When the time comes to tackle routine maintenance or repairs on food equipment, many restaurants, commercial kitchens and service companies turn to genuine OEM parts. While generic and OCM parts might look and feel the same, there are key differences. If you’re still trying to weigh pros and cons, there are a few reasons you should choose OEM food equipment parts over non-OEM, generic and OCM counterparts. Below we’ll explain why testing, design and avoiding potential service calls are crucial factors you can’t ignore.
1. They’re Guaranteed to be Comprehensively Tested
Did you know that manufacturers test real OEM parts for your exact piece of equipment? There is no guarantee that generic or OCM parts are tested, meaning you run the risk they’ll potentially wear quickly, overwork surrounding parts, damage the equipment, harm operators and compromise the quality of your food.
“Equipment is tested and qualified to safety, environmental and energy standards based on a particular construction,” said Mark Waldrop, Sr. Director of Engineering for Refrigerated Solutions Group, which includes major brands like Master-Bilt and Nor-Lake.
“When completing that testing, [manufacturers] document their component choices and acceptable alternatives with those agencies,” Waldrop said. “By utilizing generic components, you are going outside of the design intent of the unit and opening yourself up for potential safety, energy or environmental problems.”
Manufacturers test OEM components in compliance with Underwriter Laboratories (UL), which is a third-party certification company that checks if products are safe for users and consumers. OEM parts also undergo testing by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). This independent organization reviews the equipment and its food-contact components to ensure it not only is electrically safe and sanitary but also meets U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements.
That means OEM parts are tested to see if they can withstand the day-to-day usage in their equipment and that their contents are safe enough to come in contact with food, water or beverages. For instance, an OEM ice thickness probe has its metal tested to ensure that it doesn’t contain a high concentration of lead. Since most generic or OCM options don’t undergo this testing consistently, there is a chance that traces of lead could make their way into the water or ice cubes over time.
2. They’re Made for Your EXACT Unit
When OEM parts go through meticulous testing to meet certain safety and sanitary standards, manufacturers also check how these components work in the specific piece of equipment. That is not always the case with most generic and OCM parts.
“Generic parts don’t go through the rigorous quality testing that genuine OEM parts do in order that they meet the tight specifications designed and engineered by the [manufacturer],” said Bart Bolton, Director of National Service for APW Wyott, Star Holdings Group and Bakers Pride.
“When generics are installed, there is no guarantee with regard to the safe operation of the equipment, bringing in liability concerns,” Bolton said.
Without going through testing on specific equipment, some generic and OCM parts run the risk of not working with your exact unit. OEM parts, on the other hand, are built, programmed and tested to the specification of that piece of equipment. That mean these parts are safer, more reliable and more efficient than their generic and OCM counterparts.
“We deal with a lot of high temperature situations with the equipment we make,” said Mike Shields, Sr. Mechanical Development Engineer from Henny Penny. “All of the components on our equipment are also temperature tested to ensure they function and continue to perform given the environment they are subjected to on a regular basis.”
3. They Prevent Damage to Your Unit or Product
There is a potentially dangerous ripple effect that can occur when opting for a generic or OCM counterpart over the genuine OEM part. For example, let’s look at a controller. An OEM controller undergoes proper testing and is programmed to work under proper specifications of the equipment, ensuring it will either reach precise defrost points on a refrigeration unit or proper cook temperature set points on an oven or a fryer.
So what’s the risk with using a generic or OCM controller?
In the case of a commercial refrigeration, the incorrect set points can either cause over- or under-defrosting. If a generic or OCM controller causes over-defrosting, it can wear out the compressor, costing you more money to replace the compressor and other faulty parts. If it causes under-defrosting, the evaporator coils can freeze, requiring additional repairs and remedies. In both cases, there is a good chance some of the food inside can spoil or suffer freezer burn in the process.
When it comes to cooking equipment like ovens and fryers, a generic or OCM controller with improper set points can burn product or overheat the unit. Overheating not only can damage other parts inside or break the entire unit, but it also can hurt operators handling food.
“Using an OEM part increases the operational life of our equipment because OCM parts are not factory fit,” said Todd Fenton, Vice President of Engineering for Star Holdings Group. “If you use OCM parts, you risk incompatibility and the resulting customer dissatisfaction.”
That cheaper generic or OCM controller might have saved a little money upfront. However, without being programmed to specification, it can cause the unit to run inefficiently, put staff’s safety in jeopardy and make you spend more money on lost product, repairs or an entirely new piece of equipment.
Of course, this is the same case with other parts like hoses, gaskets and even filter paper. Many commercial fryers use filter paper to help keep sediment and food particles from out of the cooking oil to ensure high quality and proper taste. Even the OEM paper is heavily tested and created to meet certain specifications, according to Peter Krause, Global Technical Training Manager from Henny Penny.
“We have seen several issues where after repeated pumping issues and a few service calls we find out that non-OEM filters are being used,” Krause said. “Of course, this led to unnecessary pain and suffering for the customer with reduced uptime and cost for service visits.”
Learn more about the benefits of real OEM parts, so your food equipment stays safe, efficient and reliable.