What was Stage 1?
Custom Coaches launched Stage 1 of their bus production program in June 2006. The traditional “Static” line was replaced with a “Dynamic” production line. The effect of this change was faster build cycles, (more reliable delivery times for the bus operators), less buses on line and improved quality of the finished bus.
Customs relocated their traditional Sydney production to a new production facility and this allowed the introduction of the Dynamic line. The Adelaide plant was already ideally suited to a Dynamic line being the biggest undercover bus plant in Australia. The Sydney & Adelaide plants were divided into 15 production stations and each bus is allocated certain hours per station. “This production structure allowed us to balance the line with the correct staff, skills, materials, and equipment at each station. Each station became a business center with team leaders and clear responsibilities”, John Goode the National Production & Engineering Manager of Custom Coaches advised, “every employee knows each bus is part of the production cycle and it must move to the next station at exactly the right time”.
The Gold Coast plant also developed the Dynamic line, but has a unique structure because of its size (60 buses per year) and its contract with Brisbane City Council to produce 30 articulated MAN CNG powered buses.
Stage 2 is taking Custom Coaches to a new level of manufacturing. The Australian bus market has grown 35% over the last 3 years. Bus patronage has also grown in all states. Increased fuel prices, increased road tolls, continued road congestion, reduced bus fares, bus contract reforms (NSW) have all contributed to the growth of patronage and the growth of bus sales.
For Custom Coaches this means increasing bus production from 230 in 2004 to 450 in 2007. “We are still using the same 15 stations we started with, but we are using them smarter”, said John Goode. John and his production team are introducing two shifts to the Sydney and Adelaide plants. So each bus will be constructed for 18 hours per day instead of the standard single shift of 8 to 10 hours per day (depending on overtime). “This will allow us to reduce the build cycle time per station which is effectively 33% reduction in build time”, John added.
The benefit of double shifting for Custom Coaches is utilizing the same factory space, equipment, and tools and achieving a much higher production output. The only real increase in costs is the labour, the fixed manufacturing costs remain the same.
Photo of CC Adelaide – Custom Coaches Adelaide plant, Australia’s largest undercover bus manufacturing plant.
This reduced cycle time allows Custom Coaches to effectively increase production capacity to 450 buses in 2007. The additional capacity is a positive move for Custom Coaches. The Australian market is looking for more buses, and they want them quickly, and on time. Its great to see the Australian bus manufacturers growing to meet Australian market demands. The production of 450 buses at Custom Coaches is unprecedented, and there is still more capacity available should the market demand. With this plan, capacity could increase to 600.
The Stage 2 production plan requires the employment of an additional 100 staff at the Adelaide and Sydney plants. Custom Coaches are using various methods to increase staff levels. Recently one of the TV stations featured the Adelaide plant on the 6pm news, describing the increased staffing levels, and Customs Adelaide were inundated with prospective staff. It was very welcome news in Adelaide since GMH & Mitsubishi have shed staff over the last few years.
Stage 2 of our production plan is a welcome development for Custom Coaches. “We are utilizing our existing infrastructure, improving our cycle times, increasing our bus volumes and effectively decreasing the cost per bus. John Goode and his team have achieved a fantastic result, and we have more to do”, according to Mark Burgess, CEO of Custom Coaches. “The whole national team at Customs from purchasing, engineering, research & development, finance, aftermarket, and our suppliers have had to change to achieve Stage 2. It puts Custom Coaches in a great position to meet the increased demands of the Australian customers”, Mark added.