Where Are All The Ice Machines?
Why Does it Take so Long to Get an Ice Machine Right Now?
COVID has changed the world and pretty much only in negative ways. The refrigeration business is no exception. Refrigeration equipment used to be plentiful and readily available. Manufacturer’s kept up with demand and typical wait times were very reasonable. That is not the case anymore.
The question is: Is the reason behind it because of reduced production or increased demand? I have had a difficult time determining this. During 2020 no one really seemed to know what was going on when a huge amount of the country’s businesses shut their doors fearing getting sick, getting others sick or possibly being sued if they kept their business operating normally and getting someone sick. It was an absolute certainty that during 2020 production dropped as manufacturers social distanced their employees. But many ‘essential businesses' were allowed to keep operating including construction which may be part of the demand problem.
While people were sitting at home hoping that they could reopen their ‘non-essential’ business, expansion by established companies continued un-hindered and construction of new locations and franchises did not stop.
Starbucks opened 461 new locations in the US in 2020. They followed up with 526 store openings in 2021. Both of these are less than the 2019 numbers of 560 but is still an impressive number during a time when everyone was supposed to be social distancing. That’s a lot of stores in 2020 that all needed ice machines but the ice machine manufacturers needed to scale back production due to COVID which created a demand that outstripped the supply causing insane lead times on ice machines which we are still experiencing today in 2022. All of the major manufacturers of ice machines can not keep up with the demand.
Oregon based Dutch Bros Coffee, an Austin newcomer in 2021, bought so many ice machines from the local Texas distributor that the wait time for large remote ice machines was expanded to 3-6 months minimum for everyone else.
Lots of Items Are in Short Supply
It’s not just ice machines that are in short supply. Walk-in cooler boxes have been another area where lead times have gone from weeks to months. All of our distributors went from being able to get a walk-in in 3-4 weeks to 5-6 months and have stayed around that lead time for well over a year. My advice at this point: plan ahead. Austin is a boom town and is growing so fast that it is not even recognizable anymore with suburbs stretching into all of the surrounding counties.
The ‘great resignation’ in recent months is more than likely contributing to a labor shortage at manufacturers. Employees have been fed up with their jobs and been quitting in droves. You’ve probably noticed that many restaurants have shortened their hours in response to turnover like they have never seen before. The same is true in manufacturing and pretty much any industry which makes it hard to produce products and services in a timely manner.
Is it the Chicken or the Egg?
Unfortunately, I can not say for certain whether it is demand or production which is causing the shortage of equipment. The people I have spoken with at the manufacturers about the lack of equipment are really not decision makers. Some blame copper shortages and some have said they can not get parts from overseas. One thing that is certain is there is definitely a larger demand than supply. My suggestion is that small local businesses start planning ahead. Is your ice machine old and recently required some costly repairs? Is your walk-in cooler box rusting away and getting to the age that it needs to be replaced? Don’t wait until it stops working for you. Plan ahead or you will be left not able to get what you need when you need it. Starbucks and Dutch Bros are planning a year in advance and have the time to wait for reach-ins, walk-ins and ice machines. That is often not the case with the local restaurant whose ice machine just died and the last thing I want to tell someone is that they have to wait three months for a machine that is vital to their business.
Need a new ice machine, walk-in, refrigeration equipment or reach-ins? Get in touch with us and we’ll find you what you need.
Austin: (512) 651-4565
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Or check out our website at www.tripointrefrigeration.com
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