Visits to manufacturing facilities at home and abroad are a fairly common occurrence for the FEJ team, but it’s fair to say that the restrictions placed upon all of us since March have meant a reduction in such outings for the time being.
So it was valuable to have the opportunity to see behind the curtain of Flexeserve’s UK operation prior to the latest national lockdown, and discover what makes the company tick in the run-up to the launch of its new Hub solution.
With all the appropriate social distancing and safety measures in place, CEO Jamie Joyce and customer experience director Warwick Wakefield provided us with a comprehensive overview of the company’s strategy and ethos.
Flexeserve’s production facilities have remained open throughout the pandemic, driven by demand from the UK and overseas — the US is set to become a major focus for the business in the months ahead, says Joyce — and a relentless focus on new product development.
“We never stand still. We’re constantly evolving and refining, and there are many more exciting Flexeserve products in the pipeline and coming soon,” he reveals.
The company believes there are five key elements for achieving what it calls “true hot-holding”, where food temperature and quality are maintained.
These are the product, the cook method, the packaging, the technology and the in-store service. While outsiders may perceive the business as an ‘equipment manufacturer’ it actually works with customers on a solutions-led basis to ensure each of those five points is met.
Flexeserve boasts a state-of-the-art test kitchen at Hinckley, where its team of experts advise customers on menu development, cooking methods and packaging optimisation. During our visit, it was testing how the flagship food product of a leading chain reacted to different temperature regimes.
Downstairs is the R&D floor, where design engineers are working on future product developments and testing new food-to-go concepts.
A purpose-built laboratory — thought to be the only one of its kind in the UK — simulates the thermal environments in which the units may be placed.
Over time, this set-up has allowed it to refine the pioneering hot air technology at the heart of its equipment through rigorous testing methods.
“Our dedicated research and development team are constantly monitoring the needs of the market,” says Joyce. “We have our eyes set on the future being a cloud-connected world. We think cloud technology and hot-holding have a wonderful future together. That’s why we’re beginning to roll out the next generation of cloud-based controllers – Flexeserve Hub, for example, is shipping cloud-ready.
On the factory floor, meanwhile, every product is assembled by skilled engineers using the highest quality components and manufactured in compliance with ETL Intertek and CE standards.
Under Joyce’s leadership, Flexeserve has embraced Lean manufacturing principles and introduced new automation to drive efficiencies.
From the move to recyclable heavy duty cardboard packaging to the modification of loading bays to simplify the despatch process, it’s the small details that count where this inventive brand is concerned.