Concentrating on maintaining one type of catering equipment can give a better service says Malcolm Skinner, operations director at Marren Microwave:
As equipment in the foodservice industry develops and becomes more complex, the demands on the general catering equipment engineer increases rapidly. Gone are the days of fixing a basic gas range, fryer or grill, as the industry now produces intelligent equipment that does everything, even down to cleaning itself!
Engineers now need to be skilled in many different areas, including gas, electric, refrigeration and electronics. I believe there are very few industries where the engineer has to be as multi-skilled, because in the past, most equipment was easily repairable.
In recent years, modern foodservice equipment has been designed and manufactured with much more complex electronic controls than ever before and therefore requires a completely different set of skills.
Probably the biggest issue the engineers face is that they only see certain items in a kitchen ‘once in a blue moon’. Even when the engineer has been trained on a particular type of equipment, the only true way of gaining experience is by working on it frequently.
Understandably, customers who have spent thousands of pounds on a piece of equipment expect an expert to call when a problem arises and will most certainly require a first time fix.
For this reason, more and more customers are turning to specialists. Specialists that work on the same types of equipment day in and day out are more likely to have the right parts on the vehicle ready to achieve that customer expectation.
As Marren is a specialist, we sometimes get called in by a general contractor after they have spent time trying to diagnose the fault and haven’t found the solution, or they have fitted lots of parts and still not repaired the machine. If we were to attempt a repair on a combi oven, for example, I’m sure we would have the same issues and that’s why as a specialist we stick to what we are good at.
In my opinion, it is nearly impossible for a general contractor to carry out an emergency 4 hour response on a specialist piece of equipment, if the right parts are not carried on board. With so many different makes and models within the marketplace to repair, an articulated truck would be needed to carry relevant stock.
As a specialist contractor ourselves, we have to invest heavily in spare parts and training. This is to ensure we provide a second to none service to our customers, in an ever changing industry.
We run training courses every week both for new engineers and those that have been with the company many years; in this day and age, training is the way forward to keep up with technology and supply customers with engineers that have the knowledge they expect from a specialist.
At Marren we even have cooking demonstrations on how the equipment is used to help our engineers better understand the equipment. Engineers need to understand the capabilities of the equipment as well as the technical aspects of it.
I’m sure most companies would love to do more, but with so many different pieces of equipment from a range of manufacturers, it would be impossible to run their businesses.