A lot of the tasks in a workshop are driven by the need to repair something which has gone wrong, creating difficulty scheduling jobs. At Wakefield Trucks, based in the northern Adelaide suburb of Salisbury, next to the major freight routes heading for Port Augusta and Mildura, most of the time jobs are only scheduled for two days out. Often the timetable for the following day is set by the phone calls that morning.
“As soon as we book more than two days ahead, the workload seems to snowball, as you still have all of this repair work coming in, and you can get behind very, very quickly,” says Jason Soteriou, Workshop Manager. “We can manage it this way. We have other projects within the system, which are internal jobs, where we can move people on and off the job.
“We don’t make so much money from those projects and it’s not the most cost effective way to do it, by pulling people on and off, but it does allow us to say yes to a lot of people, where other businesses would be booked out.”
Repair and Maintenance Contracts
In Australia, Penske is expanding the types of trucks it is selling in Adelaide, including a large garbage contract for 20 Dennis Eagles, all of which will be serviced off site at the customer’s facility.
“We are finding the big companies are wanting to fix their overheads,” says Wakefield’s Kieren O’Brien. “We are seeing more repair and maintenance contracts coming through. In a lot of cases it makes our life easier in the workshop, we know what we can and can’t do. There is no need for approvals from the customer for finance or for the repairs.
“If it needs brakes, it gets brakes. We just have to phone the customer and tell them we need it for so long. However, on a traditional repair you have to go back and quote and then, maybe, re-quote, and you may or may not get the job. You can get straight on with the job, rather than park the job until the owner gets back to you.
Panel Shop Expansion
“The panel shop is one of the things which will expand into the future,” says Kieren. “The market for heavy-vehicle crash repairs is fairly small. No new players have come into the market. It has become a lot more technical than it was. Many people don’t realise this.
“Something like the MAN, with its crumple-zone cabs and other technologies, for a lot of the smaller repairers, is becoming more difficult. Unless you have got all of the information, the repair techniques and the training, it’s going to get harder and harder. These guys won’t be able to service the complete range of product as it becomes more specialised.
“I couldn’t imagine trying to run a panel shop these days, without all of the help we get from the manufacturers. No disrespect to the small guys, they do a very good job, but working on a range from four-tonne trucks to 200-tonne trucks would be impossible to keep up with, especially things like multiplexed wiring in a cab repair or replacement.”