Call our Sales Team on 0208 912 2120

Raising the bar

17th October 2013
Page 17
Page 18
Page 17, 17th October 2013 — Raising the bar
Noticed an error?
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.

Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Delivering added value support to its customers has helped Sheffield-based HRVS win the inaugural Repair and Maintenance trophy at the Motor Transport Awards By Steve Hobson

MAN AND ISUZU TRUCK dealer HRVS (Heage Road Vehicle Services) emerged a clear winner of the first Repair & Maintenance Workshop title at this year's Motor Transport awards.

The focus was on the flagship Sheffield site, which has seen a major redevelopment designed to make the dealership a one-stop-shop for servicing and testing.

The aim was to minimise downtime for customers, and judges commended the rapid return to service of vehicles by the workshop.

The backbone of a winning dealer is first-time test pass rates: HRVS reported an impressive 98%, consistent throughout 2012, while the judges were impressed with the 50-minute average attendance times to roadside incidents as well as zero refusals for call-outs.

The focus on training and accreditation was also commended by the awards judging panel. HRVS was the first dealership to achieve the highest level of certification from the Workshop Accreditation scheme launched last year by the Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) —Accreditation Plus.

HRVS operations director Keith Sims says that some innovations HRVS introduced have been a major gamble, including the decision to pioneer annual testing in private authorised testing facilities (ATFs). As part of a £1.5m investment, the Sheffield site has benefited from the installation of two test lanes in a new

building next to the existing four-lane R&M workshop. The remainder of the existing building housing 18 workshop bays is earmarked for demolition and will be replaced with a new building of the same standard as the testing facility.

In another example of innovative thinking, the test lanes have the headlamp aim tester at the entrance to the lanes to reduce the chance of failure due to movements in the vehicle suspension during the rest of the test.

HRVS also offers a pre-test inspection service that is carried out on the same lane the vehicle will be tested on, greatly improving the first-time pass rate — a boon for operators with a poor record in R&M and test pass scores.

"An ATF is still not a business proposition purely on the numbers, but it is the best bait to get trucks in and it helps improve efficiency," says Sims. "Early on, we wanted to be a leader — not a follower." The scale of the extra traffic the ATF brings to the site is clear. "We will do about 15,000 axles this year," says Sims. The ATF lanes are open five days a week and HRVS is talking to Vosa — with which it has an excellent

working relationship — about extending operating hours.

Like many ATF operators, HRVS is keen to see testing of CVs follow the fully privatised model successfully employed for cars and light vans.

"We would like to employ testers — that is the biggest issue for us," says Sims. "For us, having testers employed by Vosa means a lack of control. For us, there would be no benefit to lower standards, but employing the inspectors would give us more flexibility."

HRVS also took an early lead on gaining independent recognition for its high standards under the IRTE Accreditation Plus scheme.

"We have adopted new practices that have brought work in, such as IRTE workshop accreditation," says Sims. "We were the first OEM-backed company in the scheme. As a result, a customer with maintenance problems recently brought 10 trucks on the recommendation we presented to the traffic commissioner. That is happening time and time again."

Qualified staff make all the difference

Sims argues: "Our staff are more qualified than some Vosa testers — but that is not the same everywhere. IRTE accreditation is a standard recognised as a benchmark that is independently assessed. It was relatively easy for us because all our technicians train 15 days a year but, outside main dealers, many workshops will struggle."

To gain IRTE Accreditation Plus, at least 50% of the technicians must gain an Irtec accreditation. "Our standard is that everyone outside an apprenticeship must be Irtec-accredited," says Sims.

HRVS started its apprenticeship programme three years ago and now has 17 apprentices. HRVS uses the MAN Academy to train its apprentices, finding the quality of training far higher than that provided by local colleges. "The standard is excellent," says Sims. "It is the best course in the business the lads can have."

Sims is convinced of the benefits of a highly trained and well-motivated workforce. "We can all buy the same kit — the difference is the people," he says. "Make no mistake about that." While HRVS is a key part of the MAN network, it will tailor R&M packages for any make of truck. At the Sheffield site, 60% of the workshop's turnover is with makes

other than MAN, higher than the average across the group.

HRVS added an Isuzu Truck franchise two years ago and although it is a small part of the business, Robert Lockwood, the group MD of HRVS parent company Lockwood Group, is looking to add Isuzu pickups too.

"It is interesting because we have never owned sales before," he says. That is not to say HRVS doesn't take a keen interest in developing sales of new MANs.

Sims says: "70% of my time is spent with customers and sales people working on sales; it is important I am involved in this process to ensure we deliver what we promise. We also have business development managers on the road and that has proved essential in maintaining relationships."

The customer base at Sheffield is diverse, ranging from large national operators to small family firms, although revenue is heavily biased towards its blue-chip customers such as BOC, Stagecoach and DIAL.

Sheffield remains a big bus and coach site, with five Stagecoach depots close by. It also has a contract to body and prepare every MAN fire engine for the UK's fire brigades, and there will be 75 emergency vehicles going through the workshops this year. A first-class breakdown service is an essential part of minimising operators' downtime, and HRVS has 18 breakdown vans available 24 hours, 365 days of the year. It guarantees to respond to any breakdown in 60 minutes; Sheffield's average response time is 37 minutes. •

comments powered by Disqus