Servicing commercial refrigerators can be an involved business, as Sam Lewis discovered after investigating how manufacturers and suppliers are assisting dealers on the ins and outs of the after-sales process:
The job of the manufacturer or supplier does not end with the assembly of a product. Nor does it end with successful delivery. The after-care phase of a product’s lifespan is of vital importance to both dealers and end users, and how a company deals with repairs and maintenance can turn a one-time buyer into a repeat customer.
‘Speed is of the essence’ is a recurring theme among refrigeration manufacturers when it comes to maintenance, with most boasting a next-day or even same-day parts delivery or repair service.
For instance, Interlevin breaks down the after-sales process into three stages. Service manager Craig Doyle explained: “We understand the importance of the products we sell to our customers and for that reason we adopt a very simple but effective model when it comes to service: recognise, respond and resolve.
“The first step is easy for us,” he continued. “When we sell a cabinet we log the serial number in our ERP software and log the warranty cover that the customer has requested. At the click of a button, our dedicated service desk will be able to recognise the refrigerator in question based on the serial number or its address, and we are prepped to assist the customer in the next step.”
In response, Interlevin sorts calls by urgency, responding to most within 24 hours. Doyle added: “However, many are responded to within as little as four hours, with an engineer attending on-site to resolve the issue.
“All of our technicians carry testing equipment and a standard set of spare parts to assist our ‘first fix’ aim, whereby we aim to resolve the issue on the first visit. At Interlevin we understand that a breakdown in refrigeration can have a significant impact on our customers and we know that speed is of the essence.”
Other brands, while still offering the same repair and delivery service, emphasise that the fastest way to solve a problem can be for the end user to do it themselves.
Precision Refrigeration’s operator manuals, which go out with every product, include details on how to use and also maintain the specific unit.
While a repair engineer is not out of the question for Precision customers, the company believes that efficiency and speed are maximised through its technical service department, available via telephone every working day.
“Our technical support team can often diagnose the query and resolve the matter without even visiting the site,” said Christine Hartshorne, marketing manager at Precision. “This benefits the customer in reduced downtime on-site, and food is continued to be stored correctly.”
At Williams Refrigeration, dealers have access to a technical support line that is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm.
“We also provide onsite support via our own in-house engineers and through selected approved contract engineers across the UK,” explained sales and marketing director Malcolm Harling. “We operate a same-day/next-day response, depending upon the time of call.
“All general spare parts are available via our own spares department and, being a UK manufacturer, these are available from stock with a next-day delivery promise on orders placed before 3pm. Parts are also stocked by major UK wholesalers.”
When it comes to warranties, most manufacturers offer a 2-year package as standard. Williams, Precision, Liebherr, Interlevin and Hoshizaki all fall under this umbrella for the most part, though some offer more customisable options, and Hoshizaki’s Gram brand comes with a 5-year warranty as standard.
Often, brands give dealers the option of devising their own warranty offer, as is the case with Pentland.
All stress that their generous warranty packages back up the reliability of their products. Precision’s Christine Hartshorne commented: “Precision products are built to last, and on the UK’s hottest day of the year in 2019, Precision had a 99.96% reliability rate.”
While the introduction of units using the refrigerant hydrocarbon has been a step in the right direction when it comes to environmentally friendly refrigeration, the change does come with a danger of its own. Namely, the substance can be a flammability hazard.
Hydrocarbons can burn or explode in the presence of an open flame, spark or even a cigarette, and so repair engineers must take every precaution when working with hydrocarbon refrigerators containing the compound.
Knowing this danger, it makes one wonder whether it is worth the risk. However, manufacturers are quick to assure buyers that there is no danger day-to-day, only when the unit is taken apart.
Furthermore, Williams’ Malcom Harling commented: “Natural refrigerant reduces energy consumption by up to 15% due to its excellent thermodynamic properties. It also almost eliminates the environmental impact due to its low GWP [global warming potential] and zero ODP [ozone depletion potential].”
Harling continued: “Today, 75% of Williams products only use natural refrigerants. As an established manufacturer with a high level of expertise in the use of natural refrigerants, we are well able to deliver annual assessments and on-site audits to ensure our servicing and support agents are also fully compliant with all relevant safety issues.
“We are also looking at future regulation to allow us to exceed this threshold and develop more green refrigeration solutions.”
Likewise, Pentland trains its engineers to work with the products in a safe manner. The brand also provides Vanstox multi-refrigerant leak detectors. Service manager Patrick Ashworth said: “Our leak detectors have proved very successful in the field, ensuring leaks on appliances are located swiftly and left sealed after repair.”
He continued: “We also supply our in-house-designed Vanstox charging kit, which incorporates a set of weighing scales, lines, shut-off valve and a charging station to ensure the cylinders are fully secured while in use to eliminate potential hazards.”
Liebherr Refrigeration similarly emphasises the importance of safety in working with hydrocarbon units. Describing the company’s products, national sales manager for business and industry, refrigeration division, Stephen Ongley also added: “It is worth noting that the charge, or amount of refrigerant, in Liebherr commercial refrigerators and freezers is very low.”
Foster, an early adopter of hydrocarbon solutions, having used the refrigerant for over 20 years, believes it cannot rest on its laurels, particularly in regards to safety. Andy Raspberry, head of service and spares, said: “Firstly, our products are always clearly marked to identify the gas contained within the system, not only on its serial tag, but on the compressor as well.”
Continuing, he added: “As part of our commitment to health, safety and environmental regulations, Foster has previously funded training for all of our service partners and dealers from industry experts here at our head office in King’s Lynn.”
When it comes to the discussion of spare parts, manufacturers are all too aware of the impending havoc that Brexit may or may not wreak on their operations. On top of this, issues caused by the coronavirus are currently keeping them on their toes. Therefore it is of paramount importance to have multiple channels through which to access spares, in case one or more should fail.
Husky commercial and marketing manager Ann Marie Clark iterated: “Husky Refrigerators has its own manufacturing facilities in China. We closely manage stock levels, and additional stock had been ordered to ensure availability during the end-of-January Brexit deadline.
“There are no current stock issues, although this will be closely monitored by our factory and their parts suppliers, with planned contingency arrangements should they be required.”
Similarly, Hoshizaki UK sales manager Roz Scourfield added: “In addition to working with various spare-part suppliers such as First Choice Group, Hoshizaki UK also stockpile all Hoshizaki and Gram spare parts internally at our Telford manufacturing facility for distribution to British, Irish and European dealers. By offering this high level of spare part availability via various channels, Hoshizaki UK are making access to all Hoshizaki and Gram parts as great as possible.”
Pentland normally offers a next-day delivery service for most of its spares which are carried in its warehouse.
“We are proactive with our brands and stock spares for all of our equipment,” said the company’s service manager, Patrick Ashworth. “This service is monitored and new spares or extra volumes are stocked in line with demands. Whilst we don’t have a specific partner, we work closely with suppliers to ensure that we can meet the requirements of our customers at all times.”
So it seems that across the board, refrigeration manufacturers have dealers and end users covered when it comes to repairs and spares, with fast, efficient fixes being the norm. In the face of Brexit, the coronavirus and hot summer days, cool heads mean cool food.
Filta comes to the rescue for refrigeration parts
When it comes to keeping customers happy, availability of spare parts is paramount, which is why Filta’s national framework offers a 24-hour response, 365 days a year. Filta can assist dealers with after-sales, warranty work and spares availability by offering them assurance of its commitment to end users.
Filta engineers carry a range of parts with them, which is backed up by a well-stocked warehouse for better first time fixes. FiltaSeal’s engineers, for example, manufacture seals on-site in a specialised mobile workshop, fitting it there and then with one call-out at one fixed price with no extra charges.
With user misuse a key factor in equipment failure, training plays a vital role in the purchasing process. Dealers can offer their customers peace of mind with Filta’s inclusive end user lifetime training, which is supported by free informative daily maintenance videos on YouTube.
Filta offers a 1-year warranty on units on installation and the quality of the build is guaranteed for 10 years on GRUs.