Probat buys ED Industrial in Americas

In January this year, German roaster manufacturer Probat announced that its US arm, Probat Inc, had purchased the North American millwright and fabrication company ED Industrial (EDI). The acquisition marked a significant expansion of Probat’s ambitions in North America as, along with EDI’s physical manufacturing capabilities, the company will give Probat the ability to create a full service offering for customers in the world’s largest coffee market. While Probat’s Europe operation offers a much more comprehensive service to its customers, until now the US operation has been much more focused on simply supplying the roasters for which the company is famous, partnering with other companies to provide additional services such as installation and after-sales care. It is via this type of arrangement that Probat already established a relationship with EDI, which it has used for more than 30 years to assist with factory installations and machinery services. For Probat Inc’s President, John Fortin, this acquisition is the direct application of his stated desire at the time of his appointment, just over a year ago, to create an enhanced value-added proposition for Probat’s customers. “My strategy when I joined the Probat group was to increase the value proposition that we offer our customers by expanding our product offerings that make it easier for our customers to process coffee,” Fortin tells Global Coffee Report. Due to the technical sophistication, and in many cases simply the sheer size, of Probat’s machinery, most customers require assistance with installation to allow them to start producing efficiently and quickly. “Probat now provides this with EDI,” Fortin says. “We also have heard that our customers demand the highest level of technically competent post sales service support, so this acquisition of EDI also gives Probat expanded capabilities to offer world-class service support.” Fortin says that Probat’s customers are looking for ways to simplify their process in today’s complex business environment, so being able to provide equipment and services should be seen as value-added offerings that set Probat apart from the competition. “Along this same strategy, Probat is also expanding our engineering capacity internally,” he says. “Coffee processing customers look to Probat for our technical competence and technical guidance, so we are investing in our engineering group to be able to provide an even higher level of technical support to our customers.” All of this aligns with Probat’s global strategy to put service at the heart of its business. “Probat is working on a strategic initiative to build a world class global service organisation and the first two geographic markets that we want to focus on are Europe and North America,” Fortin says. “Probat USA had a very limited technical service organisation and the EDI acquisition gives us access to an additional group of skilled and knowledgeable service technicians familiar with Probat equipment. In addition, the acquisition gives Probat the ability to offer turnkey packages of equipment, installation services and post-sales service and maintenance to the North American customer base.” Logistically, the acquisition of EDI will see Probat take over the company’s engineering and fabrication plant in Toronto, Canada, as well as growing its workforce by around 50 people, mainly skilled tradespeople. It is this addition to Probat’s workforce, and the intellectual property that comes with it, that is the key strategic gain from the acquisition, Fortin says. “We will operate EDI as a separate division of Probat Inc, but we are already working together in many functions,” he tells GCR. “We have already started sharing engineering resources, and we will take advantage of the expanded fabrication capabilities in the shop at EDI Canada to begin producing fabrications for Probat equipment, and we have already started to produce joint commercial sales proposals offering full turnkey packages of the equipment and installation services.” Fortin tells GCR that this is an unusual kind of acquisition for Probat. “Probat has traditionally purchased equipment manufacturing businesses, but this is unique in that it is the first time that Probat has purchased a service business, so we primarily bought the skilled and knowledgeable employees of EDI,” he says. All of this, Fortin says, will help Probat Inc achieve its aim of offering a much more rounded service to its customers. “Probat is currently working on the strategic initiative to build a world class professional service organisation that offers the highest quality of service products to our customer base, so this acquisition of EDI was directly related to building out a highly knowledgeable service organisation in North America to complement the already knowledgeable service organisation that exists at Probat Werke in Europe,” he says. “Going forward, we will look to add to our strong service capabilities and organisations in Europe and North America by expanding our service offerings in Asia and South America.” In the immediate term, Probat’s US customers will see a much increased capacity from Probat Inc in the provision of those additional services. “The immediate benefits to our customers in North America will be the additional skilled service technicians that are already trained and have the knowledge to provide expert service and maintenance on Probat equipment,” Fortin says. “Probat in North America will now be able to increase responsiveness on customer service requirements, which will allow us to increase our service and maintenance performance. This is critical because when a Probat customer’s roaster is down with a service issue, the customer is not producing and making product, so they need their equipment issue resolved immediately. In addition, customers that buy our roasters and other coffee processing equipment often ask us for advice as to where to turn to for the installation service. Now we will be able to remove one more concern that a customer has when buying a roaster and trying to get it up and running. So we will make it even easier for our customers to buy Probat coffee roasters.” GCR

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