Refrigerator and ice-maker manufacturer Hoshizaki has created an innovation centre at its Telford, Shropshire premises which hospitality operators can utilise for training sessions.
The brand has ploughed £100,000 into the new hub to enable equipment users to either attend demonstrations in person or online using state-of-the-art IT systems which can livestream or video the classes.
Along with an onsite showroom displaying Hoshizaki's latest models, operators can participate in training such as mixologist presentations of ice use in cocktails or how to clean machines.
The company's UK and Ireland director, Simon Frost, told The Caterer: "We've really thought about how we can utilise this facility. We can provide hospitality and people are welcome to use it for meetings and demonstrations whenever they want."
Frost feels that another big draw is the site's proximity to Hoshizaki's adjacent ice-maker factory, which is undergoing extension: "We can demonstrate the quality of the product and the amount of investment that's going into our manufacturing facilities. This gives operators the opportunity to see the research and development that goes into our machines, that they are investing in something that's going to sustain their business for many years."
The expansion project will increase the factory's capacity from 37,000 units a year previously to 42,000 units by the end of 2026. A layout reorganisation is removing production pinch points, alongside a £750,000 investment in a press brake, in order to speed up manufacture.
Frost acknowledged that Hoshizaki has experienced lead time issues of late, detailing: "It's no secret that coming out of the pandemic, all manufacturers suffered because of supply chain problems. We were slower to get back on our feet than most, but we are now benefitting from the decisions our management took during that period not to source alternative parts of perhaps lesser quality - all Hoshizaki components are lifecycle tested for up to eight months. Now we have no issues with supply."
He further reported that the firm hasn't yet experienced any disruption due to the Red Sea shipping crisis, though if there were any problems, Hoshizaki's Japanese headquarters would fly components into Europe.
The brand has also taken on a procurement specialist who works on behalf of all its factories to accelerate the sourcing of approved parts without losing the quality assurance of its lifecycle testing process.
With the UK branch reclassifying its ice-makers into A, B and C machines, A being the fastest moving stock to C's rare and bespoke designs, Frost said that most models are now available straightaway, with tailored appliances' lead times being up to two months. "If a C appliance is for a refit or new opening project, it will be built in time," he added.
Additionally, Hoshizaki gave a sneak peek into upcoming product launches, including new Premier refrigeration series saladettes and preparation counters, new multideck refrigerators and an advanced second generation of ice-makers, expected in early 2025, which will utilise Internet of Things technologies for remote operation and monitoring.