Had it not been for contractual reasons, Hobart would admittedly have transferred the production of its Ecomax warewashing machines from Italy to Germany a lot sooner than it has done.
Until this month, the product line was built at the same factory as machines from rivals such as Maidaid, but with the agreement finally running its course the company has shifted it to Germany, where all its other warewashing lines, including Premax and Bar Aid, are made.
The revamped Ecomax line-up, which is part of the Hobart Independent offering exclusively sold through the dealer channel, includes two glasswashers, one frontloading dishwasher, a passthrough dishwasher and two rack conveyor models.
“This is a specific range of equipment designed by Germany and built by Germany to meet the Ecomax requirement,” comments Tim Bender, UK sales director at Hobart. “The range has actually been on sale in most of Europe now for three years, so it isn’t a brand new range just out that has teething problems and niggly bits. This is a tried and tested range.”
Key design changes versus the previous Italian models include electronic controls, peristaltic dosing pumps for more accurate dispensing and an integrated water softener available with frontloading and passthrough dishwasher models.
Each line within the range is also multiphase, so machines can be switched from three phase to single phase, from 13 amp to 25 amp, on site.
Hobart claims the new Ecomax range will also deliver an improved wash and rinse performance due to the design of the size of the pumps and the use of lower and upper rotating wash rinse arms inspired by the main Hobart product lines.
“All the machines have got drain pumps and therefore we can fit them with a self-flushing cycle, so when they drain they will flush themselves round and then drain again and switch off,” adds Bender. “Again, that is a main Hobart feature.”
Ecomax currently accounts for around a quarter of Hobart Independent’s sales, but business manager, Stuart Bester, is confident the build quality, combined with the range’s pricing structure, will broaden its appeal. “Germany is admired the world over for its engineering prowess,” he says. “This factor will significantly extend the working life of the equipment — delivering marked benefits for caterers along the way.”
Hobart insists the units have been designed with longer life expectancy than the Ecomax models it previously sold, incorporating “similar” components to those used in other Hobart machines.
“They are not identical components, they don’t have the same performance necessarily as all the Hobart machines or the Bar Aid machines, but they are specifically designed to fit into the range at the right place,” insists Bender. “But I do genuinely feel that in terms of quality and reliability, these are a cut above the machine we have been selling.”
Hobart might wish it could have shifted production to its German factory earlier, but with the entry level warewashing battle seemingly set to intensify it is most certainly a case of better late than never.
38% of UK sales now through dealers
A selection of Hobart’s top distributors were invited to the company’s Peterborough HQ last month for a special preview of the first UK-bound Ecomax units to come off the German production line.
The event also provided an opportunity for Hobart to reinforce its approach to working with the distribution channel.
“Despite what you often read about us, Hobart Independent has remained a 100% dealer organisation,” said David Riley, director of warewash UK at Hobart, who actually launched the distributor-focused division nine years ago. “When I first set it up, one of the most common remarks I got was, ‘yes, but Hobart have tried selling to dealers before and you always go back and change it, and bring it back into the main company’. I am very proud to say we haven’t done that.”
Riley said that even if you take Hobart Independent out of the equation, Hobart UK still does 38% of its business through dealers. “That’s not bad for somebody that is always criticised for being a ‘direct selling organisation’,” he said. “30% of our government business goes through distributors. Many people say, ‘you can’t do government business through distributors’, but we can and we do.”
As the market knows, Hobart is the only manufacturer to be awarded a framework to supply catering equipment to the public sector by the GPS, and Riley used the Ecomax launch event to state that the company wants to work “much closer” with dealers interested in meeting the government sector’s requirements.
“We have got the contract for two years and I am going to start coming out and talking to people which are interested in the government sector,” he said. “Those that are [interested] please get in touch, we’d like to talk to you.”
Hobart UK claims sales through dealers are up 12% year-on-year, while Hobart Independent’s business has grown 30% year-on-year. Overall, Hobart’s top 50 dealers turn over nearly £10m with the company.
Riley said Hobart was even growing the volume of business it does with dealers in areas such as national accounts, which have traditionally sought a direct relationship with the supplier. “A lot of the restaurant groups and hotel groups will buy and will work through dealers, and we are encouraging that too,” he claimed.