By: Fabian Cotter

AUSTRALIAN BUS BODY-MAKER Volgren has won the prestigious Supplier of the Year Award at the 2018 BusNSW Member Conference today, officiated at by The Hon. Andrew Constance, Minister for Transport & Infrastructure.

Volgren wins BusNSW 2018 Supplier of the year Award. Pictured: four Volgren Optimus buses to be delivered to NSW.

Held at the Crowne Plaza Resort in the Hunter Valley, the Awards recognise excellence in a range of disciplines throughout the NSW bus and coach industry.

Winners were as follows:

* Industry Achiever Award - Michael Kerr from Rover Motors

* Innovative Operator of the Year - Punchbowl Bus Company (accepted by Alex Murray)

* Outstanding Industry Contribution - Frank D'Apuzzo (accepted on his behalf by Peter Ferris)

 * Supplier of the Year - Volgren (accepted by John Allen).

Volgren CEO Peter Dale says on behalf of the entire company he was delighted and humbled to win Supplier of the Year.

"To be nominated and acknowledged by operators and the wider bus industry in NSW is a major endorsement of the work we do, our buses and the partnerships we continue to build with customers," Dale said.

"BusNSW play a critical role in advancing the entire bus industry and I sincerely thank them and our NSW customers for their continued loyalty and support."

Dale says that after-sales service has been a significant focus for Volgren in New South Wales and that, "Volgren take great pride not only in the buses we build, but our after-sales service."

"Since opening our service and spare parts centre in Ingleburn, we now have a fleet of five service vans to meet the growing needs of NSW operators. We've also appointed a major account manager, John Allen, who is based in Ingleburn."

Australia's largest bus body manufacturer will supply 140 buses to NSW operators in the first half of 2018, plus a further 30 buses to the ACT. The company also expects strong demand from NSW bus operators in the second half of the year.

The win comes at a time when Volgren has lifted its production to an unprecedented average of 2.5 buses per day to meet strong demand in NSW, the company states.


The spike in demand from NSW operators is being brought about largely by a need to replace older vehicles with new, safer and more comfortable buses, as well as the growth of bus services, it's claimed. The Epping-to-Chatswood rail project will also require about 120 new buses to replace trains for a seven-month period from the second half of 2018.

Dale says a company-wide focus on continuous improvement and lean manufacturing techniques has given Volgren the increased capacity to comfortably meet high-delivery demands from operators.

"In the last five years we've completely transformed the business by adopting smarter and more-efficient manufacturing techniques, which have helped halve the time it takes to build a bus.

"We set the target of building a bus body in 500 hours, which at the time was hard for employees to conceive. But training people at all levels of the business to question process efficiency and to look for opportunities to save time or costs meant we were able to achieve the goal in just four years."

Dale admits the 20-day build the company is now capable of is something that was barely imaginable five years ago. It was only made possible by rethinking the assembly flow process across all three of Volgren's manufacturing facilities - in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

"What we have now is a very simple system for being able to build any type of bus quickly. There are rolling Kanban trollies set up with all parts in kit format, pre-sprayed ready for assembly. Once a trolley gets used, it is re-filled, ready for the next bus. We are embracing lean manufacturing throughout our plants.

"Previously a bus would be assembled and then go into the spray booth as a whole vehicle. By assembling pre-sprayed parts there is none of the usual climbing on platforms and masking processes needed to paint the vehicle. This reduces the safety risks in the workplace."

Dale says that all parts of the build process have been refined to be ergonomically smart, have a positive workflow and increase the safety of Volgren's workers.

"We now have the proven capability to reliably deliver large-volume orders and work with multiple chassis suppliers. We've lifted capacity and improved quality through removal of waste in the manufacturing process."

Volgren is the only local bus body manufacturer with its own after-sales facility in Sydney, home to Australia's largest public transport bus fleet, it states.

"If a bus isn't on the road, that's a big problem for an operator, so we've put a sharp emphasis on our national service network," Dale said.






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