A Q&A with Steve Elliott, MD and founder of Serviceline

11 December 2014
A Q&A with Steve Elliott, MD and founder of Serviceline

Catering equipment and refrigeration maintenance provider Serviceline is 25 years old, Lisa Jenkins talks to managing director and founder Steve Elliott about service, parts and technology.

How has ‘service' changed?

A major gap in the market opened in the 1980's because customers found it difficult getting proactive service, particularly on imported equipment. UK manufacturers serviced their own products, but the range of equipment was growing and contract caterers, restaurants and hotel chains all wanted one point of contact. Proactive service means advance planning and we found customers loved this new way of looking after the whole kitchen, using Planned Maintenance Schedules to ensure consistency.

Was this because of the industry's expectations?

Customers want their equipment to work all of the time and this expectation will never change. Many will choose proactive service because they understand that advance planning ensures consistency.

How has manufacturing changed in your 25 years with Serviceline?

Technology has played a big part in changing both manufacturing techniques and product features to reduce equipment costs and improve capability. The challenge for the service engineer is keeping up with all the changes and solving problems for customers in busy kitchens far removed from the factory. With so many manufacturers now producing for the world market, the variety of products in UK kitchens is almost mind-numbing.

What are the key attributes you look for in a service engineer?

Is it worth hospitality business taking out Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) contracts?

PPM represents a small investment in ensuring that expensive equipment stays working and doesn't break down for lack of care, or hurt someone because it's unsafe. Our engineers get up to eight days product and safety training every year and customers directly benefit for relatively little outlay.

Has the spare parts sector changed in line with technology?

There's no doubt that the internet has played a major role in the way the spare parts sector operates. However, no matter how efficient the distribution network is, it still relies on specialist knowledge to identify the right component. In my view, reliance on the internet and deskilling manufacturers' spares teams has shifted responsibility more on the users.

Do you have any particular highlights from your time with Serviceline

Winning The Caterer's 'Best Maintenance Contractor' in 2007 for our kitchen and refrigeration maintenance work with the Prison Service was a real highlight. There are not many industry awards that service businesses can win, but we then helped to win the Hotelympia Technology prize two years later for our work on Energy Monitoring.

Also, because we are a people business, I still get a real buzz from watching staff join as trainees or apprentices and develop their career with us.

Can you summarise service in 140 characters

To listen, identify and prepare solutions in advance so customers' needs are delivered with care and understanding of their business

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