Every once in a while, a company comes along and simply smashes traditional beliefs in search of a better product. In the US, we have been led to believe for decades that the only way to build such a product was the way Henry Ford did it: with an assembly line.
One German-based company with a significant footprint in North America has challenged that: RATIONAL. The combi oven manufacturer’s fresh new approach to building an oven has put them in the winner circle as the recipient of one of the world’s most coveted awards.
Recently, RATIONAL was chosen as the award recipient for Germany’s “Factory of the Year” award by a jury of well-known experts. The decision was made based on the unique challenges faced and conquered by the company, such as the supply chain issues, the need for skilled workers, and sustainability practices. Peter Wiedemann, Chief Operational Officer, accepted this award during the conference in Munich, one of many awards the company has earned over the past few years.
RATIONAL started off producing their first combi oven in 1973 and have improved on their base models with the addition of new technology, materials, and high-quality production. The goal of the RATIONAL combi oven is to bring efficiency to a new level. The units roast, grill, bake, broil, steam, sous vide, and much more. In a minimal footprint, RATIONAL’s combi ovens carefully coordinate humidity, air speed, and temperature. It is a cooking system that thinks with you, learns from you, forgets nothing, adjusts, and adapts. RATIONAL’s cooking intelligence functions have set the industry standard. It responds to changing environments dynamically and allows for you to adjust settings like color or doneness independently.
The team at RATIONAL produces each unit individually as part of their U.i.U. principle. “Being focused on the customer and giving responsibility to our team is part of our program,” explains Wiedemann. “Behind that principle is the idea of giving each member of our team a sense of ownership.” That is accomplished by each RATIONAL factory worker building a unit from start to finish.
Translated, U.i.U. means “intrapreneurship”: being an entrepreneur within the company, a concept that Wiedemann has used to lead his team over the last 35 years. “If you look at our type plates along the units, you will always find an engraving that reads ‘Proudly produced by’ followed by the name of the person who built that specific product,” said Wiedemann. The idea behind this principle is to get each team member to take ownership of the products they make. With that ownership comes a sense of pride in one’s work and ensures the quality of the equipment being made. Wiedemann shared a story about a customer’s experience with RATIONAL’s manufacturing process: “We had a customer from Sweden who ordered a second unit from us, and both units were made by the same person. The customers were so happy with the product that they requested the next one to be made by the same team member.” Each team member is trained to match productivity and quality levels before joining the production line. The benefit of this system is that each person gets direct feedback, and all the manufacturing is traceable in case of errors.
This type of process, combined with the high standards of the factory, has solidified RATIONAL’s position as one of the top manufacturing companies in the industry. “This design of our organization removes the complications and gives more attention to the finer details of production. With the use of robotic tools, the job of producing each unit is more streamlined, and the quality is assured for each piece of the combi.” said Wiedemann.
The award for “Factory of the Year” was given by Kearny, a global management and consulting firm. “If you look at the previous winners, we are joining the ranks of other excellent companies, which is a great honor,” said Wiedemann. “We are delighted to have earned this award as well as the positive feedback received during the factory tour. It inspires us to continue creating these products.” RATIONAL is committed to their vision of serving foodservice professionals and developing internationally recognized commercial cooking equipment. “We want to help facilitate making delicious food for hospitals, kitchens, schools, and anywhere food is served,” said Wiedemann.
For more information about RATIONAL, and to view their products, visit their website.