Nota Motors has been building up a workshop business for 38 years. It was started by Harj and Aman Nota’s father who had emigrated to Australia from the UK some years before. Originally based in Keysborough, the business moved to a new block of land in Hallam and built its own workshop a few years later.
The business is run by the two brothers, who took over from their father and are working hard to adapt their business to the new requirements of truck owners. Times are changing in the trucking industry and small workshop owners need to adapt and ensure they have the latest equipment in order to keep up with those demands.
Hallam, at the eastern edge of Melbourne, has an intense concentration of road transport related industries. Just across the road from the Maxicube trailer factory is an unassuming truck workshop, which is doing a sterling job keeping a number of small fleets, and some larger ones, on the road.
Fleet customers now make up around 40 per cent of the business. There are not many accredited bus testing facilities in the area, so the workshop probably handles about 80 per cent of all of the local bus testing in the area.
The workshop has to handle any kind of truck, from B-doubles to small delivery vehicles. With the large infrastructure boom continuing, there is plenty of work sorting out tipper and dog combinations. There is also a large demand for maintenance on buses converted into motorhomes and this has become an area where Harj has seen considerable growth.
The workshop will send technicians out to customer sites, but only when there is a big job to handle, like certifying 10 new trailers for a fleet. Anything such as roadworthy tests have to be done at the workshop site though where the roller brake tester and other equipment is situated.
The company’s first roller brake tester was fitted 23 years ago and has just been replaced by a new Maha model. The actual roller brake tester itself was still working well but the computer controls couldn’t be updated. Four new Maha mobile hoists also arrived in the workshop at around the same time and Harj reckons their arrival has increased productivity by well over 15 per cent as a result of the flexibility possible when using the new hoists.
“The other reason why we decided to upgrade the roller brake tester was because we now have to report both static and dynamic testing in the procedures,” says Harj. “We knew the change was coming and prepared for it.”
The continuing expansion of the business means the current facilities are becoming more and more stretched. Luckily, the site bought all those years ago does have a large area to the rear of the current workshop, on which it will be possible to build. The next stage of the business’ expansion is likely to have the effect of more than doubling the amount of covered workshop space available.
“There has been a big rise in activity for us throughout 2018,” says Harj. “There was a time where you could walk into the yard out the front and see three trucks needing repair, but now it is very rare to walk into the yard and find it anything but completely full, with nowhere to park a car. It seems to have happened all of a sudden. We’ve been investing in marketing, advertising and a lot of social media, and never realised it would work so well.
“We started by engaging a search engine optimisation company to help us with things like Google AdWords, and to promote our website and the business. From there we created a Facebook page and an Instagram page, not thinking that it would make much difference, but if you do it on a regular basis every week, it does.
“I just walk around the workshop once a week and take photographs of vehicles or something else, load them up onto the site and put a few notes in there with them. You get a bit of engagement back from people and you can do a bit of boosting, where you target particular markets. You can also target people with particular interests for a set fee each week.
“There was a slow increase in traffic and now we are getting a lot of online bookings, which was unheard of a year ago. It’s a combination of a lot of factors including social media and things like word of mouth.”
A lot of potential customers will phone up the workshop and ask specifically how much it will cost for servicing a particular truck. According to Harj, they will say that the price quoted was a little better than the one from the larger truck dealerships.
“It’s those value ads that we can give them, in terms of things like personal care, which makes us different and gets us the ongoing work,” says Harj. “We are willing to put ourselves out for our good customers and they know we will look after them. Elsewhere, they are going to be treated as a number.
“We also get a lot of calls from people asking whether we have the computer software to reset the servicing system on their trucks. We do have a good range of diagnostics so we have the equipment for servicing a wide range of trucks. The level of equipment we have does make them more comfortable.
“I also think just being a part of a family business does resonate with the customers. Even for the staff, they feel like family and many have been here a long time.”