Most manufacturers offer some form of distributor training as part of their overall provisions, but how do they feel dealers can be best educated? Facilities and methods came under the spotlight when we talked to some leading names.
For instance, refrigerator and ice maker manufacturer Hoshizaki finds that hands-on distributor training achieves the most significant results, in turn generating the opportunity for correct training and information to be passed on to the end user.
As Simon Frost, director of sales and chain accounts revealed: “Take for example the recent accounts of poor ice hygiene practices. By training distributors and dealers to a consistent standard, we’ve identified a continued knowledge transfer to the end user, which in turn helps to prevent the concerns that have recently hit the headlines.
“The use of ice in foodservice is one area where we feel distributors could see greater benefits by developing their understanding in order to deliver an excellent service and educate their customers looking to purchase a machine.”
The firm believes that the minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for professional refrigeration has shaken up the market, meaning distributors have to take onboard that new knowledge. “Dealers should also look to embrace the changes and to develop a good understanding of the elements of the MEPS regulations, as they have been designed not only to make the industry more efficient in general, but also demonstrate that a particular appliance or business is operating in a safe manner, conforming to strict environmental standards and has due regard for the ethics and welfare of staff, suppliers and wider stakeholders of the business,” said Frost.
At Maidaid Halcyon, it works with distributors to offer free monthly sales and technical training on its warewasher and ice maker product range. Sales director Julian Lambert commented: “Over the many years of running these courses, the feedback left by our distributors has helped us develop and enhance our training offering to them.
“The technical training offered uses a combination of a short classroom session followed by hands on training to identify and resolve issues found on site, along with PPM and programing instruction.
“The Maidaid Halcyon warewashing sales training day has also been developed and enhanced over the years to meet our distributor’s requirements. If notice is given, each of our training courses can be tailored to the distributor’s requirements.”
Recently the manufacturer has added to its training offering by producing an operational training manual for dish- and glasswashers which it reports has proved popular both with distributors and end users. Lambert added: “In order to assist our distributor salespeople we produce several pieces of literature that have proved extremely valuable to them. The Maidaid and Halcyon product guides offer all the information required in order to identify the correct machine for the use required. We have also produced several product lifestyle brochures that our distributor customers use for their customers.”
Fellow warewasher manufacturer Hobart similarly encourages delegates to travel to its innovation centre in Peterborough for training. Sales director Tim Bender said: “Once there, we can show off the entire facility, giving them an instant impression of what Hobart is all about. On a purely practical level, the equipment is here and it’s live, so the experience is very much ‘hands on’, as we explore the features and benefits.”
He feels: “In offering this type of in-house training, we find that it’s integral to involve not only the dealer sales team but also their in-house designers and planners. The specifying process may begin with the salesperson, but they will invariably be working closely with a designer or planner until the job is complete. Because of this we feel it’s important that the training is delivered as widely as possible.”
However, Bender acknowledged: “Of course, dealers are incredibly busy and may not be able to commit to sending such a large party, while many have regional offices which makes a trip to Peterborough even more challenging. In these cases we absolutely would go to their premises and carry out the same training, using exactly the same methods.”
In terms of manufacturer training facilities, the Rational group has given its UK base a complete facelift. Doubling the capacity of its head office in Luton has meant a new ‘centre of excellence’ for training is now accommodated.
Simon Lohse, MD of Rational UK commented: “We have invested in a new purpose-built facility, providing a fantastic centre of excellence to accommodate dealers, service partners, customers and sales team training at our Luton premises. It is a very exciting time for us as we further continue our commitment to all stakeholders, helping to maximise their business opportunities, of which training plays an integral role.”
The expansion includes a purpose-built development kitchen, a cafė concept, a training kitchen and a service workshop. There is a range of Rational and Frima units of various specifications, allowing hands-on training. The new training rooms also have full presentation facilities.
Furthermore, dealers have access to online support via ClubRational. Support includes a range of Rational training videos, sales support materials – from specification sheets and guides and reference stories. Plus the manufacturer is preparing to launch a smartphone app for training that will put recipes, operational information and cooking advice in the palm of chefs’ hands.
Over at Welbilt, it has recently opened its sixth Masterclass dedicated development and training kitchen, which enable offsite education across the UK. UK and Ireland sales director Steve Hemsil revealed: “We will be looking to invest in more sites in the future as they also allow us to provide in-depth training to our dealers. Training is a hugely important part of our business and we continue to put emphasis on the quality of our training days and facilities. Welbilt also has a large network of trainers to facilitate training in the field.”
Hemsil feels that getting dealers in front of the equipment makes a key difference in understanding its operation. He recommended that distributors should study combi steamers and accelerated cooking technologies to a much greater depth due to their multi-functionality and vast cooking capabilities.
“One of the biggest issues currently surrounding combi steamers is water quality and supply,” he said. “The quality of the water used within a combi steamer makes an enormous difference to products being cooked inside the unit, as well as the cleaning of the unit before and after service and its overall lifecycle. We work closely with Brita and have developed a FilterCare system featured on our Convotherm 4 ovens.”
Elsewhere, Meiko UK has updated its training and showroom facilities to accommodate a variety of users. UK MD Paul Anderson detailed: “The idea is to have a technical training session on one day for engineers and distributors, and on the next day showcase our products to potential customers.”
Undercounter machines have been placed on mobile dollies with extended service connections to allow 360-degree access, whilst the manufacturer’s larger UPster K rack transport machine has been positioned off the wall to allow all-round viewing whilst demonstrating. Visitors also have access to the company’s fully equipped meeting room which is located directly opposite.
However, the company also acknowledges the value of onsite training, with technical services director Dave Kemp commenting: “The advantage of onsite training is time saved for the distributor. Dealers can either attend one of our scheduled training sessions or we can arrange dedicated training for their staff.
“There may also be the situation where the complexity of a specific installation means that onsite training is the best route. That also allows us to give engineers and end users more in-depth hands-on training of the Meiko product.”
Meiko’s technical programme of in-house and onsite training is broadcast directly to dealers via regular email newsletters and promotional literature, as well as face to face via the manufacturer’s team of regional sales managers.
At competitor Wexiödisk it has introduced two types of warranty when purchasing equipment, full and parts only, so to complement this it is also offering two types of training to suit bespoke requirements.
With the full warranty option, the units are commissioned and dealers are fully trained by the warewasher manufacturer’s third party service company. They can also contact Wexiodisk directly if additional training is still required. If the parts only warranty is selected, Wexiodisk will provide onsite training for the first couple of installs and then that member of staff will train the rest of the team on the equipment.
According to UK and Ireland country manager John Shepherd: “Providing distributors with onsite training is without a doubt the best way for them to really learn about the products first-hand and get to grips with each model. Generally, dealers will learn about the products much quicker training this way whilst it also allows them to see end user issues or concerns which they can then structure their own training around to accommodate what they’ve learned, and the end users’ needs.”
Noting that distributors should ensure they are aware of adequate ventilation requirements in the washroom prior to install, Shepherd added: “We will always advise our dealers to have a fully comprehensive knowledge and understanding of undercounter and hood/pass through warewashing machines, because they are more likely to encounter these appliances regularly.”
For ventilation system manufacturer Mansfield Pollard, it feels that distributor visits to its Bradford factory are key to training, alongside in-depth product learning with hands-on demonstrations and technical guidance. Scott Donoghue, head of projects and kitchen ventilation said: “Our technical and sales staff are always contactable from the specification and planning stages through to installation, and afterwards in terms of maintenance support. We feel that time spent in the market with our partners is critical, in addition to ‘in-house’ learning.
“It’s important to fully immerse the distribution partner in the company to ensure they are acting as a ‘remote arm’ to the business who can support the local markets in the same way we would.”
Mansfield Pollard feels it is important to ensure that distributors are up to speed with the latest information relevant to their geographical market alongside the industry changes. Donoghue reported: “We work together with our partners to ensure we are compliant with all relevant standards and any training required is also provided. For example, the imminent release of the updated Specification for Kitchen Ventilation Systems – DW172 – is something our own employees and distributors alike will all need educating on. For the past 14 months or so I have been on the expert panel updating this specification and once the document is released, I will be implementing training for all our staff and distributors.”
The First Choice Group’s specialist technical training arm, Combico, has made the most of the firm’s new purpose-built headquarters in Cannock. “We have fully functional, live working kitchens and training rooms that are also equipped with the very latest educational technology. Everything we do is relevant to what engineers require for their daily work,” said technical training manager Martin Dagnall.
Earlier this year the firm launched the electrical competency course (CCEECC) which was developed and designed specifically in conjunction with CESA, CEDA and City & Guilds for commercial catering engineers to ensure their safety and competence when working on electrical equipment and components.
Dagnall added: “Any regulation updates affecting gas, electric or refrigeration are a pressing issue across the industry. We are working closely with manufacturers and accrediting bodies to constantly update our training. It’s also very important that distributor salespeople understand installation requirements for equipment.
“We have been working closely with key manufacturers to deliver more technical training which increases support to the industry as well. In addition to this we have been developing work around the introduction of new managed learning programmes for ACS candidates, training which brings new entries into the gas industry.”
Furthermore, Combico plans to launch F-Gas training in the very near future.
A new specialist entrant this year in terms of distributor salespeople training is the Nisbets Group’s National Catering Equipment Centre (NCEC). According to NCEC manager Laura Clarkson: “The NCEC is not simply an updated training facility but a whole new concept. It is the biggest purpose-built catering equipment training facility within the UK and is the only place where dealers can bring customers to not simply see, but ultimately compare in a live working environment, a range of brands against each other.
“Thanks to a large high definition screen, the training that takes place can not only be recorded, but can also be streamed across the UK to ensure that every team member can benefit from the session without having to leave their kitchen or desk.”
The Bristol-based centre features a development kitchen and demonstration areas and a permanent exhibition area that showcases a range of over 1,000 products from 40+ brands, with many brand experts on hand to offer advice and support on the latest technologies.
Clarkson commented: “Face to face staff training ensures that the trainee can get hands on with the equipment, however supporting this with theory training in a bright comfortable environment will help to add meat to the bones. Most importantly is that the training does not simply focus on one or two brands, but involves a wide range of equipment to ensure that the trainee gets a full appreciation of the opportunities.”