WMF has just launched its much-anticipated 8000s, a new generation of automatic bean to cup coffee machines that it insists will take the company in a new direction. Here are 10 things you need to know about one of the most established brands in the catering business.
10. A long time ago…
To call WMF an ‘established business’ would be an understatement to say the least. The story started way back in 1853 when WMF began life as a small metalware factory in Geislingen, Germany, which is still the location for its head office today. The business listed on the stock exchange in 1880, one of the first companies in Germany to do so.
In 1921, WMF launched its first pressure cooker and then six years later the seeds for its association with the coffee business were sown as it manufactured its first coffee machine for the catering sector. “Our heritage goes back over many years,” says Florian Lehmann, managing director of WMF’s UK operation.
9. From past to present
WMF is a true global supplier. Today it employs 6,000 staff, two thirds of which are based outside of its headquarters in Germany. Over the years it has expanded on the international front, opening 13 distribution subsidiaries in core territories throughout Europe and establishing a presence in the US and several of Asia’s fastest-growing markets.
“We are quite a widespread global organisation and we distribute coffee machines in over 70 countries,” explains Lehmann. “The UK office opened in 1999 and we represent a 100% subsidiary of WMF. We have 55 employees in the UK operation and more than two-thirds of those are dedicated to our coffee business. Our commercial coffee equipment sales division and service division are by far the biggest parts of our operation here.”
8. Technicians on tap
WMF directly employs 26 specialised service technicians in the UK, underscoring the scale of its after-sales support and maintenance capabilities. All technical staff at its UK operation are WMF-factory trained and only work on the company’s equipment, not any third party kit. Surprisingly, though, Lehmann admits there are occasions when resources can feel stretched.
He says: “Considering the size of the UK, at times it can be challenging, particularly when looking after national accounts which might be spread out from Aberdeen to Cornwall. To cover these areas can be quite difficult when you give a certain KPI promise to your customer. It sounds a lot to have 26 engineers, but the reality is that while it is sufficient for the moment I think we will need to grow on the service side to give our customers a really good level of service.”
7. Wake up and smell the coffee
Last year, WMF turned over more than €1 billion (£848 billion) globally for the first time, and while that figure includes the contribution of various brands that it owns in the cookware, cutlery and tableware space, it is impossible to ignore the sheer size of its coffee machine business. Coffee machines generated €321m (£272m) in 2012, some 32% of the manufacturer’s total revenues.
Lehmann says: “When we talk about coffee machines, you have to consider there are two brands in the group portfolio: WMF which is the bigger of the two brands, but also Schaerer, a Swiss coffee manufacturer for bean to cup equipment. You can really classify our core business as ‘everything from the table’ and coffee machines.”
6. Balancing business
WMF employs a direct sales force in the UK which takes care of national account work, but it looks to penetrate the regional markets by working with a mixture of coffee roasters and catering equipment distributors. “[A direct-indirect sales model] is not that easy to entertain to be honest, but we have managed to establish a clear channel strategy where we minimise the conflict of having a direct route to market but try to really push and promote our business through the middleman,” says Lehmann. “We are flexible and we have changed our business model to try to put business into the reseller framework and join forces with our distribution partners.”
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5. A machine for all occasions
One of WMF’s biggest assets is its ability to be able to serve the varying demands of the catering industry, be it the need for a bean to cup machine or a filter coffee machine. “From our point of view, we can find a suitable solution for each and every customer application,” insists Lehmann. “Our portfolio starts with an entry level machine on the bean to cup side that will serve a need for 20, 30 or 40 cups of coffee but we also entertain the customer that would like to have 600 or 700 cups of coffee a day. And the same goes for the filter coffee equipment. We have one filter coffee machine that can deliver 1,000 cups of coffee per hour, which is a quite an impressive set-up, but again we offer an entry level filter coffee machine that might do 20 or 30 cups of coffee a day.”
4 Four-pronged product philosophy
WMF’s product philosophy is based on four primary components, according to Lehmann. He explains: “We are very proud of the quality of our products, we always deliver top-notch functionality, and then we combine those two attributes with stunning design and the power of innovation. Those are the four attributes that you will find whenever you come across WMF: a unique combination of functionality, quality, design and innovation.”
3. Priced to compete
With a strategy that revolves around quality, consistency and reliability, WMF makes no secret of the fact that its pricing structure is designed to reflect that. “We are not the cheapest in the market and we don’t want to be the cheapest in the market,” says Lehmann. “Yes, we have to be competitive but we always want to deliver value for the money that customers spend. It is key that we do that, but in order to maintain the momentum to invest in innovation and to invest in the service that we offer, you have to command a certain price point in the industry. WMF will always be competitive, but we will always cite value for money as our key sales proposition on the pricing strategy.”
2. New kid on the block
This month sees WMF officially launch the 8000s, a compact automatic bean to cup machine with touchscreen controls and enhanced functionality. One of the highlights of the range is a variable pinch valve offering optimal temperate control. Says Lehmann: “If you want a cappuccino at 67°C we have now the control element that every cappuccino you dispense will be at 67°C irrespective of the milk temperature at the source. We can now regulate this, so the machine has the intelligence that the output temperature will always remain consistent. I don’t think we are the first to have this innovation, but I think we are offering a solution that is pretty much second to none in the way we have translated it from a technological point of view.”
1. Coffee equipment’s Holy Grail
Lehmann believes the 8000s will take the company in a “new direction” such is the level of engineering that has gone into designing the model from the ground up. The Holy Grail of automatic bean to cup machines is achieving the same taste and consistency every time the button is pressed, and WMF is confident that the 8000s does that.
“It has been redesigned from scratch so we have developed a lot of new technical components,” comments Lehmann. “We have a new high performance grinder system that is twice as fast as the grinders that we have in today’s coffee machines without compromising quality. Again, we are trying to innovate where we can because speed is one key element of a coffee operation and we have been able to cut the grinding time by half. We have developed a completely new brew group with a capacity of 19 grams of coffee. When you are talking about 12oz or 16oz cups, this gives you the flexibility to deliver the taller cup sizes at a fast speed.”