PARTS: KIRG IMPORTERS INNOVATE


Melbourne-based Kirg Importers is changing how it does business as the industry evolves

PARTS: KIRG IMPORTERS INNOVATE
Kirg Importers representative Ged Molloy with the Faigle antimicrobial grab straps

The bits and pieces of the bus industry play a crucial role in vehicle manufacturing, but are largely unseen by the operator.

Mirrors, switches and lighting fixtures are the parts of a bus which are often not thought about — but could be the difference between a vehicle being roadworthy in Australia or illegal.

Kirg Importers is one parts supplier in Australia who is continuously supplying to industry manufacturers, operators and repairers.

Ged Molloy says the company is continually adapting to the changing needs of the bus industry.

Molloy has been with the business for about five months and says the importer supplies mainly to the bus industry.

Kirg Importers has been established for over two decades, after owner Gary Rosch started supplying bus parts from his father Klaus's garage.

"From there, he bought these premises," says Molloy, indicating the 600 square-metre warehouse, comprised of two separate side-by-side premises.

"The core of the business has been Gary with his mother, Ingrid, and father, Klaus, looking after the back end, with three or four other employees looking after the sales and administration side," Molloy says .

Gary Rosch was in his early 20s when he got the business off the ground, as he saw a gap in the market for the supply of a number of parts.

His father had a professional background in import and supply so it is not an industry the family was new to.

"He saw an opportunity to provide a service to the bus industry back then," Molloy says.

"He started off supplying a few items and as he progressed and started talking to customers, the type and variety of parts expanded exponentially — supplying brands such as SWF, Mekra, Prima and Medallion to name but a few.

"As he received more enquiries, he just built up and built up."

The company supplies mainly to manufacturers, operators and repairers.

Kirg Importers supply several thousand different components to the bus industry.

They include lights, mirrors, switches, air vents and heaters. There is also a demand for items such as gas struts and school bus flash kits, invertors, column switches; the list just goes on and on.

"It’s just a myriad of things to be quite honest."

 

ADAPTING TO CHANGE

As the industry continues to change, so has Kirg Importers.

Molloy says the company has continued to stay competitive by adapting to the changing marketplace, and particularly operators’ needs.

"Wherever we see one market dying a death, sometimes we pick up something else — that’s probably the biggest hurdle, trying to keep up with what’s developing in the industry.

"If we’re not careful, we get left behind."

Molloy says the increase of imported completely built-up units — particularly among the likes of King Long and Marcopolo — has altered the demand for some parts.

One of the challenges in particular is assuring operators Kirg importers are able to supply parts for all makes and models as well as the more recent models introduced into the market.

"It’s getting on top of that and knowing what parts are being used in the new bus models."

 Molloy also says quality customer service has kept Kirg Importers trading for so long.

This is evident in Rosch’s persistence to source unusual bus parts — particularly for older makes of buses — which may take the best part of the day but result in minimum profit.

"With Gary’s in-depth knowledge, he can go ‘I can get it from here, or if there are any supply problems from here or there instead," Molloy says.

"He’s built up a lot of knowledge over the last 20 years."

Many of these types of enquiries are also often one-offs.

"Even when it’s non-profitable in the end with all the time we spend — from that, we always think the customer will remember us, and thus gain repeat business," Molloy says.

"The way that Gary has built his business is by going that one step further — a lot of companies wouldn’t bother.

"We’ve got that sort of business where he’s quite prepared to spend a bit of time helping out."

The internet has also brought a change in the way the business operates; with anybody able to search and source a product.

In today’s market there are "instant experts," Molloy explains.

"Historically, a lot of it is about relationships and offering a service — manufacturers just want to build the buses and operators keep the buses on the road with the minimum of down time.

"It’s no longer a case of people buying any bus or coach. They’re more aware of what a good and bad deal is and this also applies to the parts supply side of the industry.

"We’re not only dealing with established parts suppliers, but we’ve also got a lot of companies which are similar to ourselves."

Although the company’s core business is supply to the bus industry, Kirg Importers also does work with nearby companies looking for parts for heavy vehicles such as trucks and cranes.

The company also has a handful of customers overseas.

One example is a Fiji-based company who were not able to source headlights locally, and opted to use Kirg Importers.

The business keeps items which are constantly in demand in stock, but can special order items as required.

As most of the parts are small, they’re delivered the next day within Australia via preferred couriers and freight companies.

And — if they’re close enough — some of the staff may just drop the item off on their way to or from work.

"Service is one of our key focuses as well," Molloy says.

 

THE PRODUCTS

As technology continues to evolve, Kirg Importers is constantly thinking ahead to stay on top of the game.

Molloy says the company is taking queue from Europe in its latest offering, for example —antimicrobial grab straps, developed by Faigle.

The straps have an inbuilt antibacterial compound which eliminates 99 per cent of germs on the handles.

"It’s something that we find is selling in Europe," he says.

While the handles are not yet required by Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) standards, Molloy expects some operators to take the initiative on board.

"We think it will pick up a bit here," he says.

 Molloy’s experience in the heavy transport sector has led him to believe the bus industry will often follow Europe’s lead in embracing technology.

"We do tend to follow European technology all be it several years later.

An example of this is the slow uptake of Euro 2 technology when it was first introduced some years ago.

Kirg Importers supplies both genuine and non-genuine parts.

The bigger operators tend to want the genuine parts, as they intend to maintain the bus and eventually on-sell them.

"There are a lot of companies that want to stick with genuine."

While a smaller operator with a much older fleet may just want to keep their buses safe but operational.

"It’s really just keeping up with what’s happening with the industry."

Molloy says the ever-expanding range of products available at Kirg Importers is what will keep the company as a main player in the bus supply game.

"We try and keep costs and prices to a fair dinkum level."

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