Times and changing for Truckline as Bapcor takes over control from CNH Industrial
Described as Australia’s largest retailer of aftermarket truck and trailer parts, Truckline, as a division of CNH Industrial, supported all makes and models of North American, European and Japanese commercial vehicles.
During the company’s 65 years servicing the Australian trucking industry, Truckline has built an extensive network of 22 company-owned stores nationally, all with warehousing facilities. The business sources renowned products from leading suppliers around the world to cater for Australia’s unique conditions and climate. It has 145,000 parts and accessory product lines available with 30,000 in stock and 80 percent of inventory held in stores.
From its foundation in the early 1980s as Aitken Spares, the company changed ownership in 1986, becoming a division of Dana Corporation when it adopted the name of Truckline Parts Centre. In February 2000, there was another change at the top, when Truckline was purchased by IVECO Trucks Australia.
CNH International, the parent company of IVECO Trucks Australia, is known to be considering a restructure of its IVECO holdings and its links to Navistar International Trucks. This has led to the announcement of the sale of Truckline to ASX-listed Bapcor in November 2019.
Bapcor Limited, based in Melbourne at Preston, was founded in 1971 by Garry Johnson and Ron Burgoine. Opening its first Burson Auto Parts store in 1978, by 2004 the number of its stores had grown to 50 outlets.
Purchased by Quadrant Private Equity and Management in 2011, then listing on the ASX in 2014, the group embarked on a major shopping exercise by acquiring Metcash Automotive Holdings, since renamed Aftermarket Network Australia (ANA).
Although the name Bapcor may not be well known to consumers, the current divisions of the group include wholesalers such as Diesel Distrbutors, Federal Batteries, MTQ Engine Systems, HCB Technologies, Japanese Trucks Australia and Toperformance Products. The groups retail businesses include Autobarn, Autopro, Midas and Opposite Lock, all well-known names in the automotive industry.
As a supplier to the transport industry, with 22 stores across the country, the purchase of Truckline moves the Bapcor focus into a broader area, including heavy-commercial vehicle and trailer parts supply for the first time.
The takeover by Bapcor is expected to provide further strength to the Truckline portfolio, especially as the group understands all aspects of parts supply and distribution, without becoming involved in vehicle manufacturing.
As we move towards the Christmas peak transport demands, Truckline’s job is to keep its customers moving, both in the demand and supply of truck or trailer parts.
Despite a change of parent company, it’s very much a case of business as usual at all 22 Truckline stores as it all comes down to flexibility, staff knowledge and customer relationships. The execution of this rests largely on the shoulders of National Sourcing and Operations Manager, Scott Lewis, who was appointed to the role in July this year. Scott comes to Truckline with 20 years’ experience in manufacturing and hydraulic industries, and the recent change has been a seamless jump for him.
“Trucks have been part of a big chunk of my life, so it’s been an easy transition. It’s all a service-based industry, with planning, stock levels, urgent one-offs and quick supply chains,” said Scott, who manages Truckline vendors, oversees inventory control and is in charge of Truckline’s two Product Distribution Centres (PDCs), one in Heathwood, Queensland and the other in Welshpool, Western Australia.
Chatting to Scott, it’s clear that Truckline has the supply-chain infrastructure in place to respond quickly to market demands.
“In addition to the PDCs, every one of our 22 branches has a warehouse. That’s really important, because we prioritise high-product availability for customers. There are 145,000 product lines available for purchase or order and at any one time 80 percent of our inventory is held in store,” he said.
“We give our branches flexibility to hold different stock according to the needs in their location, and we’re planning every week. We’re running replenishment reports and liaising with branches on a weekly and even daily basis, and by September we’ve got extra stock sitting in the warehouses ready for Christmas.”
Truckline has long championed the knowledge of its staff and from speaking with Scott it becomes apparent that it’s not just technical product expertise that’s kept the business successful. The local staff are the eyes and ears in their own area and this expertise allows Truckline to stock each store to suit the geographical market, instead of stocking a generic range.
“At head office we see the history. We’re looking at spikes and trends, whereas the branch manager is looking forward to where they feel the business is going. Plus, it’s the branch managers and local reps who have the direct relationships with customers, so it’s important that at head office level we respond accordingly and trust our staff,” said Scott.
This trust in the local staff allows Scott to focus on the complexities brought on by the Christmas rush. Physically moving the increased quantity of stock quickly and efficiently is one of the biggest challenges. Truckline overcomes this with a multi-pronged attack. Imports and goods from larger suppliers will typically come into one of the two PDCs, while smaller suppliers ship direct to branches. From that point, the end-user can get the part they need via multiple channels, all geared towards ensuring a quick turnaround time.
If the product is not available in the local branch, Truckline can organise a branch-to-branch transfer or send the part direct to the customer from the closest PDC. In addition, customers can order parts online and Truckline also services an extensive network of resellers offering the same competitive price structure, Australia-wide.
“When it comes to movement of goods, we look to use reciprocal trade to support our customers wherever possible and we’re not scared to move stock around subject to demand. Because of our stocking policy we can readily access the part that’s needed and get that out quickly. This is particularly pertinent for vehicle off road (VOR) situations,” said Scott, who explains that Truckline will typically employ air freight or express road to get the product where it needs to be, quickly.
Down the track, Scott’s keen to put his own stamp on Truckline’s systems and procedures but for now he’s comfortable getting to know the business. And getting through Christmas. One thing he won’t change, however, is the trust he places in staff.
“We could employ all the latest inventory and market analysis technology available, but our biggest asset is our staff and their understanding of the markets that they’re within,” said Scott.
“We’ve got people on the ground who are in tune with what’s happening in their local area and have great insights into the needs of their customers, and a committed team in the PDCs and at Head Office. It’s great to be supporting the industry that is delivering Christmas to all Australians.”