Literally right smack in the middle of the United States of America began the quiet metamorphosis of Scotsman, in various incarnations. Scotsman has a long and storied history of doing business in Albert Lea, Minnesota. The story goes back before 1921, generally known as the founding year of the company. In fact, there is an interesting tale on the back of Scotsman ice machines, involving an entirely different company that was later acquired by Scotsman.
GOING BACK IN TIME
It was the year 1894 when a man named H.C. Hanson started tinkering and began developing a gas lighting apparatus. He named his firm the American Gas Machine Company and attracted some local investors, enabling the company to expand. Factor y production and wide employment continued into the 1930s, with the company manufacturing everything from gas lanterns, to camp stoves under the brand of Kamp Kook. They also made kitchen stoves and water heaters which were marketed all over the United States, as well as to foreign markets.
Scotsman itself traces its existence back to 1921 when a local resident Mr. F.A. Trow founded the company which eventually evolved into Scotsman. That year, Mr. Trow resigned his job as sales manager for the American Gas Machine Company in Albert Lea and went into the manufacturing of pressure-fuel camp stoves under the name of Queen.
Not long after, the ‘Queen’ name became nationally known, and eventually became ‘Queen Stove Works’. In 1950, Queen Stove Works acquired the American Gas Machine company which were strong competitors, and added a repertoire of lanterns, ice chests, a range of space heaters and a model of an ice machine. Coincidentally, around the same time, there was an increase in demand for ice by US customers. Ice was arriving in the condition of being 90 percent melted; it was being transported from factories in a highly inefficient manner.
There was a huge demand for small ice makers to produce ice for on-the-spot use. That was how it became that, from the acquisition of the American Gas Machine company, the production of one ice-making machine grew to the largest output in the entire industry.
Queen used the name ‘Scotsman’ to market its commercial ice machines from then on. After being acquired by King-Seeley Corporation in 1957, which then merged with the American Thermos Products Company in 1960, Queen shifted its focus entirely onto the manufacturing of ice machines, due to the fact that it was the most innovative and fast-moving product.
Scotsman eventually became the undisputed world leader in terms of numbers in the ice machine market. There were various types of ice machines making cubed ice, flakes (crushed) ice and nugget ice. Ice storage bins and ice dispensers also came into production.
The doors of Scotsman ice machine production closed in 1988 after almost 68 years of doing business in Albert Lea. The administrative offices of Scotsman were transferred to Vernon Hills, a Chicago suburb. The manufacturing of ice machines moved to a company factory in Fair fax, S.C., which has been producing Scotsman ice machines since the early 1980’s.
PREMIUM GLACIAL PRODUCTS, SOLD EVERYWHERE
Scotsman offers some of the most versatile choices of ice forms in the industry today, including customer preferred shapes which are the Gourmet cube ice and the Nugget Ice, also known as The Original Chewable Ice™. The ice maker to produce Nugget ice was invented and brought to the industry by Scotsman in 1981. The idea was to create a very small and chewable ice that could change the face of ice history forever.
The Nugget ice has a small cylindrical shape but is soft and easy to chew. It absorbs flavours of beverages well and has a ver y quick cooling effect, without melting quickly. Used for food displays or fresh juice cups conservation, it melts very slowly compared to flake ice, and can easily be displaced for hours, since the single small cubes do not attach to each other.
There have been attempts to replicate The Original Chewable Ice™ but none have come close to Scotsman’s version. This product is a true testament to the importance placed on quality in this company.
Another exciting development for Scotsman were the exciting ‘crystal-clear’ Gourmet cubes, long considered their flagship product. Their water spray technology makes the clearest and most long-lasting ice cubes in the market. The Gourmet ice range recently widened to include the range of modular machines that produce these amazing ices, known as the MXG line.
Overall, their range star ts with ice makers that can produce 20 kg per day, up to machines that churn out 5,000 kg per day. The number-one selling product has always been the smaller-sized undercounter ice makers, as many establishments utilize this, and therefore make up the biggest number of Scotsman products sold.
Based on that, it is no surprise that the ice maker market is still rapidly growing in certain par ts of the world and in some specific segments of the market, like the growth of coffee. According to Scotsman Industries Asia Pacific’s general manager Michele Granziera, Scotsman is in a good position to capture most of the market growth, seeing that they have an extremely adequate range, a wide-service network and a high reliability factor of their products.
BRINGING SCOTSMAN TO THE EAST
A major milestone for Scotsman is being among the first icemaker manufacturers to cater to Asia, from as early as the ‘60s. Currently, the company is represented in all countries of Asia Pacific by distributors, with a fully equipped stock of machines, spare parts and dedicated service teams that are constantly being trained in-house.
Their counterparts in Asia sell the complete product lines that are manufactured in all three factories in USA, Italy and China. The range includes Premium Gourmet, dice, flake, superflake, scale, cubelet and nugget ice.
An interesting challenge faced in Asia for the company is convincing business owners in this par t of the world to invest in the machines. According to Granziera, the main reason customers choose to buy ice instead of ice makers is the initial investment, which can be quite high. Scotsman’s solution to this problem is to have their distributors offer ice makers that can be rented, which works out to be the same monthly cost for purchasing a month’s worth stock of ice.
For this region, Scotsman retains their global warranty policy, however, their pricing policy is what differs according to country; it is carefully studied to match the country’s specific needs.
However, there is one main advantage that South East Asian customers may have. Customers in this region can benefit with zero duty for Scotsman products if supplied from the factor y in Shanghai, thanks to the ASEAN free trade agreement. For example, a customer from Malaysia can enjoy 30% savings off the duty price when buying Scotsman ice makers made in Shanghai.
Scotsman has appointed distributors in ever y Asia Pacific country. Furthermore, ever y Scotsman distributor is constantly trained on the company’s product line, as the company wants their end-users to be served in the best way possible - from the selection of the machine that best suits their needs, to the after-sales service which entails the entire life of the machine. Each of their distributors have a steadfast service team and a hefty stock of spare par ts, to ensure the quickest serving time.
The Scotsman manufacturing plant in Shanghai currently has an output of 12,000 machines per year, with numbers that continue to grow and the company plans to ser ve the wider Asia Pacific area using this plant.
ACHIEVING MILESTONES AND FORGING FORWARD
The Scotsman brand is already quite well-known in the market, but they rely on their distribution network as the main marketing channel. Scotsman machines are displayed at several national and international exhibitions in the region, while their Asian counterparts are in direct contact with the regional headquarters.
Scotsman prioritises the satisfaction of the end-user; those who rely on their machines ever y day. Concepts like reliability, easy cleaning and maintenance, low consumption of electricity and water, are considered milestones for the company when achieved. Scotsman has an impressive total of not one, but three R&D departments based in Milan, Chicago and Shanghai and every single one of them apply the above principles to all projects under taken by the company.
Dealing mainly with the consumption and usage of water, Scotsman is rather self-aware when it comes to sustainability.
“Being in the refrigeration business, the subject of sustainability is very important, as refrigerant gases play an important role in sustainable manufacturing. For a long time now, we have been investing in research that points us in the right direction on how to produce ice using only fully ecologic gases. Currently, we have in our range some models which utilize 100% ecologic gases, and we have plans to make all our ranges switch fully to only ecologic gases,” said Granziera.
The future of Scotsman gleams crystal clear with possibilities. While the brand remains one of the most prestigious brands in the market, there are plenty of things that need to be done to maintain this clear lead.
“We have to push the brand further in terms of recognition through the changes we have made on our roadmap for new products. We know very well the market and our main competitors, so now we have to implement that plan with a lot of adrenaline,”said Granziera.