Body is a tem­ple

Body builders are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing big de­mand for high-pas­sen­ger-ca­pac­ity metropoli­tan buses in 2017 and the move to new and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies is hap­pen­ing fast in Aus­trala­sia and be­yond

ABC (Australia) - - SPECIAL FEATURE - WORDS RAN­DALL JOHN­STON

One such body builder that is see­ing de­mand for ar­tic­u­lated buses sky­rocket is Vol­gren, which has its Aus­tralian man­u­fac­tur­ing bases in Vic­to­ria, West­ern Aus­tralia and Queens­land.

With a raft of leg­isla­tive changes de­signed to im­prove safety, Vol­gren CEO Pe­ter Dale says a big fo­cus for Vol­gren is on its con­tin­ued com­pli­ance work to meet the lat­est Aus­tralian De­sign Rule re­quire­ments for dou­ble-decker ve­hi­cles, seat­belted seats and door-over­ride func­tion­al­ity. De­mand has shifted in terms of the type of bodies that Vol­gren is get­ting orders for this year, with ar­tic­u­lated ve­hi­cles go­ing through the roof, ac­cord­ing to Dale.

“This year we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced strong de­mand for ar­tic­u­lated buses as op­er­a­tors look to tried and tested, higher- ca­pac­ity ve­hi­cles,” he says. “In 2017, Vol­gren has de­liv­ered ar­tic­u­lated buses to PTA, Ac­tion Buses, Nowra and Brisbane City Coun­cil plus in­ter­na­tion­ally to op­er­a­tors in Ja­pan just to name a few.”

The or­gan­i­sa­tion has rein­vig­o­rated its af­ter­sales sup­port de­part­ment with that all-im­por­tant force: peo­ple power.

“A key part of Vol­gren’s com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage is our af­ter­sales ser­vice and abil­ity to sup­port our buses long after they leave the fac­tory oor,” Dale ex­plains. “To this point, we’ve cre­ated two new roles [cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence man­ager and ma­jor ac­count man­ager in New South Wales] to im­prove lev­els of ser­vice and sup­port cus­tomers through the life­cy­cle of our buses.”

While there have been a good num­ber of Vol­gren de­liv­er­ies to Aus­tralian bus and coach op­er­a­tors this year, there are a few that stand out.

“We de­liv­ered a com­bi­na­tion [Combo] ar­tic­u­lated bus to Ac­tion in Can­berra back in July, which was quite unique, and a se­ries of com­plete low-oor ar­tic­u­lated buses to Ja­pan, which shipped in Jan­uary,” Dale re­veals.

The top-sell­ing body for Vol­gren, how­ever, re­mains the Op­ti­mus route bus that, ac­cord­ing to Dale, is aimed at op­er­a­tors re­quir­ing a ro­bust and re­li­able prod­uct for route ser­vices, and op­er­a­tors with a fo­cus on low whole-of-life costs.

“We are also de­vel­op­ing a range of new prod­ucts to meet the chang­ing ca­pac­ity and driv­e­train de­mands of bus op­er­a­tors, so watch this space.”

Whilst en­joy­ing solid na­tional pro­duc­tion vol­umes, Vol­gren will be de­liv­er­ing bodies on an ar­ray of the lat­est chas­sis, in­clud­ing Euro 6 emis­sion-com­pli­ant and hy­brid ve­hi­cles in the late stages of 2017 and into 2018.

BUSTECH SEES NO LIMIT

Bustech gen­eral manger and chief engi­neer Marc Cleave says the or­gan­i­sa­tion is rmly fo­cused on em­brac­ing the fu­ture of bus tech­nol­ogy as ev­i­denced by the pro­duc­tion of, and con­tin­ued rene­ments to, the Bustech ZDI elec­tric bus.

The ZDI is the lat­est type of body that Bustech is of­fer­ing to Aus­tralian op­er­a­tors look­ing to build in 2017.

As a body builder, there are a num­ber of ele­ments Bustech is fo­cused on and do­ing dif­fer­ently this year.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion is now in the process of re­struc­tur­ing its man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties in Aus­tralia to be­come dig­i­tal, which will lead to an even higher and more con­sis­tent qual­ity of build for ev­ery ve­hi­cle that comes off the line.

Cleave says Bustech has ex­pe­ri­enced a solid in­crease in de­mand for its VST low-oor buses, par­tic­u­larly from op­er­a­tors in New South Wales this year.

Two no­table and unique bodies that Bustech built this year in­clude a CDI model that was de­liv­ered to New Zealand and is now be­ing used as part of a busy air­port ser­vice that is pro­vided by Skybus in Auck­land, and a fu­tur­is­tic ZDI elec­tric bus that was de­liv­ered to an op­er­a­tor in Ade­laide.

Tran­sit Aus­tralia Group’s man­u­fac­tur­ing arm Bustech also had a big win this year as it se­cured a con­tract to build 100 low- emis­sion buses for Tas­ma­nia’s Metro net­work, as an­nounced in April this year. The $ 45 mil­lion project marks the sin­gle big­gest in­vest­ment in pub­lic trans­port in Tas­ma­nia’s his­tory.

It was also the  rst time any Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment has pro­cured buses that are en­tirely made in Aus­tralia.

Bustech is Aus­tralia’s only orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer (OEM), with each bus built us­ing chas­sis de­signed, en­gi­neered and made in-house.

The four-year project will cre­ate 40 new full-time jobs in Tas­ma­nia, in­clud­ing at least 24 jobs at El­phin­stone and ad­di­tional jobs through­out the lo­cal sup­ply chain. The rst wave of new buses in the Metro Tas­ma­nia eet will be com­pleted early next year.

It is a sim­i­lar for­mula Bustech ap­plied in South Aus­tralia after form­ing a strate­gic part­ner­ship with Ade­laide com­pany Pre­ci­sion Com­po­nents.

The al­liance se­cured a gov­ern­ment grant sup­port­ing the build of en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly buses, in­clud­ing elec­tric buses, for trial across Ade­laide’s pub­lic trans­port net­work. Adding to Bustech’s pri­mary plant in Queens­land, this new ven­ture has pro­vided a signicant lift to Bustech’s an­nual pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity, boost­ing the com­pany’s abil­ity to sup­ply na­tional and in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

All in all, it’s been a solid year for Bustech and it seems to be set­ting a good ex­am­ple of what can be achieved by for­ward-look­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers in Aus­tralia that have an abil­ity to de­liver mod­ern, longer-last­ing ve­hi­cles.

Right: One of the Vol­gren ar­tic­u­lated buses that was de­liv­ered to Ja­panese op­er­a­tor Nara Kotsu Bus Lines

Be­low: Bustech has de­liv­ered the first Aus­tralian­designed, en­gi­neered and man­u­fac­tured elec­tric bus

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