Leading Foodservice Manufacturing with Simon Lohse
We visited with Simon Lohse, Executive Vice President at Rational USA to discuss his plans to help drive the organization through the pandemic and beyond.
Hospitality News: What is it that continues to drive you to achieve senior positions in companies that engage you?
Simon Lohse: I am motivated by bringing success to an organization. Through effective leadership I love to help people recognize and achieve their potential. Identifying strategic challenges, setting and meeting strategic goals, growing the business in a sustainable way through teamwork and the development of mutually beneficial business partnerships is, for me, a key value.
HN: Seeing as how you had the opportunity to experience the food equipment industry in both the U.S. and abroad, what are some of the instrumental differences in how dealers and service companies operate? And, which model do you feel is a better one?
SL: There are a number of differences in the way dealers, service companies and manufacturers operate in different countries. I would not say that one model is better than another. The model adopted in a particular country is the one that works for that territory or market. In Europe, there are a range of models in different counties, but most dealers have engaged with and successfully developed their own service capability as well as installation. Similarly a number of service companies have developed as dealers. Nonetheless, independent service companies and dealers without service still exist in Europe.
One big difference in the U.S. market are the representative companies. The model does not exist in Europe, however I see it as a major benefit to the market. The relationship between Manufacturer, the representative company and dealer is extremely important and instrumental in supplying the maximum customer benefit to the end user operator.
HN: What changes do you envision that will take place over the next 3-5 years within the industry?
SL: Both here in the U.S. and in Europe, we see an increasing consolidation in both dealers and service companies. More and more we find dealers and service companies have a wider and even national geographic reach. Dealers are also increasingly investing in kitchen design and project management.
In terms of kitchen design, we are seeing an increased requirement for connected, intelligent, smart devices whether in the hot, cold or wet side of the kitchen. Rising costs in energy, food products, chemicals and of course labor will increase the focus on return on investment in equipment purchasing decisions.
HN: What is your current passion in terms of changes you would like to see in the food industry relating to equipment?
SL: Increasingly people look for businesses that have a clear policy on sustainability. This is a crucially important topic for any business. In terms of food equipment it obviously encompasses energy efficiency, but manufacturers also need to look further into reducing food waste, increasing yields, reducing chemical consumption and utilizing recyclable materials into their designs.
HN: What do you see for yourself and what challenges are you prepared to take on over the next five years?
SL: Having only just moved to the US I am enjoying getting to know and understand a new market, as well as meeting new friends and business partners. I am excited to explore the US and all it has to offer.
HN: How has the supply chain compromised Rational’s ability to remain on schedule to deliver equipment consistent with customer demand?
SL: It is a challenge for us all in the current supply chain environment. At the same time as the supply chain disruptions we have seen record demand for our products which inevitably has lead to longer lead times than normal. Throughout this period we have worked hard to give accurate and factual information to our partners regarding product availability even though the situation remains dynamic. I am pleased that our factories have not stopped production throughout this period. We have successfully secured supplies of all components and raw materials necessary to continue production although, as for everyone, the supply of electronic boards has been compromised. Nevertheless we have more than 2,200 units pre-assembled in our U.S. warehouse. As electronic boards become available we complete these units and release them for immediate shipment to our customers. In April alone we have completed over 1,000 units for the U.S. and Canadian markets.
HN: Has the shortage of workers and work ethic of the day, impacted your company’s ability to grow and deliver service as a result of the pandemic?
SL: The skill shortage and labor shortage impacts all of us in all industries. At Rational, our ethos is to support our employees; this was also a key strategy in our business during the pandemic. As a result we retained the majority of our staff and were able to maintain support to our partners and end-user customers throughout the pandemic.
HN: Has the pandemic changed the trajectory of Rational, and if so, how?
SL: Our commitment remains, as before Covid, to offer maximum customer benefit to end-users through strong strategic business relationships with our representatives, partners, dealers and service partners.
The pandemic has altered customer behavior and accelerated the need for digital content and engagement in our sales process, I am very proud that we successfully launched two new products through the use of digital platforms, webinars and training videos during the pandemic.