McCon­nell – com­fort and style

ABC (Australia) - - SUPPLY LINES -

THERE’S A LITANY of words that come to mind when most clients think about bus seat­ing and McCon­nell. Com­fort and sup­port. In­dus­try leader. Safety and qual­ity. Hon­esty and in­tegrity.

And that’s be­cause af­ter more than 60 years in busi­ness this iconic Aus­tralian com­pany has forged its solid rep­u­ta­tion in the trans­port seat­ing game from epit­o­mis­ing these qual­i­ties in ev­ery­thing it does when it comes to con­cep­tu­al­is­ing, de­sign­ing and de­liv­er­ing world-class bus and rail seat­ing in a tough and com­pet­i­tive mar­ket.

ABC spoke ex­clu­sively with McCon­nell GM James Lowe about its new Mel­bourne pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity, com­pany ex­pan­sion and fu­ture di­rec­tion in the lo­cal bus-seat game.

“We’ve been at the new lo­ca­tion for a bit over a year now. We are work­ing out of a 15,000sqm fa­cil­ity un­der one roof, whereas we came out of Coburg work­ing from four sep­a­rate fac­to­ries, so we’ve been able to stream­line the op­er­a­tion and get a lot more pro­duc­tiv­ity out of the fac­tory,” Lowe ex­plained.

“When you are work­ing out of mul­ti­ple ware­houses you lose that ef­fi­ciency, so it’s been re­fresh­ing to get into a pretty mod­ern fac­tory and the staff are lov­ing it.”

He says McCon­nell is still very much in­vested in lo­cal man­u­fac­ture. Its lat­est ad­di­tion is a ro­botic weld­ing cell to bet­ter its ef­fi­cien­cies and it’s also in­vested in a CNC pipe ben­der. It’s con­tin­u­ing to in­vest lo­cally; its tool­ing is made lo­cally and the ma­jor­ity of its sup­pli­ers are lo­cal, so McCon­nell is set­ting it­self up for the long term.

“The threat is al­ways from im­ported prod­ucts, but seats are a cus­tomer’s choice – a lot of im­porters bring in buses with­out seats be­cause they don’t know the ap­pli­ca­tion or the client’s re­quire­ments. The seats need to be lo­calised, so we think we have a pretty good posi­ton,” Lowe ex­plained.

“And that’s be­cause of ADRs, yes, but also even our non-ADR route bus seats – we do a lot of high-vol­ume [route bus seats] for most of the ma­jor op­er­a­tors, so I think we are in a good po­si­tion to con­tinue to ser­vice the bus in­dus­try across the board.”

“Buses are the bulk of our busi­ness, as op­posed to rail, but we did buy Loco Seats Aus­tralia in Bris­bane last year, which re­ally fo­cuses on the rail driver seat space, so we now have a fa­cil­ity in Bris­bane con­cen­trat­ing on rail seat re­fur­bish­ment – mainly driver’s seats. So that’s a lit­tle bit of di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, which is not a bad thing.

“Do­mes­ti­cally, we are now lo­cated in Mel­bourne and Bris­bane; we have about 60 staff in Mel­bourne and about 15 in Bris­bane. As ev­ery­one knows, the Aus­tralian bus mar­ket is very in­su­lar, so we have very long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ships with a lot of chas­sis sup­pli­ers, body builders and op­er­a­tors. We work well across the full spec­trum,” he ex­plained.

“We are de­pen­dent on the client’s sat­is­fac­tion, though. Usu­ally if they are happy with our prod­uct they’ll con­tinue to buy, but if not then they will look else­where. We are re­ally only as good as the last set of seats we have man­u­fac­tured and supplied to the mar­ket.

“And we’ve in­vested in a lot of train­ing. All pro­duc­tion staff have com­pleted a Cer­tifi­cate I and II in Com­pet­i­tive Lean Man­u­fac­tur­ing and our team lead­ers and of­fice sales staff have com­pleted the diploma course.”


Founded in 1952 by James ‘Jim’ McCon­nell, the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion – and prob­a­bly fu­ture gen­er­a­tions – of McCon­nell is con­tin­u­ing the tra­di­tion of qual­ity work to this day.

Ac­tive in mar­ket seg­ments re­quir­ing pas­sen­ger seat­ing for lux­ury coaches; day char­ter and school buses; ur­ban buses; and rail and light-rail sys­tems; McCon­nell is the pre­ferred choice for many Aus­tralian and New Zealand bus op­er­a­tors, with the Mel­bourne – and now Bris­bane-based com­pany – mak­ing and sell­ing seat sys­tems in all the above cat­e­gories.

Its com­mit­ment to qual­ity and safety has made McCon­nell Seats Aus­tralia the ma­jor force and mar­ket leader in the ex­tremely spe­cialised area of pas­sen­ger trans­port seat­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Mel­bourne-based com­pany.


Now mainly lo­cated un­der one roof of a large 15,000sqm mod­ern fac­tory in the sub­urb of Broad­mead­ows, north of the Mel­bourne CBD and south-west of Tul­la­ma­rine Air­port. McCon­nell pro­vides the best in pub­lic trans­port seat de­sign and man­u­fac­tured prod­ucts and ser­vices.

Its seats are com­pletely man­u­fac­tured in-house from the metal fab­ri­ca­tion right through to the fi­nal trim. A high level of qual­ity is as­sured through ad­her­ence to its qual­ity man­age­ment sys­tem mod­elled on AS/NZS ISO9001:2008.

Fa­cil­i­ties in­clude pro­fes­sional en­gi­neer­ing and de­sign per­son­nel. Seat strengths and load ap­pli­ca­tions for new de­signs are an­a­lysed and tested in-house.

Prod­ucts and com­po­nents are cer­ti­fied to Aus­tralian De­sign Rules (ADRs) and recog­nised stan­dards. And in a mar­ket be­com­ing in­creas­ing safety con­scious, McCon­nell says through its mar­ket­ing and de­sign team – plus the lat­est in pro­duc­tion and con­struc­tion tech­niques – it can of­fer far su­pe­rior ser­vices and bus-seat prod­ucts. And it’s been do­ing it for decades.

Its aim? Put sim­ply and in its most re­spect­ful terms, McCon­nell, “aims to be a glob­ally com­pet­i­tive sup­plier to all as­pects of the com­mer­cial trans­port seat­ing in­dus­try by pro­vid­ing to­tal sat­is­fac­tion that sur­passes cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions”.

And it achieves this by the con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment of prod­ucts, qual­ity, and an un­re­lent­ing com­mit­ment to cus­tomer ser­vice through the de­vel­op­ment of its highly skilled and in­no­va­tive staff, it states.

Be­low: An ex­am­ple of qual­ity de­sign and crafts­man­ship.

Top: Af­ter more than 60 years in the game, McCon­nell main­tains a strong pres­ence in bus seat­ing.

Above: Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances and de­mand has led to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of USB ports in bus seats.

Right: The McCon­nell bus-seat pro­duc­tion process in full flight.

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