Warewashing manufacturers are releasing new models and updated versions of their machines all the time as they endeavour to give the market what it wants. But what are they doing to keep distributors up to speed with technical developments? Catering Insight polled a number of the leading brands to find out.
How complicated is an install these days?
Given that warewashing equipment encompasses everything from small glasswashers to giant heavy duty conveyor systems, there is not really a blanket answer to this question.
Distributors know only too well that installs vary from being standard ‘one-out, one-in’ scenarios to more complex sites that involve pre-installation work, commissioning and training.
Manufacturers generally agree that the machines themselves are easier than ever to install now, but issues with existing drainage, power and tabling remain common. Winterhalter’s operations director, Jason Mackay, who runs the manufacturer’s distributor training activities, says the physical process of getting a machine to the ‘hole’, and connecting to services remains relatively simple, but warns: “The challenge comes at commissioning, where the more sophisticated machines require greater in-depth knowledge and expertise.
“The introduction of new software to our products means that they can be tailored to the site’s conditions during commissioning. This process requires the engineer to have specialist knowledge of things like water types and chemicals,” he comments.
Mike Butt, managing director at Dawson, which brings in the Comenda brand, says it’s important to recognise that the level of complexity in the installation of warewashing kit varies from site to site. “Products such as glasswashers and hood machines are our ‘run of the mill’ installations which our service team carry out on a daily basis — these are relatively straightforward tasks for trained and experienced engineers,” he says. “A more specialist and intricate installation process is centred around handling systems paired with rack- and flight-type machines.”
How much technical change is taking place in the warewashing sector?
Competitive forces are leading manufacturers to push the boundaries in areas such as energy conservation, heat pumps, user interfaces and integral softener usage.
Julian Lambert, sales director at Maidaid Halcyon, reckons the bar has been raised inside the past 18 months. “As little as two or three years ago there had been minimal development in the design of warewashing machines, whereas in the last year or so there seems to have been more rapid development in terms of technical features which are being added to machines, such as continuous water softeners, heat exchange units and steam condensers — all of which have required engineers to be re-trained,” he says. Lambert notes that while these developments have implications for the installation process, engineers also need to be trained to understand and be able to interpret the advancements made in self-diagnostic functions on machines.
Modern machines are increasingly being designed to provide a consistent, quality finish using the most energy efficient wash possible, points out Wexiodisk’s UK country manager Simon Frost. “Warewashers that only utilise one litre of fresh water per cycle or pre-rinse machines that recycle the waste water from the adjacent warewasher are both key examples of how the company and the industry as a whole are working with operators to ensure the enhanced sustainability of commercial catering operations,” says Frost.
Meiko says that it has made huge advances in terms of technical design. Its larger M-iQ dishwashers are manufactured using modular construction methods, which help ease assembly on site, while extremely low rates of air discharge eliminate the need for dedicated overhead ducting.
Managing director, Bill Downie, also highlights the AirConcept as a key development —it cuts steam emissions from hood-type machines by up to 80%, feeding hot air captured from exhaust heat back into the machine to pre-heat incoming cold water — but says the major advance from a distributor’s point of view is its built-in GiO reverse osmosis water treatment, which has resulted in huge gains from a services perspective.
“Our distributors tell us that our three- and five-year warranties are ‘some of the best product support ideas we have ever seen’. The ‘no-bills guarantee’ that comes with these warranties ensures no further costs for the customer and no hassle for the distributor because Meiko will take care of any problems. Incidentally, we can only offer this level of service thanks to the introduction of GiO reverse osmosis built into our machines now, as standard. GiO has boosted reliability and wash quality to such an extent that we believe we are the only supplier in the UK capable of making such an offer.”
Winterhalter, meanwhile, claims that as well as the incorporation of improved energy saving features in its machines and the removal of solenoids, the addition of new software is one of the biggest changes to its offering. Consequently, services personnel are no longer judged solely on their ability to handle hardware issues. “The engineer needs to have a full understanding of the software and its various menus,” says Jason McKay. “The new software will feature across all of our product range from summer 2013, apart from utensil washers.”
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What sort of training is offered to distributors?
Presentations, training days and factory visits are part and parcel of distributor education, while most brands will provide dealers with specific technical and sales training if requested. The majority realise that ensuring technicians can handle their equipment properly is conducive to machine efficiency and longevity.
Meiko’s HQ in the UK contains a fully-functioning technical facility and while distributor training is conducted by its UK engineers, it often brings over specialists from its parent company in Germany. One of the most significant developments as far as Meiko is concerned is the recent appointment of three regional engineering managers — for the north, south, and Scotland and Northern Ireland — to increase support for distributors.
“The purpose of appointing three regional engineering managers is to develop relationships with the service managers and engineers of our distributor partners,” explains Bill Downie. “Meiko’s customer service is the most important aspect of the business and we have made these new appointments to add to our training offer; providing training support for engineers directly to the distributor. The new managers will also support them on site where necessary.”
Hobart Independent runs training courses for its distributors’ engineers every three months at its head office in Peterborough to keep partners updated on all aspects of machine care.
“Our regular quarterly training sessions are perhaps the best way for distributors to keep informed of equipment changes and new developments, but we also offer other back-up support,” says Stuart Bester, business unit manager at Hobart Independent. “We offer on-site sales training or at their premises if that is more convenient for the distributor concerned. We also provide useful operational information by giving distributors comic card laminates to give to end-users along with illustrated brochures so they have all the guidance they should need.
“In addition, we have a dedicated sales admin support line should they need further input from us and they can also visit our website for manuals, brochures downloads and up-to-date information on any aspect of business.”
Maidaid offer a free-of-charge sales training course every month to its dealer network, which covers a low level technical understanding of the machines, alongside their main selling features.
“We also provide full support in terms of more complex technical training to engineers whenever it is needed,” says Julian Lambert. “Indeed, Maidaid understands that with an increasing number of machines now being designed with fully electronic systems, it is important to provide a high level of support to our distributors and engineers who may have had little experience working with these machines, as we want engineers to feel comfortable working with all of our machines.”
What kind of learning resources are available to distributors?
It is common to see both a formal and informal approach to distributor learning, with set tools often supported by an ad hoc attitude to knowledge transfer.
Bob Wood, sales director at DC Products, says it routinely comes down to the requirements of the distributor. “We provide comprehensive literature on all our products and a lot of distributors are happy to use that as their first port of call and if anything unusual comes up they will simply give us a call or jot us an e mail,” he says. “Others prefer to visit the office where we have a showroom and will happily run free sales and service training.”
Dawson, meanwhile, offers a variety of tools to distributors that want to swot up on the technicalities of its Comenda range. “Our company website is a central information centre that our partners and us use on a daily basis to extract information on the Comenda product portfolio,” says Mike Butt. “The dedicated ‘customer area’ of our website has been recently developed to offer complete information on our entire range. Information such as CAD blocks, specification sheets, brochures and manuals are all available at the click of a button.”
Fellow Ali Group brand Wexiodisk has also invested in making sure its website is a hive of sales and technical content, so that distributors can find all the information they need in one place.
“Each dealer is provided with a unique log-on to an interactive website, in which they are able to make use of detailed product guides, full specification sheets as well as parts manuals and other useful hints and tips,” explains Simon Frost. “From here dealers and distributors are able to order spare parts, contact relevant engineers and find the latest information directly from the company. Ultimately, the website provides a complete source of information needed for the effective sale of products within the Wexiodisk range.”
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How much of a priority is distributor education?
The days of dealers only being able to get the information they need by attending annual training sessions or waiting for chunky technical brochures to drop through the post are long gone. The industry is rich with content and engineers now have the option to access it in multiple ways.
Everything from mobile training units and roadshows to apps and online training videos are now par for the course. Old-fashioned one-to-one distributor training still remains as effective as any platform, though, insists Bob Wood at DC Products.
“For anyone that wants a hands-on refresher, the best thing to do is to arrange a training session with our technical manager,” he says. “Having a deep understanding of the machine’s features and benefits will always give the distributor the competitive edge when selling, and obviously from the engineering perspective an intrinsic understanding of how the machine operates is invaluable!”
While the amount of time that distributors invest in making sure staff are up to speed with the latest developments will depend on their own profiles and objectives, Hobart Independent’s Stuart Bester says that from its point of view it is important to ensure distributors are kept informed with relevant information on a regular basis to help them sell and install its equipment.
“That is why we ensure that regular updates are carried out by our account managers very much on a ‘need to know’ basis when they visit distributors,” he comments. “We are totally committed to supporting our network of distributors and helping them in terms of the expertise they have in relation to our equipment. Longer term, we are looking to free up more technical support for our dealers.”