Swedish clean aims at international growth

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Wexiödisk’s factory process is described as ‘handmade serial production’.

Walking around various large Wexiödisk warewasher installations near the manufacturer’s home base in Växjö, Sweden, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer scale of operations each machine has to cope with.

In particular, the local hospital’s rack conveyor model with the manufacturer’s patented pre-rinse machine is dealing with hundreds of trays, plates and cutlery items every hour, let alone every day or week. But it is this high usage-type unit that Wexiödisk (the Swedish pronunciation would phonetically be something like Vequadisk) prides itself on.

“One of our strengths is our lifecycle cost,” said UK and Ireland sales manager John Shepherd. “Our machines regularly last 25 years or more.”

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And it is this focus on quality that was evident as a backbone of the company when it was established by three entrepreneurs, Gote Ericsson, Lennart Johansson and Roland Carlsson, in 1972. They had previously worked for Electrolux, but when it decided to close a base in the area, they seized the initiative and started their own warewasher specialist firm.

A lot of the machine designs developed around the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s are still part of the Wexiödisk portfolio today, but of course having been regularly updated in the interim. According to MD, Magnus Titusson: “Some of our competitors are still adding ‘new’ features which we developed in the 80s. We may not have shouted about these functionalities too much, but they were included in our machines from the very beginning.”

The firm has been through significant ownership changes over the years, with Metos acquiring the brand in 1999, before the Ali Group then bought the whole Metos business in 2004. “For a while the Wexiödisk brand was not really promoted, but when Ali Group came in this changed,” said Titusson. “It’s very much a strength to have this umbrella organisation, especially for international business. Ali is a good owner – using its overall knowledge and network is a big advantage.”

For the fiscal year that ended in August, the firm posted a SEK350m/£31m turnover, taking a strong 65% share of the Swedish warewashing market. However, market share in the UK is just a fraction of this, and export is definitely an area Titusson wants to bolster. “My goal when I started at Wexiödisk in 2014 was to increase the export level. It was around 55% and I have now grown that to over 60%.” Shepherd underlined: “Since Magnus took over we have outperformed predicted sales and we are actually a year ahead of target.” Total annual output is around 6,500 machines.

The firm’s core markets are hospitals and schools, or anywhere that warewashers have to face high demand, such as flight kitchens, hotels or corporate catering. Wexiödisk is keen to emphasise that its route to market is solely through dealers and so tends to avoid framework agreements with end users, as the terms and pricing are dependent upon the local distributors.

While the manufacturer does produce a complete portfolio of warewashers, from the 2015-launched WD-4S under-counter dishwasher, through to large specialised machines such as trolley dishwashers and cutlery sorters, Titusson believes Wexiödisk’s real speciality is rack conveyor machines. “You cannot find a better machine, especially our ICS class rack conveyors when specified with a pre rinse machine. Our advantage is that we can put together a complete solution including granule machines.”

He continued: “What we sell is reliability and safety. We know that our machines will still be working well 10 years later. It’s the same when we buy something for our production line – we want to buy something we can trust.”

Out of 170 staff, about 125 work in the 11,000metre2 factory in Växjö, and so the workforce is quite production-heavy. The factory has also just invested in a laser cutting machine which will be installed in spring. “We have world class production – I call it handmade serial production,” said Titusson. “Each machine is created in a way that we can guarantee quality. But we aim to ensure our designs are intuitive and simple. If they are over-engineered and too complicated, it would make life difficult for the operator and the service engineer.”

Ease of use is at the forefront of the Wexiödisk ethos, so for instance, all the cleaning, servicing and repairs can be carried out on one side of a machine. “Service and support is also important, that’s why we only work with very good dealers that can provide thorough service,” said Titusson. “We prefer not selling projects to areas where we don’t have a distributor. We need to make sure the machine is taken care of.”

Wexiödisk partners with around 10 UK distributors on a regular basis, and works with around a further 10. Some glasswashers and hood type machines are available from stock from Keith Elkington Transport, while spare parts in the UK are stored at Serviceline in Stevenage. “If a dealer calls Serviceline before 4pm, they’ll get the spares the next day,” detailed Shepherd. “If it’s out of stock, Serviceline will contact Sweden, where it’s 97% likely they will have it on the shelf for next day delivery.”

Titusson underlined: “We may not be the cheapest machine but if you consider our solution over 20 years you cannot find a better one. End users are more and more aware of total cost of ownership, and this will be even more important in the future when we consider the circular economy – this could be rebuilding machines or employing a leasing concept.”

In the future, Wexiödisk is looking to extend its global reach and grow in a sustainable way. It is also aiming to ensure its product development is aligned to market requirements. Titusson concluded: “We benefit from being a smaller, flexible supplier, in comparison to our main competitors. If dealers require unique warewashing equipment for their end users then they look to us.”

Wexiödisk used the recent Host exhibition in Milan to introduce its new technologies to the market. Its latest warewashing model is the WD-8 hood type. A larger washing chamber enables the machine to accommodate bakery trays, thermos boxes and large pots and pans.

The machine is equipped with a flexible washing system that should allow operators to adjust and reset the water pressure quickly and easily. Enabling settings to change between ‘normal wash’ and ‘heavily soiled wash’ functions should mean that a variety of different items can be washed within one unit. Furthermore it can be fitted with a foldable shelf to handle various sizes of goods.

With a 2 week lead time, the model was commercially available from 1 December 2017.

The other main development is a new graphical user interface/control panel. The manufacturer created this with the guidance of an internal workshop and reference group to define how to proceed with the design and the most intuitive symbols to use.

The result is said to be a simple interface that is reminiscent of today’s smartphones. Guided graphical instructions should minimise mistakes and downtime, while colour coded alerts indicate various levels of attention required: blue means the user deals with the error by following the on-screen guide, yellow means the user must deal with the error before the next wash begins, while red signifies that a technician should correct the fault before the machine can be used again. Furthermore, the circuitboard is backwards compatible to all of Wexiödisk’s previous control panels.

The new interface will be rolled out during 2018 on various machine types.

Tags : Warewashingwexiodisk
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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