For Ross Nucifora the key to running a good workshop is knowing what you are good at and making sure the workshop culture is values driven and delivers the goods in its specialist area. Diesel Workshop visits the busy RSC Diesels’ workshop in Cairns.
Cairns is a destination for trucks and not a city with a lot of through traffic. It tends to be a location where trucks turn up, unload or get loaded, turnaround and head home. Not many large fleets have a base here, but the trucking industry is busy as the local economy remains vibrant and consumers continue to spend.
The southern edge of the city is growing fast with industrial areas popping up on former sugar cane fields. On one such industrial estate, one of the first tenants was Ross Nucifora, known as Rosco, and his RSC Diesels business. The facility sits on a corner block with truck access in on one side and an exit on the other.
When Diesel Workshop visited the site it was early morning and Rosco was buzzing around in the workshop making sure all was prepared for the technicians coming into work to get on with the job of getting trucks old and new through the workshop and back out on the road making money.
Rosco has been working as a mechanic since 1990 after growing up in the small town of Babinda about 40km south of Cairns on the Bruce Highway, where the cane fields meet the mountains.
Rosco has seven core values which are written on the wall. They illustrate where RSC Diesels are as a company. They are designed to work whether you read them as a customer or an employee on the inside. Rosco reckons putting them up there really eliminates a lot of conversations he doesn’t need to have.
“It’s also very important to be able to connect with the customer and understand what their needs and wants are,” says Rosco. “Sometimes their wants don’t line up with what their needs are. Then you have to explain that you understand their wants but you also know that their needs are something else. It’s like small trucking companies which are growing fast, they don’t need all the bling, they just need a workhorse. They need a vehicle which is going to return them an income.
“We try to eliminate surprises as much as possible, whether they be internal or external. When we do a service we make sure the customer has an actionable step after the service. We don’t just say the brakes need to be done, we give them a particular action to do. They have to decide whether they want to rebook it or wait until the next service. Then we can plan and schedule it with them.
“If you service your vehicles well, breakdowns and engine repairs are minimised. It’s a bit of a Catch 22 when you are trying to explain this to fleet owners. Whether you like it or not, your vehicle is going to need maintenance and you are either going to spend it at the service or at a very inconvenient time when the truck is broken down. You are better off having it done in an environment when it is controlled. We tell them scheduled maintenance is not downtime. If you know a truck is going in for repair at a particular time you can usually plan around that event.”
RSC Diesels has a purpose built workshop with drive through bays. The workshop is fitted with an automatic oil dispensing system. The business specialises in fleet servicing of all makes and models of truck, but RSC is also a selling dealer for Scania in North Queensland. The logic for Rosco is that he can sell a vehicle on the basis of the quality of RSC’s servicing and repairs efficiency.
“The Scania brand is a premium product and this really resonates with the type of person I am,” says Rosco. “I am all about quality work and a quality vehicle, I know it’s not for everyone. Sometimes someone needs to buy a lesser quality truck just to do a particular job or if they are seeing how something is going to pan out. Once you’re serious and up and going, you need a premium product to be reliable.”
For Rosco, the aim of the business is to become something which functions as if it is an arm of a customer’s business. If a customer is not profitable then RSC Diesels will not be profitable either. Around 30 per cent of the trucks which come through the workshop on a weekly basis are Scanias. In recent times this percentage has ramped up quite quickly. Rosco reckons, as recently as eight years ago, there were only a couple of Scanias in the area but the number is rising quickly and continues to rise.
RSC also has to cope with some major seasonal changes. The workshop becomes very busy around the sugar harvest season, when all the other businesses in the area also have to work under extreme pressure.
Cairns is also suffering from an extreme technician shortage, Rosco tells us he can’t even get people to apply for positions when they are advertised. The business currently have three apprentices working with the three trained technicians. The plan is to engage a spare parts apprentice, making an entire workforce consisting of 15 people.