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Sonja Haucke and Janika Merz, Development Applications Technology V-ZUG

“We would never have imagined that the processes would be so complex”

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How do you get the perfect cooking results? Sonja Haucke and Janika Merz from Applications Technology know the parameters behind the applications.

There are some days when Sonja Haucke has to ask the porter not to call the fire brigade when the smoke alarm goes off in the Applications Technology laboratory. For example, when there are smells and smoke from trying to grill countless pieces of chicken. The food group also tests other things: tons of broccoli, several football pitches’ worth of apple tarts and even 24 gratins in a day. Hundreds of small cakes have to go in the oven again and again until the optimum distribution of browning has been developed in all models. When developing the automatic programmes, they sometimes have to run all the way from beginning to end, even if it’s already clear that the outcome will be unsuccessful. “I can still picture the chef’s face as he’s watching his loaf turn as black as coal”, says the Group Leader Development Applications Technology, with a smile.

On the hunt for the perfect cooking process

“Well, we’re grateful if we can go over and help assess the morning and afternoon snacks”, says Janika Merz of the food tests. The technician’s laboratory is on the other side of the corridor. There can be very strong smells here, too, for example when fat solution is being burned on for pyrolysis tests. Safety, temperature and energy measurements, among others, are conducted on the wired appliances. Components are checked and processes developed. They ask questions, such as: Is the seal really tight? Where does the air flow through? How can we ensure electrical components aren’t overheating? Is the door handle ergonomic? How much pressure is required to close the door automatically with AutoDoor? And of course: what happens in the perfect cooking processes?

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Food technology and engineering, hand in hand

The two leading engineers and their teams work closely together to find out. Sonja Haucke works in the food technology area, while Janika Merz works in the technical group as an oven/steam cooker development engineer. One approach for analysing the ideal process chain starts with the food: for example, is the apple tart too dark; are the apples overcooked? From this, we can work out whether there is too little or too much humidity. Then the engineers investigate whether they need to reduce the power or make a drier environment. The processes behind every application need to be optimized phase by phase, and all parameters defined and programmed. “Before we came to V-ZUG, we would never have imagined that the processes would be so complex”, they say, laughing.
Sonja Haucke has been working at V-ZUG AG for four and a half years. The mother of two commutes to Zug from her home in Bern. Janika Merz lives with her partner in Cham. She has been working for the company for five and a half years. For the latest generation of appliances, their teams have developed new applications such as the Sabbath mode, cleaning programmes for chrome steel appliances, as well as AutoDoor. And they have also elevated operating modes such as BakeOmatic, EasyCook, SoftRoasting, Professional baking, Vacuisine and Regeneration to a whole new level.

Sonja Haucke and Janika Merz, Development Applications Technology

Sonja Haucke and Janika Merz, Development Applications Technology

Innovative operating concept with new structure

One big challenge in the Excellence Line was the innovative operating concept with its new process structure and software platform. “We have the process knowledge and expertise about which information we provide to the user at which point”, explains Sonja Haucke. But the processes don’t always run identically. For example, while the food probe temperature can be adjusted during soft roasting, it can only be displayed during Vacuisine cooking. “We had to create a logic that is visible on the graphical user interface, so that users can use the appliance simply and intuitively”, explains her colleague, Janika Merz. “As such, you have to constantly think about the entire range of applications.” That is, know where the processes are the same, and where there are exceptions. “The art is in designing the operation in a uniform way while offering the ability to choose as many settings as possible.”

Adapted to the wide variety of appliances

In addition, we shouldn’t underestimate the huge variety of appliances in the Excellence Line, says the 33-year-old. Every application is adapted to all models of all dimensions, all convenience levels, whether they’re made of chrome steel or enamel. This is the only way to provide the optimal settings. The saved recipes are a good example: these are created by the GourmetAcademy and recreated by the food technology team. It takes a lot of effort to adapt them to every type of appliance, and they are created several times until they work on all appliances. “We promise guaranteed success for these recipes”, enthuses Sonja Haucke.
Even though they spend every day at work cooking, steaming and baking, the two women still enjoy spending time in the kitchen when home. The 46-year-old food engineer laments the lack of V-ZUG appliances in the kitchen of her rented accommodation. Getting one is the next big step. For the time being, Sonja Haucke takes small and quick steps in her spare time: her main hobby is tap dancing. Janika Merz has already purchased a V-ZUG Combi-Steamer. “The Regeneration mode has changed my life”, she enthuses. At weekends, she cooks various meals in advance. When she regenerates them during the week, they taste as good as if they were freshly made. And this gives her more time for yoga.

Learn more:

Discover the new Excellence Line

All novelties 2021


Sonja Haucke

Sonja Haucke, Group Leader Development Applications Technology V-ZUG

Sonja Haucke, Group Leader Development Applications Technology

Janika Merz

Janika Merz, oven/steam cooker development engineer V-ZUG

Janika Merz, oven/steam cooker development engineer

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