Coach Concepts innovates

By: Chris Thompson


Though the company itself is relatively new, the owners and managers at Coach Concepts have been working on buses their whole lives.

Coach Concepts innovates
The Coach Concepts body workshop is where all the magic happens.


In a huge industrial park in Archerfield, south of sunny Brisbane, there are a lot of big names in the bus manufacturing and servicing sector and one of the newer names belongs to Coach Concepts.

The business is relatively young at just over 12 years old and has moved a few times since its inception, but now resides in a large compound with two huge sheds.

At first it seems quiet, until you notice plenty of building happening in the large workshop – there’s just room for significant expansion.

And that will happen at a measured pace, as the owners’ previous experiences have led them to conclude a slow build of business is more sustainable.

The experience is probably right, too, as there are three lifetimes of it guiding the company. One of those belongs to Glenn Plumb, who works with business partners Scott and Mark Gamer to manage and improve the Coach Concepts business.

"Between Scott, myself, and Mark, we’ve been building buses all our lives for different companies," Plumb says. "Mark’s been involved in other companies, and Scott and I have been building buses since we were 18 or so.

"We’ve been building buses a long time, it’s just that this company is only 12 years old."

 

BUS BEGINNINGS

As with a lot of people who made their way through the industry in the last couple of decades, it all started at Denning.

"My background was from the original Denning many years ago, which is where I did my apprenticeship.

"Many years ago, Denning was where everyone used to pass through – they would have had about 300 staff. They were building a bus every few days."

Though pumping out buses at that rate seems like a big ask for an Australian company today, the demand for locally built buses was higher back then, as the likes of Volvo and Scania hadn’t tapped the Australian style everyone was after.

"Mark’s father had his own business building buses, GBW Coaches, which was doing about 12 a year or something like that," Plumb adds.

And it’s not as if there are no more builders around. A few have remained strong through tougher times.

"There’s Denning, Coach Design, and us … and we’re all about the same size in terms of facilities.

"We’re building about 24 coaches and a dozen buses, so 36 a year at the moment."

And he says that’s a number they’re prepared to raise.

The current facility Concepts is housed in has the potential to produce a couple of dozen buses more each year, Plumb says.

"We’ve been in four different facilities, but it got bigger each time.

"This one now is a little bit future-proof, so we can expand here – it’s not fully utilised as it is."

 

CUSTOM CUSTOMERS

Anyone who has ever had something custom made – or has made something custom for someone – knows how hard it is to perfect the job on the first round.

Concepts’ office supervisor Paul Flint says though this is often true in the industry, the company makes sure its customers have a coach that is as close to the requested spec as humanly possible.

"I think our customers become very loyal to us over time, and I think that’s because they can put their own little stamp on the vehicle," Flint says. "If we pick up a new customer, it’ll take a short while for us to really get into the groove of what they’re looking for.

"We still produce a good job, but it’s typically after a couple of jobs where they start coming up with suggestions – like maybe nudge this a little bit, or expand the side a little."

He says it’s once the customer starts to have a stronger input that the relationship between coach builder and coach owner becomes especially strong.

"That’s when we really start to narrow in on the spec that our customer wants, and what works for them."

Plumb adds that it’s hard to know what the customer wants if they themselves aren’t sure what the protocol at each individual builder is.

"It may even be something they’ve had on previous builds with other companies, and they might just assume that’s what’s normal," he says.

"Sometimes the first one might not exactly be the vehicle they were expecting, but we can make sure the next one is."

Flint says it’s that customisation and customer input that sets Coach Concepts apart when it comes to building custom coaches.

"I think we do that pretty well. It’s not something that’s detrimental to the builder or to the job, we just see it as their stamp."

The organisation has come a long way in just 12 years, and remains committed to proving itself as a bus body builder and to work with new operators into the future.

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