When Isuzu dealer Winter and Taylor moved to a new site in Geelong, the new, spacious and well-equipped workshop breathed new life into the business. Tim Giles visits the new dealership on the outskirts of the Victorian city to check it out.
Economically, Geelong has been hit hard recently. With Ford’s announcement to pull out of Australia, the city on the southern coast of Port Phillip Bay could have gone into the doldrums; but instead, the local economy has adapted and diversified, with an increasing proportion of the population now commuting to Melbourne.
As the local Isuzu dealer, Winter and Taylor has also adapted to the new reality and found new growth opportunities along the way. But as the business grew, it became too big to fit into its original premises near the centre of Geelong, forcing it to make a move to a new, customised site outside town.
“The new site allowed us to consolidate our operation, because in the past, our sales and service facilities were about five km apart,” says Graeme Ruby, Isuzu Sales Manager Winter and Taylor. “It’s all in one place now.”
Ross Evans-Smith, Isuzu Service Manager at Winter and Taylor, started out as an apprentice mechanic in the 1970s. After a number of jobs in different parts of the industry and the world, Ross began his career with Winter and Taylor, at the time a Holden Bedford dealer, in 1989. He joined the Isuzu family just at the time the company was changing rapidly, away from its Bedford roots to the modern Japanese market leader we know today.
“We were a small operation when I started,” says Ross. “At that time, Isuzu had begun to lift their profile and marketing. There were big changes within the organisation. I was lucky enough to be at their inaugural National Dealers Service Managers Conference, held in Melbourne in 1990. It was the first time Isuzu had acknowledged the service side of the business and it’s continued to grow in importance ever since.”
Passing 25 years with the same company is a major milestone for Ross. He has been rewarded in his 25th year with the job of setting up a workshop to take the business into the future. Although not a greenfield site, the facility has enough space and advantages to enable Ross to get a much better working environment as well as improved productivity for the expanding workforce.
When a Bunnings store closed at a road junction on the road into Geelong from Melbourne, Winter and Taylor took over the site in order to consolidate the whole truck business on one site with enough room for expansion. This has taken place in the last year and the operation is now stretching its legs in the roomier surrounds of the new site.
“For the first time, parts, sales and service are all together,” says Ross. “We are now all together on the one site, opening at 7.30 am and closing at 1 am. Business is fairly brisk. The new location has lifted our profile, it’s a fairly impressive site when you are driving down the Princes Highway at night. The lights are on and the doors are open, so we have got a fair bit of business through that.”
The move has seen the workshop take on three additional staff. There are now 11 people on the floor, with plans for further expansion of the team in the near future.
The workshop services and repairs all makes and models, but primarily the Isuzu trucks sold by the franchise. Most of the trucks serviced belong to small local operators. Fleets worked on tend to be those where the dominant brand is Isuzu, but the workshop will service any large trucks in the fleet, of any brand.
Changing the facility from a Bunnings to a truck dealership involved some modification. The exits and entrances had to be modified to enable trucks of all sizes to be able to get in and out of the building. The workshop now has drive through bays with trucks driving in one side and out the other, further improving workflow. Extending the size of the workshop also enabled the company to win a contract servicing a large local bus fleet from Geelong.
The facility has a full-size pit, but the extra room gave Ross an opportunity to invest in a remote four-post hoist, giving the workshop added flexibility. With the new hoists being fully portable, they can be moved around the site to where they are needed.
The hoists only need to be recharged on weekends. The workshop gets a full week worth of work out of the system before it is recharged after the last shift finishes at 1am on Saturday morning.
“Four-post wheel hoists weren’t something I looked at,” says Ross. “I had worked with them in the past and they were cumbersome, with hoses and cables draped all around the workshop. However, the wireless hoist is self-contained and we also bought the ramp system for it. Now we can use it as a dedicated vehicle lifting hoist which you can drive onto, rather than attaching the hoist to the wheels.
“It gives us greater scope with the vehicles we put on it, without having to shift any of the posts. It also gives us flexibility if we need to rearrange the geometry of the workshop. We can also use one, two or all four to lift a vehicle anywhere on site. We liked the hoists so much we have ordered a few add-on extras like a jacking beam.”
The hoists spend most of their working life in a position alongside the pit so technicians working on them both have access to the reels for dispensing lubricants etc.
The workshop is also a roadworthy agent, able to carry out Victorian Roadworthy testing. The inclusion of the panel division of the Winter and Taylor operation on the site has meant the workshop can now also handle body work repairs on site.
The body and panel shop was developed on the site to service the painting requirements of Winter and Taylor’s car dealerships, but a full paint service will be on offer to truck customers in the future too.
Chassis modification and truck body tasks are not handled on site, but just about everything else is. Engine and gear box rebuilds are handled in-house, and the workshop looks to act as a one‑stop‑shop, handling all work on a truck but using outside suppliers to handle some jobs which the workshop is not set up to take on.
Ross is going through the process of setting up an engine reconditioning room as well. When fully equipped, it will enable the workshop to offer a cleaner and safer environment for the technicians.
The parts department is now situated alongside the workshop, manned by two staff. This means the Service Manager, Parts Manager and one administrative member of staff can work together.
In recent years, the number of staff on the tools in the workshop has grown without the number of support staff needing to grow. “We can now better interact with our parts department as we are sitting right next to each other,” says Ross. “Trying to do hand signals over the phone trying to explain what things looked like, when we were on separate sites, is a thing of the past. They can ask us directly or we can show them what we are talking about. It also improves our productivity and helps with customers waiting on parts deliveries.
“We have been fortunate, as the profile of the business has been lifted, we have more people interested in working in the business. Technicians are always looking to improve their circumstances. They are not just looking at financial rewards, but also the quality of the environment, and they take notive of the investment which has been made. Winter and Taylor has been around for over 100 years and there’s a positive outlook for growth.”
The opportunities presented by the new location mean a truck wash is in the planning and will be started once the other parts of the business located on the new site have settled in. It will be a facility customers will be able to use outside of normal business hours.
Other facilities within the dealership are also available to customers at all times. Apart from the state-of-the-art coffee machine, there is a gym available to any customer, including showers, plus a new boardroom, which can also be used by any customer for meetings etc.
The move to the new site has seen a big growth in both the service and parts departments as well as in sales. It has also given those working within the business an opportunity to expand their horizons to take advantage of the new facilities.