Sparkling service

It has become quite apparent in recent years that you can have what a customer perceives to be the best value equipment on the market, but if you fail to provide or facilitate adequate support in the event of a breakdown then any goodwill can quickly dissipate.

As well as developing and offering more comprehensive planned preventative maintenance programmes to thwart problems before they arise, warewashing manufacturers’ service teams and distributors are putting far greater emphasis on making sure operators receive the right level of training before the product is put to use.

This is perhaps not surprising when you consider that manufacturers estimate that operator misuse is to blame for at least 20% to 30% of call-outs, in some instances even more.

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Most suppliers will train operators upon installation and commissioning of their machine, but as Dave Kemp, UK technical services director at Meiko notes, high staff turnover at site remains an issue. “We also train senior onsite staff and management during commissioning as they tend to stay longer at site,” he says. “And we provide laminated wall charts and operators’ cleaning guides as part of our service.”

Simon Lohse, director of services and logistics at Hobart, says that the importance of frequent training can’t be emphasised enough. “The most important yet simple and basic tip we can offer to every operator is to ensure efficient and correct loading of the baskets and racks,” he comments. “Ensuring staff pre-scrape plates thoroughly before loading the rack helps to keep the wash water cleaner and reduces avoidable breakdowns.”

Ian Houldsworth, managing director of Sammic, believes the fundamental issue behind most breakdowns is that customers don’t understand what is required for basic maintenance, particularly if they fail to heed instructions when the machine is installed. Given that a lack of routine maintenance and servicing is prevalent at operator level, Houldsworth advises distributors not to forget to take the most basic of precautions.

He says: “Supply laminated basic maintenance instructions to be affixed to the wall next to the machine, with a space on it for the supplier/service company to provide their contact details, as well as instructions that it is advisable that only ‘authorised personnel’ — i.e. not the local plumber or electrician! — are called out to repairs.”

John Nelson, managing director of glass and dishwashing specialist Nelson, concurs that operator error is invariably the main cause of machine malfunction or poor results.

“It can, however, be alleviated by proper training from the supplier to ensure that staff have a good understanding of the basic functions of the machine,” he agrees. “That is why Nelson insists on staff training at the time of installation and makes training support freely available later on. A warewasher is a carefully designed and calibrated piece of kit that should be treated with respect.”

The fact that warewashing machines have developed so much in recent years has also impacted the landscape. On the one hand, self-diagnostics have improved and problems can be instantly detected, but on the other it means there is more that can go wrong.

Nick Burridge, sales director at Classeq, says this is an issue that throws up its own challenges. “The more technically advanced a machine is, the more difficult it potentially is for the average engineer to repair as they will undoubtedly require specialist training from the manufacturer on how to repair it, and even more so with complicated electronics,” he says. “That’s why with Classeq we have kept the machines electro-mechanical to make repairing them easy.”

Killian McGarry, director of Omniwash distributor Katerbay, offers his view on the matter: “Technology plays an important part in performance and the cost of producing competitive equipment. Solid state components are now more reliable and cost-effective but there is reluctance from some engineers to repair electronically-controlled machines. Electro mechanical machines are more expensive to produce and we are seeing very few of them in the price-sensitive independent operator sector.”

Paul Crowley, marketing manager at Winterhalter, points out that the advent of self-diagnostic systems has led to improved first-time fix rates since the operator can relay the machine’s service message to the service provider when the breakdown call is first logged. This then gives the engineer time to identify which spares are required.

“Some manufacturers have gone to the trouble of ensuring critical components are in easy-to-reach positions, so that visiting technicians can easily access the key parts of the machine,” he says. “The first-time fix rate is always top of the agenda. Customers want their machines to be repaired first time, and as quickly as possible, so that downtime is kept to a minimum.”

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Julian Lambert, sales director at Maidaid-Halcyon, notes that the more sophisticated machines on the market are designed to require less user input.

“For example, recent developments ensure that wash and rinse temperatures are at an optimum before allowing the washing process to take place, and similarly have greater accuracy in terms of correct rinse aid and detergent dosing,” he explains. “This has dramatically reduced the number of call-outs needed for poor results, which have been ultimately due to user error.”

Hobart’s Lohse suggests the fact that the latest generation of equipment is far more advanced than in the past means that proper planned preventative programmes deliver real value. “We encourage [customers] to use the expertise of service teams affiliated to suppliers who have an excellent working knowledge of equipment, are well trained on the technology used on new models and have the skills and experience to deal quickly with breakdowns and other maintenance issues,” he says.

One question relevant to all suppliers surrounds the extent to which they are competing for business with dealers operating their own service arms.

Lohse can sum it up in one sentence as far as Hobart is concerned: “Most of our customers are looking for a national service provider, so we generally only compete with other companies which have a nationwide offer,” he maintains.

Winterhalter’s Crowley, meanwhile, insists it tries to avoid stepping on its partners’ toes when chasing new service work. “We do not pursue end-users who have purchased their machines through distributors who operate service arms,” he claims. “Outside of that, we have two members of staff who are responsible for selling new service contracts and looking after those that we already have.”

Sister brand Classeq would appear to adopt a similar stance. Nick Burridge says: “To keep engineers busy we will always look for service contracts on machines which are coming out of warranty, but only on machines supplied by distributors who do not have their own service divisions so we are not competing against them.”

Meiko’s Dave Kemp says that Meiko Technical Services actively seeks PPM contracts at the end of a product’s warranty period. Being a manufacturer solely dedicated to warewashing, Kemp admits Meiko is under pressure from some local companies who quote for complete kitchen service work, but he insists they cannot compete with its 90% first-time fix rate and specialist knowledge.

This, he says, is one of the main reasons many distributors rely on Meiko to service its own warewashers. “Meiko Partner Distributors benefit from our Technical Services expertise via fixed price arrangements for servicing, repairs and installation that the dealer can add a margin to when sold to their customers,” he says. “And our seven-day call-handling means we can despatch engineers weekdays and weekends, so a dealer knows he can get a Meiko engineer to attend urgent calls.”

It is clear that most manufacturers now provide extensive technical back-up for their machines, but many in the market, including Simon Frost, UK country manager at Wexiodisk, believe that clients’ demands will only increase.

“In terms of service, 2013 is expected to be a year of suppliers, dealers and maintenance providers using a more proactive rather than a reactive business model,” comments Frost. “Operators will be expecting reduced downtimes, increased availability and speed of delivery for spare parts, along with a general increase in the ease and quality of service from the maintenance team.”

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Most common causes of faulty kit

When you’ve got thousands and thousands of pieces of equipment out in the market, it’s inevitable that breakdowns will occur at some stage. So what services issues or problems give engineers the most grief?

Paul Crowley, marketing manager at Winterhalter UK, identifies leaks and wash results due to customer misuse as the two most common problems. “They’ll be caused, for example, by no chemicals in the machine, staff knocking pipes when mopping, not clearing blockages or putting filters back together incorrectly after cleaning,” he points out.

Over at sister company Classeq, sales director Nick Burridge reveals that incorrect cleaning practices are the main issue that keeps its engineers busy. “Kinked waste pipes, blocked systems and lack of power are all caused through machines not being cleaned frequently enough,” he says.

Killian McGarry, director of Katerbay, which supplies the Omniwash brand, agrees that a lot of the most common problems often come down to a lack of cleaning and an absence of routine operator maintenance. As a result, the machine gets caked up with debris and limescale, which blocks the water jets, reduces washing results and increases detergent and rinse aid consumption.

“Low water pressure also affects the rinse cycle, resulting in a poor finish and water staining. As the machine gets older, the parts that most commonly fail are the heating elements, cycle timers, detergent injectors and, the most expensive part of all, the wash pump,” he says.

Dave Kemp, UK technical services director at Meiko, cites water pressure, limescale problems, and cleaning and chemical results issues as the most common problems its services organisation is called out to investigate. “At Meiko, we can attribute 12% to 15% of breakdown calls in the past to problems with water softeners alone,” he reveals, adding that the fault usually lies with a lack of salt, leaks and timer failures.

Ali Group brand Wexiodisk, meanwhile, has found the quality of the water to be the biggest cause of faults within warewashing machines. “Operators are trained in the process of water treatment upon taking delivery of a unit, however this is often not undertaken at the recommended intervals, resulting in a calcium deposit build-up on various crucial components,” says Wexiodisk’s UK country manager Simon Frost.

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