Technicians Needed

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Just like in any other workshop, high-quality technicians are needed to run a small commercial vehicle workshop designed to cater for vans. It brings a different set of issues to the workshop manager and Diesel News talked to a busy facility in central Melbourne handling Renault vans.

Essendon Renault is one of the biggest Renault dealers in Australia and the top seller of commercial vehicles for the French brand. As a result of the growth in van sales for the operation over the past ten years, the decision was made to set up a workshop dedicated to handling work for the commercial vehicles customers the company now had on its books.

The facility is the only stand-alone Renault commercial vehicle service centre in Australia. Many of the Renault dealers around Australia sell the commercial range but by being specialists, Essendon Renault is finding vans sold by other dealers are ending up in its workshop due to the level of specialisation possible with a specifically designed workshop.

In a typical month, the workshop will see over 400 vans coming through the workshop facility in one way or another. There are about 13 vans a day getting serviced, on top of the normal flow of pre-delivery work, which has been boosted by a large hire fleet order working its way through the system.

This work is handled by five technicians, with another two in the pipeline to cope with growing demand for the company’s workshop services. Renault runs an apprentice programme, with one of the technicians currently going though the process. They get one week a month in the classroom.

The other techs run through new product training, technical updates, plus Renault technical meetings quarterly for the highest grade of technician. Service advisors get a series of training workshops during the year.

A further two top technicians are sponsored through a Renault initiative, they come from Saudi Arabia, and bring over thirty years’ experience in the product. This is valuable for working on a range that has only been available here for limited period of time.

The six hoists and one diagnostic bays are able to cope with the workflow, but Nick Calvert, Essendon Renault After Sales Manager, does admit to needing ‘half a hoist more’ sometimes. With such a large building there will always be plenty of room for growth and more bays will be added, as and when required. The wash bay is designed to be portable and can be moved to free up more space for extra bays.

In the Essendon Renault business, vans represent over 45 per cent of sales, and over 50 per cent of all servicing work. The van work is turning out to be quite seasonal, with minimal servicing work in the lead-up to Christmas, during the delivery rush. The team doubles to cope with the rush of work in January. The operation has realised the commercial vehicle side of the equation is growing and has reset the business to concentrate on vans as sales continue to be strong.

“We have found a lot of vans are being used to replace small Japanese trucks,” says Nick. “We are doing a lot of fridge conversions on them for people doing country runs in the morning. One of our customers does about 15,000km per month. He’s doing Bacchus Marsh to Lorne and back, twice a day. We see him every two months for a service and he’s already up to 240,000km.”

Essendon Renault became a Pro+ dealer in 2015, in order to reach this grade the operation has to demonstrate a commitment to customer service and quality assurance. The servicing side of the process requires a dedicated team to proactively keep standards high. There is an auditing regime from Renault to ensure dealers continue to meet the strict criteria.