SEATING: Transfab repairs

By: Amie Hickland


A Queensland seating repairer is confident business will keep rolling in

SEATING: Transfab repairs
Some of the seats commissioned at TransFab

A Queensland repair and refurbishment expert will keep rolling the workshop doors up each day as the repair and refurbishment industry continues to grow.

The TransFab workshop is located at Logan Village, south of Brisbane, and has been in operation since 2007.

The company specialises in bus repair, although ­­— as a point of difference to many other bus repairers — also undertakes seating refurbishments.

Leonard Munn and wife Sherrilleee — whose nickname is ‘Triple E’ — are the directors of the business, which has since expanded to include more family members.

Brother Steven Munn joined the operation three years ago as the Sales and Administration Manager.

Sister Sherrol Girling is a core part of the business and sews the seating covers from a workshop at her house, while her son Richard also works on site.

Mum Jenny also spends two days a week in the office doing data entry and payroll.

"At the present time, that’s all we need here," Leonard says.

While keeping it in the family, brother, Brian, is also a coach builder for another company.                   

Leonard comes from a background of body building, after studying the trade and undertaking work experience for companies such as the now defunct Motorcoach and Autobus.

He also undertook some training with another prominent coach builder in the area, and although they are in competition, Leonard says the pair gets on well.

"Business is business … we’ve got to get along," he says.

"There’s no point putting the other company down."

Leonard also undertook a stint at spare parts supplier Fry’s Spares before deciding to go out on his own.

"I got my first job in the door and didn’t look back."         

Leonard says they started the business after searching the area for a suitable space.

He decided to rent two of the four bays available on site, and eventually took to renting the whole block as business picked up.

"When you’re just starting something you don’t want a lot of overheads — that’s why we started here," he says.

"We started off with two bays in the front shed."

Leonard says the location is ideal as there are not many other businesses competing in the area.

"There was nobody else in the area doing it."

The company’s low turnover of staff could also be attributed to the location of the workshop.

Most have been with TransFab for four to five years — brought on gradually as the business required.

"We’re not competing for labour here as much as you would be out in other areas," he says.

"We just employed more staff as we needed them."

Although the TransFab site is in the vicinity of a few large Logan bus operators, Leonard says bigger operators tend to do repair and maintenance work in-house.

But because of the nature of the work, he says a lot of his business comes from interstate anyway.

"Most of the buses are from interstate so it doesn’t matter where we are," he says.

"That’s the funny thing about the bus industry — they’ll drive from anywhere."               

The business almost doubled in size each year for the first three years, and Leonard says it is now at the perfect size.

"We’re small enough to do stuff personally," he says.

SEATING REFURBISHMENTS

TransFab’s core business is a mixture of smash repair and general maintenance and the refurbishment of buses.

Seating refurbishment also makes up a significant part of the business.

"Seating is part of our business. It is not a sideline," Leonard says.

"We might have two weeks of fitting seats, but then two weeks refurbishing the vehicle."

The seating side of the business is largely handled by sister Sherrol, who sews the seat covers at a workshop at her home.

She says each standard cover takes about an hour and a half to put together.

"If the cover has a head rest in it, there’s a little bit more work in those," she says.

But TransFab also offers a range of other services.

Steven says the company is constantly looking to remind operators of the services they offer.

Their best advertising is done through word-of-mouth and many operators tend to go back to the business.

He says one operator wanted some work done and was unaware of the rest of the services offered by TransFab.

After speaking with Steven, the operator ended up asking the business to undertake more work than was originally planned.

"He was looking for somebody who knew what he was doing and he was happy with what we could do," Steven says.

He says a lot of the reason operators pick TransFab is the company’s ability to have things done in a timely manner.

"We also offer a quick turnaround in most cases if it’s a straightforward job — which is a big thing for operators."

In a gesture of goodwill, the company will often organise to have the buses delivered through a relocation company to minimise the impact on the operator.

"He’ll be up on the Friday and we’ll start working on it on the Monday," Steven says.

"It’s a convenience for them," Leonard adds.

"We make sure it’s as easy as possible for the operator as we can."

Leonard says a large part of the company’s business is smash repair, but they pride themselves on being a "one-stop shop" for repairs and refurbishment.

"We’ve got to be able to do everything," he says.

"We haven’t turned a job away ever. It doesn’t matter if it’s the whole front or the whole rear."

If there is work the company is not able to undertake themselves, they will organise to subcontract to a mechanic to do anything TransFab can’t repair on the engineering side.

"We’ve got hoists there to put them up and all that sort of gear," he says.

The company also has a strong focus on customer service, which includes "constantly keeping in touch with customers throughout the build," Leonard says.

"We’re here offering a service and if people want to try it, they can."

Leonard says the increase in completely built-up buses being imported into the country may see some flow-on effects for the repair and refurbishment industry.

"There is obviously going to be work for repairs," he says.

"They’ll still need seats repaired and that sort of thing," Steve adds.

Leonard says the increase in imported buses as a "Catch-22".

He says if the industry relied on locally built buses there would be nowhere near the volume of vehicles in Australia as there is now.

"We would have never built that many here," Leonard says.

This is especially true for industries such as mining.

He says when bus operators get a contract with a short deadline for, as an example, 20 mining vehicles, there’s no manufacturer in Australia who could make that many buses in such a short timeframe — often needed within days of notification.

 "Where else are you going to get 20 vehicles to do a mining contract in two days?" Leonard adds.

While it seems hard to say where exactly the industry may be heading in the coming years, Leonard says there will always be a demand for repair and maintenance work.

He says the TransFab’s diversity and integrity is what keeps the customers coming back.

"I think we have to do that if we want to keep rolling the doors up every week."

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