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The KFC Connection

Winston Innovation and The Solution that Helped Build a Brand

KFC bucketThe Winston Manufacturing tradition of metal fabrication innovation began in the 1960’s when Winston Shelton left GE to form a new prototyping business with his brother, Naaman Shelton.  Winston Shelton had twenty years of experience working at GE with over 45 patents to his credit. It was around that time that he was recruited to improve upon a pressure fryer – a project that would set the course for Kentucky Fried Chicken to become a fast food brand known throughout the world.

Under Pressure for a New Solution

In the early days of the Kentucky Fried Chicken, small, hand-held pressure cookers were used to cook the chicken in all of its franchise stores. The Colonel had discovered that pressure frying allowed him to cook his secret recipe chicken much faster than in an iron skillet. This meant the cooks were required to hand carry the hot pots to a dumping station and drain them. A screen was used to catch the chicken and filter the oil for reuse. Since the temperature of the cooking oil was above 400 degrees, cooking this way was a real hazard for the cooks. Consistency was also an issue. Each cook had to track the time of every batch they cooked by watching a wall clock. Too little time meant undercooked chicken and too much time meant the chicken burned. If the KFC system was to really grow, a safer and more efficient solution was needed.

Winston Shelton’s Filtration Idea

high volume fryer

The first step in replacing the hazardous and inconsistent multi-pot cooking method was a high volume fryer invented by filtering equipment manufacturer Carl Mies and Winston Shelton. Colonel Sanders then asked Winston Shelton to improve the cooking timer for the new fryers. While examining the process, Shelton saw much more opportunity for improvement. He developed a new filtration method for pressure fryers that increased cooking productivity and efficiency tremendously.

The Collectramatic® Changes Everything

The original fryer design did not have a way to filter the cooking oil. This meant that the bits of breading that fell from the chicken during cooking remained in the oil and burned while cooking subsequent batches. This greatly reduced the cooking oil’s usable life. Shelton invented a way to automatically filter the oil while the fryer continuously pressure fried the Colonel’s chicken. Using the forces of gravity and convective circulation, Shelton’s system allowed the bits of breading that fell off during frying to collect in a deep well at the bottom of the unit. His innovation meant cooks would no longer need to shut off the fryers and drain them to filter the oil.

The new fryer equipped with Winston Shelton’s filter/collector system was dubbed the Collectramatic®. When put to the test, it was found to be capable of cooking 20 batches of chicken non-stop.

Kudos from the Colonel and Soaring Productivity

Even the Colonel himself had high praise for Shelton’s design. Inspecting the round collector cylinder at the bottom of the fryer, the Colonel discovered it was full of “cracklins”. These, of course, were the bits of breading that had often burned in the previous fryer design. Since these bits constituted a key ingredient in his chicken gravy recipe, the Colonel was delighted.

As word of the new filtration system spread throughout the franchise system, orders for the Collectramatic poured in. Using the former small, single pot method, KFC stores could only generate $200,000 per year in average sales. With Shelton’s new fryer, average sales per store immediately grew to an amazing $900,000. In a 2012 interview with Louisville magazine, Fred Jefferies, then KFC purchasing and franchise vice president, said the 450% sales growth could never have been accomplished without “Win’s fryer”. Jefferies said, “He (Shelton)  helped set the stage for that with true engineering thinking.”

The Collectramatic was quickly added to the Winston Industries’ OEM product mix. Today, we continue to invent and manufacture the most precise and most profitable foodservice equipment on Earth, serving over 120 countries. Winston Manufacturing carries on the “true engineering thinking” of its namesake. We believe in great ideas and are fully dedicated to making them reality through our knowledge, experience, and multi-million dollar investments in manufacturing equipment technology. We look forward to building more solutions and discovering more game-changers as we bring more ideas to life.

Winston and Colonel, KFC

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