AUSSIES SCORE BIG AT VISTA

Among the 5,222 teams of Volvo ser­vice mar­ket pro­fes­sion­als from around the globe com­pet­ing for a place in the VISTA World Fi­nal, two Aus­tralian teams emerged from the pack to earn a place in the decider. Greg Bush writes

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Two teams of Volvo Trucks’ ser­vice mar­ket pro­fes­sion­als earn a place at the VISTA World Fi­nal in Brazil

IN A MILE­STONE for Volvo Group Aus­tralia (VGA), it will have two teams rep­re­sented in the VISTA (Volvo In­ter­na­tional Ser­vice Train­ing Award) World Fi­nal, which this year will be held in Cu­ritiba, Brazil. Among the six Aus­tralian and two New Zealand semi-fi­nal­ists, Team One CMV Der­rimut and Team SCT from South Cen­tral Trucks in Ade­laide came out trumps, gain­ing a fi­nals’ place with another 38 teams from around the globe. What makes it more in­trigu­ing is that Team One from CMV Der­rimut re­ceived a ‘wild card’ en­try to the semi-fi­nals, which were held in Gothen­burg, Swe­den in April. It was an ex­cit­ing time for the par­tic­i­pants, some of whom had never pre­vi­ously held a pass­port.

Prior to the Gothen­burg semi-fi­nals, the six teams of VGA ser­vice per­son­nel had as­sem­bled at Wa­col in early April. The 22 Volvo em­ploy­ees were about to em­bark on a trip half-way around the world, and were re­ceiv­ing last minute in­struc­tions on what they were likely to en­counter. While Aus­tralian teams have per­formed well in pre­vi­ous semi-fi­nals and fi­nals over the years, none have ever been crowned cham­pi­ons.

VISTA had its be­gin­nings in 1957 when Volvo be­gan a com­pe­ti­tion for its tech­ni­cians in Swe­den. Now in its 60th an­niver­sary, the bi­en­nial global event is like the World Cup of Volvo ser­vice per­son­nel, at­tract­ing teams from six con­ti­nents bat­tling it to be­come VISTA world cham­pi­ons.

For­mer VISTA fi­nal­ist Tony O’Connell, now vice pres­i­dent – after sales and ser­vice – with VGA, knew ex­actly what was go­ing through

the minds of many of the com­peti­tors be­fore they de­parted for Swe­den. Tony, who pre­vi­ously worked for SKF, joined Volvo at its Toowoomba deal­er­ship in 2000 be­fore be­ing thrust into the 20012002 VISTA com­pe­ti­tion. Neil Heine­mann, now VGA’s na­tional learn­ing and com­pe­tence man­ager, was also a mem­ber of that Toowoomba team.

That was in the days when the semi-fi­nals were held in the home coun­try, and only one team from each coun­try could reach the fi­nals which were held in Swe­den.

“To have never been out of the coun­try and to have that op­por­tu­nity to go across [to Swe­den] for five days, it was lifechang­ing. It was fan­tas­tic,” Tony re­calls. “What they’ve done now is, rather than run­ning those semi-fi­nals in the mar­ket where we used to run them here in Aus­tralia, they’re run­ning them in Swe­den, so it’s a greater in­vest­ment to get more of our peo­ple over.

“It al­lows a lot more of our front­line staff to get to the ori­gins of the brand and cer­tainly the head of­fice of the com­pany as well,” he says. “Pos­i­tiv­ity breeds pos­i­tiv­ity. It’s the talk around the lunch rooms when they get back, shar­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences, and that mo­ti­vates the rest of the team to in­spire to get to that point and try.

“It’s very much a team en­vi­ron­ment; it’s that mate­ship en­vi­ron­ment on the floor,” Tony says.

In the VGA train­ing rooms at Wa­col, Tony’s for­mer VISTA team­mate Neil Heine­mann and the VGA crew gave the Aus­tralian semi-fi­nal­ists a three-day brief­ing be­fore the trip to Swe­den.

“They’re putting them into some of the sce­nar­ios that they might en­counter when they get there,” Neil ex­plained at the time.

“We can’t build their tech­ni­cal skills up any higher; they’ve al­ready got that. So what we’re try­ing to do here now is also teach them how to work bet­ter as teams.

“It’s not just about the tech­ni­cal side; we will run some per­son­al­ity pro­files on th­ese guys as well. If we can get it all to gel here, it also means when they get back into the work­shop and into their deal­ers, they’ll work bet­ter as a team there,” he says.

Neil’s in­tro­duc­tion to the road trans­port in­dus­try came through his fa­ther and an old Volvo F86.

“He still owned it up un­til five or six years ago,” he re­calls. “It’s been in the blood for a long time.”

Neil ex­plains that the teams can con­tain any­where be­tween two and four mem­bers, with four the ideal num­ber.

“We like to see an ap­pren­tice, a tech­ni­cian, some­one from spare parts and some­one from ad­min­is­tra­tion be­cause that’s a re­ally nice spread across, and from a learn­ing point of view it works quite well. But if some­one wanted to, they could put a team of four tech­ni­cians to­gether.”

Of the six Aus­tralian teams, five con­tained four mem­bers, while ‘Team I-See’ from Volvo Com­mer­cial Ve­hi­cles (VCV) Chul­lora had two.

“In this case you’ve got one per­son who’s a lit­tle bit more ad­min­is­tra­tive and the other per­son that’s tech­ni­cal,” Neil con­tin­ues.

Tak­ing on the best

VISTA com­peti­tor Katharine God­frey, part of ‘Team Mack’ from Truck Cen­tre WA Kew­dale, is another to be in­tro­duced to the trans­port in­dus­try through a fam­ily mem­ber. That was in Kar­ratha in West­ern Aus­tralia’s Pil­bara re­gion.

“My fa­ther had a truck com­pany there. He got me a job with Cum­mins to start as a re­cep­tion­ist,” Katharine says. “When I

moved to Perth I got a job with Truck Cen­tre and it’s just gone on from that.”

Katharine, who has been with Truck Cen­tre WA for seven years, had en­tered the VISTA comp pre­vi­ously, but be­lieves this was the first in a long time that a WA team had reached the semi-fi­nals.

How­ever, Su­nil Pinto, a mem­ber of ‘Team In­vic­tus’ from VCV Townsville, is a VISTA reg­u­lar. He’s had 18 years all up within the Volvo group, in­clud­ing In­dia and Dubai be­fore mak­ing the move to Aus­tralia in 2008. “I’ve been in six semi-fi­nals, and been to Swe­den twice in 2011 and 2016,” Su­nil says.

After com­plet­ing his ap­pren­tice­ship in In­dia, he had his first taste of VISTA while work­ing in Dubai, qual­i­fy­ing for the semi­fi­nals. The work­shop fore­man in Townsville, Su­nil’s spe­cial­ity is elec­tronic di­ag­nos­tics. How­ever, he echoes the sen­ti­ments of the other team mem­bers in keep­ing up with new truck tech­nolo­gies.

“You have to keep train­ing to keep your­self up there,” he says. “If you don’t, you will fall down.”

Go­ing places

Ar­guably the most ex­pe­ri­enced Aus­tralian VISTA con­tes­tants is Tony Mut­ter from Team Euro from South Cen­tral Trucks in Ade­laide – one of two teams from South Cen­tral, the other be­ing fi­nal­ists Team SCT.

Tony has worked with the Volvo prod­uct for the past 32 years. His take on VISTA is that it’s more than a com­pe­ti­tion; it’s a train­ing tool for parts in­ter­preters, me­chan­ics and sales staff.

“It teaches you how to in­ter­pret cor­rectly the first time for the cus­tomer and it’s also, for me, get­ting the an­swers back to what we’re do­ing is cor­rect.”

Tony started off in the parts de­part­ment, then to the back counter serv­ing the me­chan­ics, be­fore ad­vanc­ing to the front counter and be­com­ing parts man­ager.

“Volvo has def­i­nitely taken me places over that time,” he says. “I’ve been to Swe­den, and the en­vi­ron­ment has al­ways been a learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment. You just don’t stop, you keep learn­ing.

“From when I started 32 years ago to what the in­dus­try is right now, it’s changed com­pletely. You’ve ei­ther got to keep up with it, or you’ve got to get out,” Tony says.

“So as the prod­uct changes, as the tech­nol­ogy changes, you’ve got to change. The cus­tomers ex­pect you to know th­ese things.”

Not sur­pris­ingly, Tony is pas­sion­ate about VGA and the Volvo brand in par­tic­u­lar.

“I be­lieve in the prod­uct, and Volvo has the reli­a­bil­ity there. They’ve got the trans­mis­sion, they’ve got the diffs, they’ve got the cab. And you can hear your­self think­ing when you’re driv­ing.

“For years it’s been Ken­worth on the road, but the Volvo prod­uct, it stands out now. Now you see one Ken­worth, and you see one Volvo.

“The Euro­pean stuff is just so re­fined, and it’s real horse­power. Ten or 15 years ago they’d say ‘they’re ponies, not horses’. But they’re def­i­nitely horses now.”

How­ever, none were more ex­cited than James Green­wood, a mem­ber of fi­nals-bound Team 1 from CMV Truck and Bus Der­rimut.

James has been with VGA for four years and was hav­ing his sec­ond shot at VISTA. How­ever, when Owner//Driver first caught up with him at Wa­col, he ad­mit­ted it was his first ever trip to Queens­land. Even more so, the trip to Gothen­burg was his first over­seas ex­cur­sion. Now he’s off to Brazil.

James be­lieves just mak­ing the VISTA semi-fi­nals shows that the Aus­tralian teams are more than ca­pa­ble of com­pet­ing against the best in the world.

“It’s sat­is­fy­ing for your­self to know that you can,” he says. “But there’s a lot more to learn, there al­ways is.”

Fol­low­ing the semi-fi­nals, Nicole Laspa, mar­ket­ing man­ager – re­tail and af­ter­sales with VGA, says it was a great re­sult for the Aus­tralian net­work and very ex­cit­ing for the two Brazil­bound teams.

“All the teams dis­played ex­cep­tional sports­man­ship and ca­ma­raderie dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion,” Nicole says.

“We are ex­tremely proud of them all.”

“It’s that mate­ship

en­vi­ron­ment on the

floor.”

Be­low: Neil Heine­mann, VGA’s na­tional learn­ing and com­pe­tence man­ager, en­joys get­ting be­hind the wheel when­ever the op­por­tu­nity comes up Bot­tom left: VISTA brings team­work to the fore Op­po­site top: Team Euro from South Cen­tral Trucks, one of two...

Above: The Aus­tralian semi-fi­nal­ists be­fore em­bark­ing mak­ing the trip to Volvo HQ in Gothen­burg, Swe­den

Op­po­site top & bot­tom: Team 1 – CMV Truck and Bus Der­rimut are on their way to the VISTA fi­nals in Brazil. From left: Wafi Hus­sain, Justin West­cott, Gavin Stowe and James Green­wood; Tony O’Connell, vice pres­i­dent – after sales and ser­vice – with Volvo...

Above: Brazil-bound. Team SCT – South Cen­tral Trucks (from left), Alan Fe­dor­nak, Roldan Guitier­rez, Joshua Dal­wood and Sathisha Kr­ish­nappa Be­low: Volvo in­vests heav­ily in the train­ing and de­vel­op­ment of staff

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