There’s nothing like a new seat. The fresh smell. The luxurious comfort. The eye-catching colour as you board a bus.
This is what Australian seating manufacturer StyleRide is trying to replicate as it continues to refurbish and refit a growing number of bus and coach seats.
“Refurbishment has generally been part of StyleRide’s product offering and has ebbed and flowed in volumes throughout the years,” StyleRide Australia general manager Garrin Angel told ABC.
“A large number of fleets are now coming up to an age where the reinvestment decision must be made and we’re fielding plenty of inquiries about what we can do when it comes to refurbishing and refitting seats.”
This spike in interest has led Angel and the StyleRide team to finetune its broader servicing and refurbishing processes. StyleRide’s capabilities extend well beyond a simple cover replacement of a vehicle’s seats. Instead, StyleRide effectively reinvigorate each seat onboard a bus or coach, returning it back to an almost new state that comes with all of the wonderful features of a fresh set of seats.
Although refurbishing seats can take almost the same amount of time as manufacturing and installing a completely new set, Angel says the simplicity of reinvigorating seats makes it a cheaper option for operators.
“Refurbishing seats is easy to do than replacement and there’s no component cost involved,” Angel says.
“We’ve found that customers also love having the chance to reselect fabrics and remodel their fleets as it brings a very modern look to their vehicles.
“We’ve got one refurbishment currently going through the business on a 15 year old set of seats. By the time we finish with them, they’ll go from a cloth fabric to a synthetic leather and have a whole new bespoke seating pattern that will improve the cleaning ability and reduce the need for maintenance.”
StyleRide’s seat refurbishment and refitting process starts by assessing the set when they come into the seating manufacturer’s new site in Acacia Ridge, Queensland. For most refurbishments, customers bring in the vehicles themselves so StyleRide can inspect it in-person and provide a refined quote for the job.
The team then goes through a detailed process of documenting installation before it begins removing and stripping the seats down. Once the refurbishment is done as required, the seats are re-powder coated and new cushions are put on, providing a more hygienic finish for customers.
“Once we go through this process of refurbishing, it turns to re-installing and reconfiguring the seats,” Angel says.
“If we find that we can make improvements by changing the installation a little, we also do that and advise customers of the changes we plan to make.
“We won’t structurally change the vehicle layout, but if we can improve the space by changing a wall mount or doing something minor like that then we’ll do it.”
Although it sounds like a rather simple process, Angel says it can take anywhere between five days and a week to completely refurbish and reinstall a set of seats on a bus or coach. With inquiries continuing to build on this offering, StyleRide is looking to evolve in this area and make the process more economic and efficient for all involved.
Angel isn’t neglecting any ideas – he’s even considering building an exchange program for old seats and seat parts to build an inventory for refurbishing older models.
“As it’s an increasing part of our customer base and our requirements, there’s a chance we’ll look to have seats prepared to a semi built-up phase in advance in our future to speed up the process of turning over seats and refurbishing them,” Angel says.
“A lot of seats tend to be standard and refurbishing still generally takes a week, so if we can develop an inventory structure then we can look to reduce that timeframe to roughly three days.”
The idea behind these tweaks is to ensure StyleRide is prepared for peak times. In the refurbishing and reinstalling game, this tends to fall around school holidays, where school bus operators use the time off to get their seats refitted.
Angel says StyleRide sees a dramatic increase in its expertise and resources around school holiday times, with the staggered school holiday periods of individual states and territories meaning each peak period lasts for roughly four weeks at a time.
If StyleRide can increase efficiency and reduce the process by two days, Angel is hopeful StyleRide can refurbish and refit seats for up to four more vehicles per each school holiday period.
This forward-thinking was at the front of Angel’s mind when he planned StyleRide’s new Acacia Ridge facility. Now, he’s looking at putting to use a dedicated refurbishing section onsite to see these envisaged improvements become reality.
“When I initially did the draft layout for the new site, one benefit of it was having a drive-through complete refurbishing capability,” Angel says.
“We’ve put a dedicated line in place where we can stage up to three vehicles inside and work on them either sequentially or simultaneously, depending on the requirement.
“We can now bring vehicles in through the front door, do our work on them and then drive it out the back door to return to customers. It allows everything to be undercover and located close to component bays to reduce inefficiencies.”
Despite this focus on StyleRide’s refurbishing and reinstalling capabilities, Angel has other projects on his mind. StyleRide is currently working with one of its key customers, Aus Ships, on refurbishing seats onboard some of its Brisbane CityCat ferry vessels.
At the same time, StyleRide is continuing to retain its skilled staff and focus on training, while Angel has also finalised two internal promotions, gifting him a new production supervisor and a new combined quality and materials manager.
“This internal reorganisation will allow one person to focus on the human capacity side while the other will focus on the components and products,” Angel says.
“The idea is that this will improve the quality of our products and free up my time to focus on product development.”
This new product development is already off to a good start, with StyleRide working with one customer currently on introducing a new product from father company Lazzerini in Italy. Angel says this new seating model will be a bespoke configuration that will allow for full ADR compliance, with more to come later in the year.
Whether it be focusing on new models or enhancing its capabilities to refurbish its older set of seats onboard Australian vehicles, the end goal is for StyleRide to provide a high quality product for local buses and coaches.
“This is all about trying to offer the customer a single point of support for seating,” Angel says.
“This includes manufacturing, installing, aftersales supports and spare parts. We’ll focus on updating our processes and moving ahead with the onsite installation of seats – we’ve got the first series of four going through this month and we’re expecting to continue tracking on an upwards trajectory.”