A strange few weeks in the UK RAC sector has seen what some have described as the shock news at the demise of WR Refrigeration - one of the biggest RAC service companies in Europe.
While it is very sad - particularly for those employees who have lost their jobs - it shouldn't really be a surprise should it? Everybody knows about the way supermarkets operate - continually screwing their suppliers' prices down. Sooner or later the supplier is forced out of business but what do the supermarkets do about it? Nothing. They find another supplier to fill the gap left and then start putting pressure on them as well. They get their suppliers so in thrall to them that they will take almost any deal available just to protect their contracts, even when those contracts are unsustainable.
Now, I'm not saying that was the sole cause of the demise of WR because I'm not in a position to know that, but this is typical of the behaviour of supermarket buyers and it wouldn't surprise anyone to find this is the case here. It does seem ludicrous though that since the first EIA Chilling Facts report was published and many supermarkets reacted by starting to roll out alternative refrigerants technology this put enormous pressure on their service providers to upskill their workforces at the very same time that they were putting pressure on their service providers to reduce or freeze their prices! You don't need to be an economics graduate to see how unsustainable that situation is. One can only hope that the new "big" supplier on the block, Integral, aren't forced down the same route as WR.
As for those who have lost their jobs in this crisis, the likelihood is that many of the engineers will find work - because good engineers are hard to come by and there is a general shortage of good, well-trained engineers. For those that don't find themselves gainfully employed in the industry soon there is always the possibility of starting up their own small RAC service companies, maybe along with other former colleagues. At the last AREA General Assembly we were analysing the latest figures we had of our membership and what was very obvious from the statistics was the proof of what many of us smaller contractors have always felt was the case: the RACHP sector isn't so much made up of SMEs (small to medium enterprises) but was in fact overwhelmingly represented by micro businesses - something like 95% of the service contractors in our sector right across Europe are made up of less than 10 employees, indeed many are sole traders.
Looking back over past blogs on this website this knowledge puts another spin on the content of the discussion threads, particularly the widespread grassroots support for the idea of an award for those who go the extra mile in servicing their customers. Industry awards generally are supported by and won by the big national contractors. As someone who has judged on a number of awards over the years it is a bit disconcerting that each year sees the same companies putting themselves forward often with similar contracts and entries. I can assure you all that the entries are diligently checked through before a winner is chosen, but it can seem to those on the outside that each year there is a lot of "same old, same old" in the list of winners.
Which is why it has been so heartening, at the very time one of Europe's biggest contractors has gone to the wall, that ACR News announced the new Customer Service Award as part of their annual awards ceremony. What better time to highlight the essential work at the sharp end of the industry and reward somebody regardless of the size of his/her company. I truly hope the inaugural winner of this award is somebody from one of the smaller companies - they are the true life blood of this industry.
12 November 2013 10:06:00