Volvo Commercial Vehicles’ workshop in Brisbane is the first to become an NTI Authorised Dealership. Chris Smith pays the facility a visit.
Volvo Commercial Vehicles (VCV) Brisbane has expanded its repair business by investing more than a million dollars in creating a new Accident Repair Centre – coinciding with it being awarded National Transport Insurance (NTI) Premium Repairer Accreditation, which is a first for any dealership in the country.
As part of the upgrade, VCV Brisbane has moved its repair and painting centre to a new workshop at 42 Campbell Avenue, Wacol, after operating at the Westgate St dealership for the last 12 years.
After identifying the need for a larger workshop due to growth in the paint and panel work section of the business, the new facility is meant to be a major step forward in the ability of the dealership to service its customers. While the old Westgate St workshop had four dedicated bays for repairs, alongside a mechanical service and repair centre, the new facility has 18 work bays – including a new state of the art spray booth and underground pits. Diesel toured the new facility with Dealer Principal, Iain Allison, and Workshop Manager, Eugene Kirk.
“As we have integrated with Mack and Volvo, and now with UD, we got to a point three years ago that we had to make a decision, we had to either scale down the amount we were doing or decide whether we really wanted to take this to another level.”
During our tour, Iain says the smash repair business has been a complement to the existing dealership. It was used for preparing vehicles and then doing some smash repair work for existing customers for the past 12 years, but it was coming to a point where it was encroaching on the service side of the business.
“As we have integrated with Mack and Volvo, and now with UD, we got to a point three years ago that we had to make a decision, we had to either scale down the amount we were doing or decide whether we really wanted to take this to another level,” he explains. “We agreed on the second option, but soon realised we also had to get involved with the insurance companies to get their endorsement and an accreditation for receiving a preferred repairer status.”
He adds, “It was easy to identify that we needed to expand and we couldn’t do it in the facility where we were, so we were looking at how we could put a business case forward to get the approval to invest in a new facility and continue to expand.
“We got board approval to invest just under $1 million in this facility. It enabled us to generate growth, but more importantly to buy the equipment and install the equipment required to gain what NTI required for us to gain Premium Repairer Status, which we have just secured.”
According to Iain, NTI’s standards were exceptionally high, giving VCV a distinct competitive advantage: “I think that some of our dealerships around the country have maybe smaller levels of paint and panel, but no one else has talked to NTI. We are the first truck dealer in Australia across any brand to have the NTI Premium Repairer Status. Because we have decided it is not a bolt on, it is a complement to what we are doing and with this investment, it enables us to offer a high level of service.”
Iain says it is very much early days, but if successful, VCV might review if there is potential for rolling out the model to other states. With other NTI Premium Repairers such as Re-Car and Royans in the region, he added that VCV Brisbane is differentiating itself by focusing on its main three brands, Volvo, Mack and UD.
“We are focusing on our three brands and offer a full whole-of-life support for our existing customers. [But] there will be some other makes of vehicles within their fleets that we can do repairs on, including trailers and tankers. We obviously have to do the repairs as efficiently as possible, as NTI has some stringent guidelines and KPIs, so our customers are getting value for money.
“Next to paint and refurbishments, we also have parts available and a division focusing on recycling and refurbishing second life vehicles. It gives us a good source of panels and dashboards and other equipment that have come from existing vehicles, so repairs can be done as effectively on both newer and older vehicles.”
During our visit, Workshop Manager Eugene emphasises that the specifications NTI has requested are very specific and have streamlined the workflow of the workshop itself. The bays in the new premises needed to be extended for the NTI accreditation, for example.
“The ones we have at Westgate St are 12 metres, but the ones we have here are now 17.1 metres, which is a requirement from NTI to become a Premium Repairer. What’s more, we have set up everything so all the tools and airlines are in the middle of the workshop. Everybody comes towards the centre to make the layout more efficient and everyone has access to everything.”
Eugene adds that a host of new equipment like a Josam straightening floor and a state-of-the-art paint shop have made the workshop much more efficient: “The chassis straightening machine works wonders. It is mounted on concrete and steel almost half a meter deep. The idea is to use it to straighten damaged chassis by using 20 tonne hydraulic rams to push the chassis back into shape.”
The paint booth, meanwhile, now works as a down draft system instead of the traditional roof ventilation. It pushes all the overspray down where it gets sucked into a trap and filtered out. The paint booth also bakes the paint from 80 degrees to 100 degrees Celsius. “We can bake a truck for 20 minutes and then it’s out and ready,” says Eugene.
“We have what we call our ‘preferred used trucks’, so it’s really picking our three brands, which have a good service history, a roadworthy and present really well.”
The set-up of the paint booth has two entries to improve the workflow. The jobs go from the prep area straight into the booth, in a circular workflow – in, out and back around to the bay. “Normally, what we do is put parts in here as well, with the truck, and we do both together and then we bake it so it’s all done together in one hit. It is a drive through, so we don’t want any interruptions in the main booth, we normally use the little booth for the little parts and bits and pieces and it works very efficiently.”
The premises is also kitted out with a roller machine and a guillotine. A bending machine still resides at Westgate St. The new workshop is also equipped with plasma cutters, MIG welders and spot welders. So far, the new set up is working well, as our visit showed. The extra space and capacity has meant the afternoon shift has been cut, for the moment. However, with expected volume from the new Premium Repairer Status, it can easily be brought back to satisfy demand.
“We have enough people at the moment, but as we progress as an NTI Authorised Repair shop, we will be taking on more people as we go along,” says Eugene. “We have the bays which are pretty sufficient in what we need to do. We have ample space, a lot of airlines.
“We also do work on the new trucks coming through – we get a lot of new truck repaints, cabs, chassis, both on the Mack and Volvo side, and UD is supporting us pretty well, so it seems to be working out pretty good.”
Along with the dealership’s vehicles and restoring vehicles for the second life program, the workshop is also keen to get more work from customers with all types of trucks and trailers, even extending its services to the custom truck area. “We do customisation as well, where we sub-contract the work out to a specialist who comes in and can do scroll work and everything else that needs to be done, and then we just place it into the booth for a clear coat,” Eugene explains. “We are willing to take on anything which is out there, we don’t have a bias. If a job comes in here whether it is a truck, tanker or trailer or whatever, we don’t really care, we’ll take it on to the best of our ability and get it back to the customer.”
The used truck department is also based at the new workshop, and this is where Iain says the group goes over the trucks they are selling, especially its three brands. “This is where we decide what we will refurbish and sell for our second life vehicles, the ones we decide we want to sell, we invest in a refurbishment here, the others we will sell wholesale. It depends on the age of the vehicle, but if it is up to five years in age you can spend up to $20,000 refurbishing it with paint and panel repairs and getting it roadworthy.
“We have what we call our ‘preferred used trucks’, so it’s really picking our three brands, which have a good service history, a roadworthy and present really well. So, then the customer has a good vehicle for the next four or five years for a good second life.”
THE VIEW FROM THE FLOOR
Diesel took time to ask worker Scott Kingdom what he thought of the new premises.
“I really like the new workshop, we have everything we need to get the job done. What I especially like is that when we are straightening a chassis, we get to use the Josam. It is a lot easier to use than other methods of straightening a chassis and it is really good equipment.
“I use the overhead cranes for lifting things like bullbars, turntables, engines and cabs, and it then becomes a one person job so it is easier, and that way everyone else can keep working without disruption.
“It saves us a lot of time because we have three of the overhead cranes which can all work at once. It’s been really good in regards to our productivity in the workshop.
“We also use Porter Powers, which are 20-tonne hydraulic pumps, we use to straighten a chassis or anything else that needs to be moved. We use it for squashing steel together, when it’s all twisted and we can’t get another part, we just repair it.
“The other handy design is that all our work benches we have with our grinders and the drill press are located right in the middle of the workshop along with belt sanders, so we’ve got everything we need right where we need it, and that is really good.”