Henkelman’s Neo brings new functionality to professional kitchens
With the Neo series, Henkelman is transforming the traditional packaging machine into an intelligent device. The touch panel, combined with a mobile app, opens up a wealth of new possibilities and functionality for professional end-users, such as chefs. Close collaboration between technology partners proved crucial in the development phase.
Henkelman launched its new, top-of-the-line Neo vacuum packaging machine last October at Host Milano, one of the leading fairs in the hotel, restaurant and food service business. It met with enthusiastic responses from customers, who praised it for its unique combination of attractive design and great functionality.
An intelligent kitchen device
The Dutch company aimed high for its new machine. “We wanted to transform the traditional packaging machine into an intelligent device that smartens things up in the kitchen,” says Charlotte Maassen, responsible for Marketing & Communications within the company. “Traditionally, our machines are used to extend the shelf life of food products and keep the freshness and quality. With our latest innovations, professional chefs can now also use our vacuum sealers to marinate, tenderize or pack specific food products.”
The Neo uses a smart combination of a touch panel with a mobile app to provide users with easy access to all of these features. “Basic programming, such as vacuum percentage, seal time, soft air and gas flush, is accomplished on the machine’s touch panel. More advanced functions and options, such as marinating, liquid control, tenderizing and sequential vacuum, are programmed with the VacAssist App. Users can install up to 20 programs on the machine. The free VacAssist App is available in seven languages from the App Store and Google Play and works with a simple Bluetooth connection.”
The touch panel is a decisive feature in the high-tech look and feel of the machine. “The rounded edges and the deep drawn vacuum chamber that has been welded to the chassis to avoid seams and cracks, not only make the machine look great, they also make it easier to clean. This contributes to better hygiene, always a major consideration in professional kitchens,” notes Charlotte Maassen.
Close collaboration between technology partners
The development of the Neo took a year and a half. “Initially, we thought that would be ample time,” says Dennis Akerboom of R&D. “But in reality, there were three separate development tracks running simultaneously: the machine, the software and the touch panel. The close collaboration between our technology partners, their flexibility and their commitment has played a huge part in the successful realization of a project that was very important for us.”
The touch screen was a collaboration between RENA Electronica – a long-time partner of Henkelman – and Quad Industries. “We already had some experience with touch screens, but we were glad we could count on a true specialist in the matter for this project,” says Jack van Daal, Business Development Manager at RENA Electronica. The backlighting in particular was quite complex. “We had to find the right balance between having enough light to make indicators and numbers perfectly sharp, without the actual light point of the high-power LEDs being visible.”
“When you are developing non-standard, innovative solutions, you need to be able to solve problems together, in an open collaboration,” concludes Jack van Daal. “Right from the start, each of the different partners need to take a realistic approach and be honest about what is possible and what is not. In our experience, many technology partners start out with a lot of promises, which they fail to keep in the course of the project. I’m pleased to say that Quad Industries represents the very opposite of this approach.”