A team ef­fort

It may sound ob­vi­ous, but trans­parency has played a large part in the suc­cess of Tran­sGlaze, writes Ian Porter

ABC (Australia) - - PARTS & ACCESSORIES -

One of the found­ing prin­ci­ples at win­dow-maker Tran­sGlaze is that ev­ery­one should be able to see clearly what their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties are, and what is ex­pected of them. No mat­ter who you talk to - cus­tomers, sup­pli­ers, em­ploy­ees – ev­ery­body knows where they stand with com­pany founders Dar­ren Lai­dler and Robert Gian­notti.

In 10 years, Tran­sGlaze has built a strong po­si­tion as the lead­ing sup­plier of win­dows for buses, trams and trains in Vic­to­ria, Australia and around the world, and the joint man­ag­ing di­rec­tors are only too keen to pay trib­ute to the var­i­ous stake­hold­ers who made it all pos­si­ble.

The partners cre­ated the com­pany af­ter many years in the in­dus­try; Lai­dler in sales and Gian­notti in glass man­u­fac­tur­ing. Cus­tomers had not been get­ting the stan­dard of ser­vice they wanted, and sup­pli­ers were deal­ing with un­cer­tainty.

Lai­dler had known Gian­notti in his role as na­tional sales man­ager at a glass man­u­fac­turer – the two drew up a plan, con dent they could ser­vice their cus­tomers bet­ter if they spe­cialised in trans­port glaz­ing and were not dis­tracted by is­sues in other di­vi­sions or in­dus­tries.

They had noth­ing but their experience and con­tacts on the sup­ply and cus­tomer sides. They drew up a busi­ness plan for a new com­pany and im­me­di­ately started talk­ing to po­ten­tial cus­tomers and sup­pli­ers, ex­plain­ing the per­for­mance lev­els Tran­sGlaze would of­fer.

“We asked them: ‘ Will that match your ex­pec­ta­tions in terms of a gen­uine sup­plier?’” Lai­dler says. “Over­whelm­ingly, the an­swer that came back to us was: ‘ Yes, we want a very dis­tinct spe­cialised sup­plier of this prod­uct. We need it.’”

Cru­cially, the partners got the same an­swers from their po­ten­tial sup­pli­ers, who also said they were pre­pared to ex­tend credit to the new com­pany. Both cus­tomers and sup­pli­ers had vis­i­bil­ity of how the new re­la­tion­ships would work.

There were no writ­ten guar­an­tees in all of this, just some hand­shakes and good in­ten­tions, plus a busi­ness plan thor­ough enough to give a bank the con dence to ex­tend loans to cover cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture and op­er­at­ing costs. A mea­sure of the strong de­mand Tran­sGlaze gen­er­ated was that the com­pany paid back all its loans a year ear­lier than planned.

Nat­u­rally enough, both Tran­sGlaze founders are very strong on the bene ts of lo­cal pro­duc­tion – rstly, be­cause of the em­ploy­ment it brings to Australia, and se­condly, be­cause it al­lows shorter response times for main­te­nance work, get­ting the bus, tram or train back into ser­vice much quicker than wait­ing for parts from over­seas.

Gian­notti is par­tic­u­larly proud of the way Tran­sGlaze re­solved a main­te­nance is­sue with some Mel­bourne trains that had been im­ported more than a decade ear­lier.

Van­dal­ism of the win­dows had got to the point where it was de­cided that all the win­dows would be re­placed.

Tran­sGlaze rec­om­mended ditch­ing the bond­ing of glass into the body­work, re­plac­ing it with alu­minium frames and glass that is held in with rub­ber seals. The op­er­a­tor saw the bene ts.

“We came up with a com­plete replica of the orig­i­nal win­dow for them, but we also man­aged to stan­dard­ise the glass con­for­mance re­quire­ment to Aus­tralian stan­dards,” Gian­notti says.

“So, for the rst time, im­ported trains got Aus­tralian glass in them. Prior to that it was fully im­ported, in­creas­ing cost and ex­tend­ing lead times. We do pow­der­coat­ing and bend­ing. There’s noth­ing we can’t en­gi­neer and de­sign.”

The real bene ts of lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing of rolling stock, how­ever, are re­alised when com­pa­nies like Tran­sGlaze han­dle sev­eral

con­tracts, al­low­ing some ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion of de­sign and ma­te­ri­als that pays off both in pro­cure­ment and through the ve­hi­cle’s life cy­cle.

Gian­notti says Tran­sGlaze also helped re­store some of the old W-class trams, which are now used on the tourist city cir­cle route. They had to work off some beau­ti­ful, hand-drawn 1941 de­sign draw­ings and con­vert the whole project into a mod­ern safety stan­dard glaz­ing sys­tem.

“We re­placed the rot­ten wooden frames with alu­minium. They had to look ex­actly the same to meet the her­itage brief. It was all done here, 100 per cent lo­cal con­tent,” Gian­notti says. “We be­lieve in us­ing lo­cal ma­te­ri­als and lo­cal sup­pli­ers.”

This de­sign and de­vel­op­ment work for trams and trains has had pos­i­tive re­sults for the com­pany’s bus cus­tomers, even though tram and train win­dow de­signs are too heavy for bus use.

“We can hardly give a bus builder a tram win­dow, but what we can give them is a lot of the in­no­va­tive de­sign and ideas that go into these new prod­ucts and bring them back to bus,” Gian­notti says.

He says if a piece of glass is bonded to the bus body, it has to be cut free for re­pair and that risks dam­ag­ing the steel body: “De­pend­ing who you talk to, it’s a four- to 12-hour changeover, and a two-week lead time to get the glass.”

Frame win­dows are much lighter than bonded win­dows be­cause the glass in a bonded win­dow has to be much big­ger than the aper­ture to al­low for glu­ing area. This might not seem a big deal, un­til you re­alise how heavy glass is.

“Glass weighs as much per square me­tre as con­crete,” Gian­notti says. “Where they’re bond­ing glass, they use an over­sized piece of glass. We can re­duce the glass size, still give you the same

vi­sion area and re­place the glass with an alu­minium frame.”

Another area where buses bene t from Tran­sGlaze’s tram and train work is in the rub­bers used in framed win­dows.

“A good ex­am­ple is re re­tar­dant rub­bers,” Lai­dler says. “In rail­way rolling stock, be­cause they travel in tun­nels, there is a real fear of ve­hi­cles catch­ing re. It’s start­ing to hap­pen more and more in buses.

“We are reading more and more hor­ror sto­ries about buses catch­ing re, but there isn’t the same safety stan­dard on bus build­ing for re re­tar­dant as there is in rolling stock. We are start­ing to of­fer things like re re­tar­dant rub­ber, and re-re­tar­dant safety lm.”

The safety lm has two pur­poses. Apart from re­tard­ing re, it also pro­tects the glass against most graf ti at­tacks and al­lows a quick turn­around when a bus goes in for graf ti re­moval.

Both Lai­dler and Gian­notti are ar­dent sup­port­ers of lo­cal con­tent and man­u­fac­tur­ing gen­er­ally, and, in some in­stances, Tran­sGlaze ac­tu­ally puts its pro t mar­gins un­der pres­sure in order to main­tain quick turn­around times for cus­tomers.

“We are proud to use glass made lo­cally,” Gian­notti says, but he recog­nises Tran­sGlaze is not a big cus­tomer for the glass in­dus­try, which mainly makes ar­chi­tec­tural glass.

Hav­ing come from the glass in­dus­try, Gian­notti un­der­stands how to spec­ify glass for par­tic­u­lar trans­port uses.

Rather than ask­ing the glass maker to run an ex­pen­sive, small run of the Tran­sGlaze glass, the com­pany or­ders a batch to be made that will last the com­pany a fair while. That brings the unit cost down, but it also brings some frowns from the com­pany’s ac­coun­tant be­cause Tran­sGlaze then has a lot of glass in in­ven­tory.

“We are not scared to carry in­ven­tory,” he says. “We are tak­ing the risk away from the glass man­u­fac­turer. Then they can make our unique de­sign at a com­pet­i­tive price.”

Cru­cially, hav­ing the glass in stock means trans­port op­er­a­tors can have the short­est pos­si­ble turn­around time when they need new win­dows, avoid­ing hav­ing to wait for a glass man­u­fac­turer to run a small batch, which could bring a de­lay of some weeks.

To help in this area, Tran­sGlaze also car­ries in stock the var­i­ous alu­minium ex­tru­sions needed for bus win­dows. Each body maker uses a unique ex­tru­sion, and Tran­sGlaze has them all in stock to en­sure fast turn­around.

Lai­dler says the com­pany takes a sim­i­lar ap­proach to its staff of 22 peo­ple. The partners pre­fer to keep their ex­pe­ri­enced and skilled em­ploy­ees on staff even in qui­eter pe­ri­ods.

“There’s a lit­tle bit of sacri ce in that in terms of pro t mar­gin on the busi­ness,” he says. “But we are look­ing long and hard at re­ten­tion of peo­ple. We are try­ing to main­tain a ca­pa­bil­ity state­ment, be­cause we have in­vested a lot of time in our peo­ple in terms of skills and train­ing.

“We also have ac­quired the right peo­ple from dif­fer­ent in­dus­try sec­tors. We re­ally dearly prize that as­set within our busi­ness. It’s our most im­por­tant as­set.”

The partners have been heart­ened re­cently by the at­ti­tude of Vic­to­rian Premier Daniel An­drews to­wards gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment and, in par­tic­u­lar, his pol­icy on lo­cal con­tent.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing to hear the gov­ern­ment man­dat­ing for the rst time things like per­cent­age of lo­cal con­tent un­der its Vic­to­rian In­dus­try Par­tic­i­pa­tion Scheme – there’s a 50 per cent min­i­mum on trams and trains. They’re start­ing to think dif­fer­ently,” Gian­notti says.

“Dan An­drews has come out and made a big state­ment [on] how many jobs he’s go­ing to cre­ate with trams, and he’s even talk­ing about buses. He has said he wants to have lo­cal con­tent in buses as well.”

Lai­dler says poli­cies like this are cru­cial for the fu­ture of Australia and its workers.

“There is also a drive to tran­si­tion au­towork­ers into some­thing. It’s all ne and well to give them skills, but what are they go­ing to do? We have to give them hope, and we can’t do that un­less we de­velop in­dus­try,” he says.

That’s not hard to see.

It’s our most im­por­tant as­set

Be­low: Robert Gian­notti and Dar­ren Lai­dler, joint man­ag­ing di­rec­tors of Tran­sGlaze Op­po­site: Some of the projects Tran­sglaze has worked on

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