Trio Developed a Modification that Will Impact an Entire Delfield Line
Equipping foodservice operators and institutions with reliable equipment and cutting-edge capabilities may be the purpose of the foodservice equipment industry, but it’s the relationships between distributors, manufacturers and their customers that drive it. The understanding that when an oven goes down, or a tighter kitchen design is needed, chefs and operators have someone who will support them in realizing their goals.
To honor those who foster and follow through on the natural connections between channel partners in the industry, SEFA presented the inaugural Dream Team award at its annual awards ceremony earlier this year. “At SEFA, we really do try to pay attention to recognition, so we thought it would be great to recognize a group of people that show how those connections are important,” CEO Kelly Cain said.
The Dream Team award was created to promote the relationships formed between suppliers, distributors, and independent manufacturers’ reps. Dozens of teams were nominated but SEFA chose to honor the trio of Lizzie Kratz of EVI, Jeff Michael of Delfield, and Danny Lane of Lane Marketing Group for their efforts to satisfy a chain customer that was having trouble with the structure of a Delfield prep station. By working together, Kratz, Michael, and Lane came up with a solution that led to a design modification that will be rolled out across Delfield’s entire product line. “Each nomination showcased something that was really done in the best interest of the customer,” Cain explained. “The one that we selected ended up driving a manufacturing change.”
By honoring Kratz, Michael, and Lane, Cain hopes they will serve as a positive example for the entire industry. “Hopefully, it’s a gentle reminder that we need to delight customers,” she said. “If you delight the customer, that’s the right thing.”
FEDA spoke with Jeff Michael and Lizzie Kratz about working together to solve the customer's challenge and what others can learn from their example.
Please explain your background at your respective companies?
Jeff Michael, senior product sales manager, for Delfield: I am working on my 32nd year with Delfield. Delfield has been a fabricator with a strong focus on refrigeration and meeting customer-specific needs, a solutions provider since 1949.
Elizabeth (Lizzie) Kratz, national account manager, EVI: I have enjoyed being a part of the EVI family for over 13 years. Throughout this time, I have worked closely at EVI in several departments to learn all aspects of our company and for the past two to three years I have enjoyed being an account manager for a national chain account.
What was the problem that needed solving?
Kratz: One of our customers brought to our attention a possible concern and a request for a design change to overcome an operations issue. They also brought to our attention a need for a more durable drawer gasket and sturdy handle, as repetitive use of the station can lead to more wear and tear on the parts. To upgrade the parts would help the end user save money on replacements and time lost waiting for them to arrive.
What was the solution you came up with?
Michael: Operational concerns with our standard units in the field drove an alternate design that addressed the concerns as well as reduced the complexity for manufacturing. Not only did the change occur on a customer-specific model, but it is being implemented across our entire product line later this summer.
Kratz: The operational analysis (OA) concern from our customer led to a design change in the top portion of this prep station and resulted in the removal of all hardware within and around the food zone. The Delfield design team worked with third-party vendors to find a more durable drawer gasket that would resist the breakdown of oils and grease typically found around this unit. The engineers at Delfield also designed an integral handle to the lid of the prep station allowing for it to be more sturdy/stable when used repeatedly in the field.
How did you work together to get all the stakeholders to buy into that solution?
Kratz: EVI worked directly with our local rep and the manufacturer to present and address the customers’ concerns and worked to make a positive change for them. We worked closely with the design and engineering team at Delfield on several changes and upgrades to the unit over the course of several months. Once the final design was factory tested, we worked together to present these changes to the customer, showing that we had taken their concern to heart. We used this change to take a problem and turned it into an opportunity to not only satisfy our customer but to make an industrywide positive change.
Michael: A very close working relationship existed, but this was stepped up during this process. We would initiate a call or discussion as concerns or developments came up. Even though [Kratz, Lane, and I] are located in various parts of the country, we communicated like we were in the same room. There was no hesitation to ask questions or communicate facts.
What kind of feedback were you getting from the customer and manufacturer during this process, and how did you communicate that information across the different companies?
Kratz: There was a lot of collaboration between the three companies (EVI, Lane Marketing, and Delfield) and the end user to gain a full understanding of their concern and to ensure to them we were all in agreement and working toward a solution. During this time, we never discussed with the customer the reasoning behind the current design but rather all worked together to present a solution.
What kind of barriers did you encounter and how did you work together to break them down?
Michael: We continued to receive orders from this specific customer with hard opening dates. We were able to maintain production and delivery times while working through designs, testing, and implementation. For specific locations, we were able to retrofit units in the field for those who could not wait for the enhancements.
Kratz: By working with third-party vendors we were able to get upgraded parts in a timely manner and to we worked on the OA pricing program to keep it comparable to the currently purchased unit.
What was the importance of trust during this process and how did that trust develop as everyone worked together?
Michael: We maintained an open discussion during the process, calling daily, weekly, or as needed. Our focus as a team was our real customer, the end user. We needed to ensure they felt the team was listening to and addressing the field concerns.
Kratz: Delfield has been a trusted name in the industry for more than 65 years and has proven time and time again that they put the customer at the forefront of their product design and service. They offer one of the best service divisions in our industry and make it easy to support and promote their products to our customers because they are a highly trusted name in our field.
Lane Marketing Group is recognized locally as a highly respected company that works directly with dealers like EVI to meet the needs of customers. [The company works] tirelessly to ensure that our customers receive not only the best products at the best price, but that we also are providing the best service and support in the industry. They make every call their top priority and continue to provide service and support even after the job is finished. They are an integral part of the dealer and manufacturer relationship and work hard to ensure all parties are connected to meet the needs of our customers.
EVI has shared a long-term and strong relationship with the customer, thus resulting in their trust for us to continue to meet their needs, present their concerns, and work hard with all parties to provide a long-term solution. EVI, Lane Marketing, and Delfield have shared a tremendous relationship over numerous years, resulting in an already very trusting and strong relationship.
What did you learn from this collaborative effort that you can take with you to future interactions?
Michael: The teamwork comes with day-to-day contact as well as a measure of trust, but the trust must be reinforced with each step of change. This trust was built with photos of prototypes and samples provided. Collaboration needs good communication.
Kratz: Through teamwork, dedication, and hard work there are no problems that cannot be solved—there are only solutions. Never be afraid to take the difficult calls or ask the difficult questions because, in the end, when you work with tremendous partners such as Lane Marketing and Delfield great things can be accomplished.
What does it mean to you to be recognized by SEFA with the Dream Team award?
Kratz: I am truly honored to be recognized for my small role and participation in this change. EVI and I are newer to the SEFA family and are honored to be presented with this award. To most, coming to work every day is just something that you do. But when you love what you do and who you work for, it makes coming to work not just something you do, but something you look forward to doing, something you love doing. It is an honor to be recognized for doing something that I love.
Michael: It is a great privilege and honor to receive this award. Delfield has been in a long-term relationship with the entire SEFA team and to be honored as part a Dream Team just reinforces our relationship.