Ali Group brand DIHR increases UK exposure

One of the most significant warewashing brands in the Ali Group portfolio is to step up its focus on the UK market with a more hands-on approach to business, led by a veteran of the European warewash industry.

The Italian manufacturer, which produces the Optima and TwinStar brands, has hired Robert Kuhner to manage sales in the UK and Ireland. Kuhner has extensive experience of the European market having spent 20 years with Ecolab, where he was European marketing director, and worked for Winterhalter in both Germany and the UK, the latter as part of the acquisition team of Classeq.

He also had several years at ITW Hobart, where he was responsible for identifying new opportunities in service for the ITW Food Equipment Group, while his most recent assignment was at the IME Group in Milan.

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While DIHR has supplied machines to the UK market for a number of years, it has never had anybody on the ground locally to facilitate relationships.

“I think it is fair to say that DIHR has not enjoyed the same level of market share in the UK, as it does in other European countries,” said Kuhner. “DIHR business in the UK and Ireland has been conducted directly by the factory in Italy with no UK management in place. Therefore the market presence was somewhat limited.”

Kuhner says the business model for DIHR differs from many of other manufacturers and this will shape both his role and the company’s proposition.

“DIHR do not typically operate country warehouses to import and distribute equipment. Rather, my role is to facilitate the ordering process of machines and parts directly from the factory in Castelfranco Veneto, Italy.

“This business model means that our importers and dealers can enjoy direct ex-factory pricing without the added costs and mark-ups that a country subsidiary would need to impose. In return, healthy margins are shared between DIHR customers and the factory. Consequently, the DIHR factory invests into state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and an extensive R&D facility, producing unique, patented machines.”

DIHR was established in 1985 and manufactures a variety of machines, including five ranges of undercounter glasswashers and dishwashers, 14 pass-through models, granule washing utensil machines, and rack and flight dishwashers. According to Kuhner, DIHR is the largest of the 11 warewashing brands that Ali Group owns.

It is also the manufacturer of the patented Twin-Star machine, which is designed as a combined warewashing machine and crockery storage facility.

He says his initial objective is to segment the UK and Ireland market in order to focus the appropriate DIHR equipment into each sector, as well as develop ties with dealers interested in working with the brand.

“DIHR do have historic importers in the UK and Ireland, although I have yet to meet with them all and to establish where we are. This will be a key priority in January, to visit existing customers, understand their needs and determine what assistance I can offer from my experience to help them to grow profitable business using the DIHR range.”

He added: “The DIHR strategy of purchasing directly from the factory is ideally suited to dealers stocking a range of machines as well as with projects requiring a specialist machine to be built to order. It is less well suited to an individual end-user requiring just one machine. Therefore our strategy is to focus on the DIHR strengths and unique business proposition.”

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