point of hers is for the industry to develop more of those mobile apps that young people have grown up with to help in understanding systems. They can certainly access and use those far better than my senior self, just as they can text far better with far fewer words and more abbreviation codes than I ever could.

Regarding Roberts’ call for simplicity and more mobile apps: Lets c wha u can do w/it, k?

Publication date: 1/27/2014

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