For treats like a crusty panini to go or a freshly crisped pita at a food stall, a contact grill – a.k.a. panini press – is a sure-fire antidote to limp, soggy bread. To make certain that these appliances keep on doing their job long after they are purchased, METRO goes the extra mile to ensure the quality of its own brands. The experts who keep an eagle eye on these products are based in Hong Kong.
Test marathon in Asia
METRO SOURCING International in Hong Kong is responsible for international purchasing as well as quality assurance for the company’s sales lines. Before the panini press ever reaches METRO’s shelves, it undergoes comprehensive tests. First and foremost, the team in Hong Kong checks for compliance of the product with EU regulations. In the ‘fitness for use’ test, user-friendliness, durability, ease of cleaning and maintenance is verified. High focus is given to whether there is potential for improvement that adds more value for the customer. ‘We have a 360-degree development process in which various departments – from After Sales to Quality Assurance – plus input from professional chefs are all involved in any given product. That’s how we can be certain that each METRO product is ready to hit the shelves,’ says Charlie Gocela, lead engineer for the Commercial Gastro product category and LDA and Quality Management Supervisor at the Hong Kong office. But the process is far from over here.
This sophisticated system of regular quality checks continues even after the product launch. In other words, the appliance is not simply released into the wild, but is monitored as long as it remains in the product range. ‘Product information from all the countries where we sell the grill comes together on a single platform, which gives us a big-picture view and performance data for potential improvement,’ Gocela explains. ‘On the same platform, the countries also report faults that occur after the products have been used intensively in commercial kitchens.’
Going all-out to eliminate flaws
The regular checks sometimes also bring unforeseen deviations to light. In the event of serious problems, the product is removed from the shelves until the fault has been rectified in various test runs and the item has passed all the quality checks. ‘We use our internal feedback portal to receive and provide updates on an ongoing basis, so that a chain reaction of measures can take effect immediately whenever an issue crops up,’ Gocela says.
Reliabitly tests in hotel kitchens
Alongside the in-house tests, special collaborative arrangements have been established with various hotels, such as the Novotel in Hong Kong or the Pullman in Shanghai. Unlike in METRO’s test kitchens, the hotels subject the products to the harsh HoReCa realities. Interviews held quarterly with the chefs there give those responsible in Hong Kong a clear picture of how the products are performing as part of a hotel chef’s everyday routines, and they can use these insights to initiate further improvements.
We have a 360-degree development process in which various departments plus input from professional chefs are all involved in any given product. That’s how we can be certain that each METRO product is ready to hit the shelves.Charlie Gocela, lead engineer for the Commercial Gastro product category and LDA and Quality Management Supervisor at the Hong Kong office
Home advantage for the quality team
The Hong Kong location has one huge benefit: products manufactured in Asia need not be shipped halfway around the world for checks and quality tests. ‘Our suppliers and manufacturers are based in proximity, which makes it possible to collect a wide range of products and put them through their paces right here,’ Gocela says. This way, the team can visit the manufacturers at regular intervals and see for themselves how things look, the on-site processes and how they handle the materials. This makes it easy to discuss changes to the product line with the suppliers and manufacturers directly. What’s more, a report about specific products is published annually in the METRO Buying System (MBS), a portal where information such as product updates can be shared internally. If there are changes to EU guidelines that require a particular product to be adapted, Gocela’s team reacts and discusses the new requirements with the suppliers.
Ahead of loading the panini press and other appliances into the overseas shipping containers, the Sourcing team performs one final inspection: before the goods set off on their journey to each METRO country, the experts perform spot checks to make absolutely sure that every shipment is up to the rigorous standards. Now the contact grill is ready to go out into the big, wide world and fulfil its mission of turning soggy bread into crispy paninis.