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Ice Rink Technology: Embracing Change

Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher famously said, “Change is the only constant in life.” In times like the present, it feels like everything is changing - but for most people, this brings with it uncertainty and fear. However, change also means innovation, and in the world of technology and refrigeration, embracing change can lead to substantial rewards.

As part of a company that has been around for over 100 years, we know that change can be positive. We also know how seldom new advances in technology and equipment are implemented. I recently sat down and reviewed new and retrofit projects completed by CIMCO over the past 4 years to analyze why this is the case.

As I looked through 100 projects, I realized 95% of the upgrades were retrofits. Given that the lifecycle of most equipment is 20 to 25 years, this was not too surprising. However, 70% of these retrofits were ‘like for like’, and that’s where the resistance to change shines through.

time-for-a-change

A ‘like for like’ replacement is where a piece of equipment is replaced with the exact same technology. I like to compare it to replacing a car. Yes, the car you bought 20 years ago may still be in the lot when you go to look for a new one, but why wouldn’t you consider a better model? One that has new features, drives smoother, and may last longer?

As an industry, refrigeration has its technological innovations, but it also offers the old technology to anyone who may want it.

Now the question is – why would you want to stick with the old model? As I looked through project after project, 5 main reasons started to emerge.

  1. Lack of Awareness

    This is a major failing where the purchaser may not even know they missed out on something better. If the supervisor is not aware of newer equipment and the contractor doesn’t bring it up, the consultant will simply cut & paste from a previous job.

  2. Purchasing

    Purchasing is meant to procure products and services that fit the objective while ensuring value. However, when it comes to innovative technology such as new energy saving products, it is often difficult for purchasing to fulfill their objective due to limited bids by parties. Often, competing contractors will use purchasing bylaws and lack of access or competency to water down or diminish the original objective of the tender.

  3. Lack of Alignment

    This occurs when internal decisions makers are not aligned with the solution. They may have different priorities in mind, such as keeping upfront costs to a minimum, and fail to look at the savings or other positive impacts a solution can have in the future.

  4. Incorrect Budgets

    There are two parts to this. First, it is possible that the budget submitted failed to look at other options or presented a poor business case that was crafted on the basis of the old equipment. The second possibility may be that newer options were recognized too late, after the budget had already been set.

  5. Not Comfortable

Change is hard, but you never know what benefits you may miss out on if you don’t explore newer options. There is no solution to this, other than keeping an open mind and seeing what’s out there before you make a decision.

These are the main reasons that ‘like for like’ is so common in the refrigeration industry. The best solution is to ensure you know what you want by laying out your goals and exploring all available options.

By Brad Wilkins
Ontario Recreation Team Lead, CIMCO