Boiling and Chilled Water Systems – The Effect On Productivity

We’re all looking for efficiencies in business, particularly in the highly competitive market that exists following the last recession and credit crunch. But curiously not many companies have calculated the actual cost of the downtime when staff make their refreshments.

Take the standard kettle – 1.5 litres of water, 1.5kw element, up to 4 minutes to boil, and probably 7 or 8 hot drinks, before starting the cycle again. The cost? Around 3p per boiling cycle.

I hear you say well 3p is not much and kettles are cheap to buy and replace. Whilst taken on it’s own that statement is true, but when you start to factor in the loss of productivity when staff queue for their drink it starts to become suddenly costly. People are people, and by nature we are gregarious and standing around waiting encourages an increased loss of time through chatting and socializing.

I came across a company recently with over 400 office staff, just about to move into a multi-million pound new building, and then provide drinking water for hot drinks by means of kettles! Just calculate that out in terms of lost time due to the kettles not being able to keep up with the quantity of drinks required within the very short time window of a dinner or tea break. Scary isn’t it!

For some time now, architects or m&e consultants have started specifying boiling and chilled water systems for office tea-points, break-out areas, conference rooms, catering areas, reception rooms and more. Modern and forward thinking fit-out companies, m&e engineers and global companies are encouraging their use but it is still not a concept that has been readily received.

So what are the features and benefits of commercial under-counter boiling and chilled water systems? I’ve listed a few for you to consider, which are really a checklist of points to raise when choosing supplier.

  • Instant water dispensing – the favourite combination is boiling and chilled, and the best systems quote initial dispense by number of cups. Typically these would be between 20 and 100 cup immediate availability and between 90 and 250 per hour! The reason initial dispense numbers are so important is that they are a guide to the capacity of the boiling and chilled taps. Can they deliver hot or cold drinks if every staff member were to require a drink at the same moment? Impossible to consider with the kettle but within range of the better commercial systems such as Billi or Zip. Try to make sure you get an answer from your supplier as to the instant dispense capacity.
  • Consistency – drink number 100 is the same temperature as number 37 or as number 1. The better systems dispense water at 98.5 degrees C – widely acknowledged as the optimum temperature for tea. The chilled side delivers filtered water at 6.5 degrees C.
  • Economy – the best commercial units cost around 9p per day to run. A very significant cost advantage.Compared to the ordinary kettle, boiling and chilled systems use less electricity, waste less water and last longer.
  • Choice – Boiling, Chilled and Sparkling, Boiling and Chilled, Boiling and Ambient, Chilled and Ambient, Chilled and Sparkling… if fact almost any combination.
  • Space Efficient – Some boiler units are capable of providing 250 cups per hour and will fit under a standard counter top. Not all the manufacturers of boiling and chilled taps however are able to supply units of these compact dimensions so its worth checking if this is so.
  • Ventilation – When comparing brands it is worth noting that some units on the market require a ventilation grille installing to keep the units cool. These are typically air-cooled units, but there are some now on the market that are water-cooled and don’t require the grille.
  • Limescale - The hard water in the UK means that boiling and chilled systems require scale filters. The better brands will utilize the scale filter only on the hot water side of the boiler unit, This means that office workers who want chilled or sparkling drinks will get purer, better tasting water – instantly.

Document Management Systems Have Negative ROI

It is rarely the case that traditional document management solutions are implemented in order to achieve cost savings, ROI, or process improvement.

While this statement may sound counter-intuitive, it is nonetheless true. Document management systems are put in place in order to solve acute and important business imperatives – the need to store and locate important documents.

The need that is being resolved is driven by core business requirements: regulatory or corporate retention policies, an inability to efficiently locate documents in a timely manner, wanting to get rid of costly filing cabinets, and so on.

By the time a Passive Document Management System has been implemented, it typically solves these immediate needs, at an increased cost. The decision that most organizations go through can be summed up as “we are willing to spend more in order to solve our document nightmare”.

By the time you deploy scanners or any other devices, add an electronic document repository on top of your paper processes, and factor in ongoing costs around storage, retrieval, license fees, and the added cost per document on top of your existing processes, it makes little sense to talk about a “return on investment”. An analogy would be that of buying a new car – you do it because you need to, and it helps you with your business, but it represents cost, not savings. There is no ROI, only TCO (total cost of ownership).

Since the passive document management system does not alter the underlying business process, the system’s cost (as low or as high as it may be) is added on top of the cost for that business process.

It is important to realize this when just looking at pricing/quotes for different solutions. A passive document management system, quoted at $0.50 per document represents an increase in cost by that amount.

In contrast, a properly deployed Active Document Management System , quoted at $1.50 per document represents tangible cost savings (even after factoring the price)!

Unlike passive document management systems, active document management systems are designed to deliver positive ROI on each and every transaction processed by the system.

This means that each document or process, will deliver either (a) lower OPEX, (b) increase in revenue or (c) both. This net positive ROI is after factoring in the cost of the service itself.

Once implemented, an active document management system delivers tangible benefits that feed directly to your cost/revenue model:

  • Shorter transactions (through automation, elimination of print/mail/fax cycle)
  • Higher quality paperwork (through automatic validation and application of business rules)
  • Lower transaction costs (elimination of courier/fax/mail and time spent entering data and checking documents for errors)
  • Improved customer and employee experience