Robert Hund has only been the president of Manitowoc’s foodservice segment for a few months, but as you would expect he’s wasted no time in getting up to speed on where the operation sits globally today.
Hund is more accustomed to construction sites than commercial kitchens having moved internally from Manitowoc’s huge global crane division, but he is determined to make his mark on the company’s $1.5bn (£940m)-a-year catering equipment operation.
Manitowoc’s board took its time to find the right candidate when former foodservice chief Michael Kachmer resigned to pursue a CEO role elsewhere earlier this year. And it would seem the recruitment committee agreed that what Hund lacks in foodservice industry experience, he more than makes up for with his impressive breadth of skills.
Speaking with press during a private briefing on his first visit to Europe, Hund made it clear what he feels he can bring to the table, explaining: “I am an engineer by trade — I have a couple of degrees in engineering and I have worked for the last 26 years at two companies: Manitowoc and Caterpillar.
“I have worked in manufacturing, design engineering, sales, marketing, product support — just about everything in that area, so not your typical marketing or engineering person, but a little bit of everything in those areas. And I hope to be able to influence Manitowoc Foodservice on every front, including innovation and new products, because I have got a lot of experience in product innovation.”
One of the issues that remains closest to his heart is customer service, which is not surprising given his last title at Manitowoc was executive VP of the company’s Crane Care division, where he oversaw a global network of service and distribution centres for eight product lines across 19 countries.
He aims to draw on some of the factors that made Crane Care a success in his new role. “Customers really do choose the Manitowoc brand on cranes because of the after-market support and I hope to have this foodservice segment have a similar legacy where we are known worldwide for the support that we provide for our products,” he revealed, adding that one of his objectives in the role will be to build on the US-based manufacturer’s global STAR Service Programme.
“There will be some huge developments coming,” he promised. “We did it on cranes and you will see some things coming in the next year on the after-market support for foodservice equipment.”
Manitowoc has more than 500 service agents providing regular response services in Europe alone and Hund admits that achieving a 90% first-time fix rate across the board is very much a priority.
Ultimately, though, you can only provide after-sales care if you have something to support in the first place — a point that is not lost on Hund. “My favourite adage is ‘the best product wins’. If you can make the best product, you will win. Of course, you have to distribute it, you have to support it and you have to market it. But the development of the product to be able to help the customer win is important for us, and that is what our strategy is based on.”
With 24 separate brands in the foodservice group, including names well-known to the UK market such as Garland, Moorwood Vulcan, Frymaster and Manitowoc Ice, Hund admits the “cross pollination” of technology across different product lines is one major element of a three-pronged strategy that also includes delivering the best customer support and exploiting its manufacturing scale to drive efficiencies and price itself competitively.
He insists the European market remains “very important” from a sales perspective, not least because it remains the worldwide source for the Merrychef and Convotherm lines. But while he rates Europe as a “high growth area”, he also cautions that the market is a “little bit sluggish”.
That said, he remains convinced that the company can make “further inroads” this side of Atlantic and suggests that getting some of its products — specifically the US ones — better accepted in Europe is perfectly achievable.
Manitowoc’s new man has his plate full, but it would be a fitting tale if the former crane veteran could inspire the company’s foodservice business to reach new heights.