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
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.”
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
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