Focus Magazine March 2015:
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K & J Trucks Celebrating 30 Years in Business
K & J Trucks sell new and used trucks and trailers from 2 tonne trucks through to 730 horsepower prime movers. We also carry out all aspects of after sales service from minor services to major rebuilds.
The various departments include service, spare parts, sales and administration. 2015 finds the team are celebrating 30th years in the business!
What do K & J Trucks Specialise in? What are the various arms of your business and how many staff do you employ?
We specialise in the sale of new Mitsubishi-Fuso and Scania trucks, bus and marine engines and have just taken on the supply of Panus Trailers. We also sell a range of used trucks and trailers. K & J employ approximately 30 local staff. Our service department is manned by a staff of 12 fully qualified technicians and 8 apprentices of varying levels and is equipped to carry out most mechanical repairs from minor services to major overhauls on most brands of truck and trailers. We have two dedicated service pits, brake and suspension testing equipment and a 5tonne overhead crane. This allows us to carry out registration inspection including blue and pink slips. K & J’s service department can also carry out body swaps and fit accessories.
K & J’s Parts Department, with a staff of three fully qualifi ed parts interpreters’, carry an extensive range of Fuso and Scania parts to keep the trucks we sell on the road. We also carry a range of trailer parts and also carry a range of fi lters to service trucks, earthmoving equipment and four wheel drive vehicles, a range of after-market Japanese truck parts including Donaldson Filtration, Hella, Narva, Exxel Parts, BPW, Krueger, Redflag Toolboxes, SX Trailers and Chromend Supply Co. Exhaust Parts to give our customers’ a one stop shop. The sales department team consists of three very experienced and knowledgeable men. Kevin Schuhmann, Butch Quin and Nathan Schuhmann have a combined experience of over 60 years in the industry. All three have the training and experience to advise on our full range of new and used trucks and trailers. The administration department is made up of a team of five dedicated ladies who work together performing their daily tasks to keep the business flowing.
When and why did your family decide to move here?
Kevin and Joanne (K & J) decided to move their young family to Coffs Harbour from Sydney in 1985. "We were looking to get our two girls – aged four and fi ve years of age at the time – out of the city and into a coastal/ country area and saw the potential for a truck repair business in Coffs Harbour”. Kevin who was almost 30 at the time had just completed 10 years service with Scania Trucks, starting there as a forth year apprentice and working his way up to NSW Service Manager. Part of Kevin’s role as NSW Service Manager included assisting Scania Parts and Service Dealers throughout the state. He had made several trips to Coffs Habour and through this realised the business potential that existed in this growth area. Joanne by then aged 28 had a career in the banking industry before the two decided to start their family.
After having the two girls Joanne continued to work part time to supplement the family income. "The decision to make the move came just at the right time as the girls were just about to start school. So we sold everything, purchased a second hand panel van – which became our fi rst Service Unit, borrowed a customer’s Scania Prime Mover and Trailer which had been in Scania Sydney’s workshop, loaded the car, panel van and recently purchased tools and parts and moved to Coffs where we lived in a caravan in a rented industrial shed in Lawson Crescent.
Living in the industrial shed did have its advantages, I could roll out of bed, get straight into work, have dinner and work half the night before rolling back into bed. In the early days Joanne would get the kids to bed before going back into the parts department and continue setting up the stock.
Initially our staff consisted of Kevin on the workshop floor, a fi rst year apprentice and Joanne who was responsible for the administration plus running the parts department. After almost 12 months living and working in these modest conditions, Kevin and Joanne moved their young family a few streets away into a newly built house in the Coffs Harbour Jetty area.
After a huge 30yrs in business, take us back to the beginning. What type of career progression have you had? How did you get to where you are today?
In 1985 K & J Mechanical Repairs as it was then called was established as a two bay small mechanical repair workshop and Scania Parts and Service dealership in Lawson Crescent. Back then things were very laid back in Coffs. It was still a very quiet coastal town. We left the cars unlocked with the windows down when we went down the street.
The same applied to a lot of businesses in that they too were laid back and the customers’ were just not used to service. "I remember one of our early repair jobs very clearly – a local fl eet Scania operator had a clutch fail at about 5.00p.m, they dropped the truck off at our workshop and the next morning around 9.30a.m. rang me to ask if they should send their mechanic around to give me a hand to pull the transmission out to replace the clutch.
I informed him that he should wait an hour and send the driver in to pick up the truck as the repair was almost complete". This was the basis of what our business has been built on and we strive to maintain that service level. "Joanne and I were fortunate enough to both have been well trained by our previous employers, working for many years in a busy, fast paced city. Jo in banking which made an easy transition into running the business finances. I started on the workshop fl oor and then progressed into management which gave me both skill sets required for the day to day running of the business.
In 1989 K & J built a new workshop and office located on the south side of Coffs Harbour – where you will still find us today. Being located alongside the Pacifi c Highway provided greater exposure and easier access for all heavy vehicles.
In 1991, K & J Trucks took on board sales of Mitsubishi- Fuso Trucks. We continued our relationship with Scania and Mitsubishi-Fuso, becoming a full range dealership providing genuine sales, service and parts for both products as well as a full range of aftermarket, non-genuine parts for all other makes and models of vehicles.
In 2005, K & J’s workshop extensions doubled the size of the workshop capacity and incorporated the five tonne overhead crane and brake and suspension testing unit with B-Double drive through access. 2009-2010 saw the upgrade and re-construction of the office premises, highlighting our commitment to customer sales and service and providing easy access and a more efficient establishment for our customer requirements. We have been lucky enough to have all three of our children work in the business, with younger daughter Melinda beginning in 2001 after returning from university, working within the administration department for a few years before relocating to Newcastle. Our eldest daughter Lisa has been employed here for 8 years, currently working part time in administration and son Nathan now selling trucks and helping with the day to day running after completing his apprenticeship in the K & J workshop back in 2008. Our Service Manager, Scott Paterson from country NSW began his apprenticeship in 1998. He worked on the floor as a diesel mechanic until being promoted to Service Manager in 2007. He is also part of our family as he is our eldest daughter’s partner and father of our eldest grandson. The staff are certainly our most valuable asset. Over the years we have had eight key people work for us clocking up over 10yrs of service. Our highly dedicated Office Manager, Marilyn Smith has been with us over 25yrs and we also have a couple of employees with over 15yrs and also 10yrs service. I think the key is to treat people the way you want to be treated, invest in training and keep the young staff coming through as they each bring a new set of skills to the workplace.
Can you recall a few milestones for our readers?
A few firsts: In 1986 we sold our first Scania, 1994 we sold our first trailer for a freighter, in 1997 we sold the first 4 Series Scania in Australia to Dorrigo Milk and in 2013 we sold our first Scania Prime Mover into an "A" Double application. And a couple of disasters: In 1996 we were hit by our first flood, in March 2009 we were flooded a second time.
"The year 2004 was a particularly difficult year with the passing of our original service manager Harry Rathbone. He was employed as a diesel mechanic and became our first service manager, working for the company for a total of 16 years. We were all working hard building up the business and the loss of a friend and key employee was very difficult for us all.
In your 30yrs what do you recall as being some of the biggest enhancements the industry has faced and how have K & J adapted to these changes? Good and bad... Over the 30yrs in Coffs Harbour – over 40yrs in the industry – there has been a lot of changes. There are a few that come to mind. Back in the 80’s and 90’s people in the transport industry were sending their vehicles to the city for service. Today, to a degree, that has reversed as we have customers based in the capital cities who prefer to have their vehicles serviced in Coffs Harbour. The main reason is that they can get that personalised service from our business and being located half way between Sydney and Brisbane it works as a scheduled rest stop for the driver. To me the most important part of this change is our people. We have staff that know what they are doing and most importantly care about our customers. In addition to this changes have occurred to the monitoring of working hours not only driving trucks but also repairing them, and roadworthiness of all vehicles, especially heavy vehicles – "back in the early days some of the things I saw were accidents waiting to happen, these days this does not happen with regular inspections plus road side assistance and also the licencing of repairers and trades people". The introduction of B Doubles on the Pacific Highway was a major change not only to equipment manufacturers, repairers and operators but also to the general public. I know that there will be a lot of readers out there that do not like B Doubles on our roads but they may not appreciate the economics of this introduction. Without going into too much depth, without B Doubles there would be about a 50% increase in the number of Prime Movers on the road. The biggest change though has been Technology. We now have trucks with higher horsepower using less fuel and with lower noise levels resulting in a win for the environment. Computerisation of engine management, transmission operation, braking systems – ABS, EBS, Stability Control – and suspension control. K & J Trucks have had to adapt to the changes which includes consistent upgrading to buildings, tooling and training to keep pace with the industry.
Technicians now need the ability to carry out the nuts and bolts of repairs plus have the understanding and training on computer diagnostics.
The media portrays a pretty scary picture of the pressures that logistic companies face in terms of meeting tight deadlines… Do K & J Trucks pride themselves on offering fast, efficient customer service?
Since first arriving in Coffs Harbour K & J Trucks has been dedicated to providing the best customer service possible. This not only includes offering fast effi cient service by trained technicians, but now includes a tea room and bathroom facilities (including shower) for customers to freshen up or just take a break and can use the free WI-FI while they wait. We also offer a 24hr call out service for our customers because we all know trucks do not just break down during the day.
You've built an iconic Coffs Harbour local business and are known for your support of other local business. How important is it to you to 'keeping it local' and what type of community events do you get behind?
K & J Trucks is a local business, employing locals and supplying other local business, we also try to support as many community events as possible to give back to the community which supports us. It is very important to keep as much business in town as possible. As keen golfers, Jo and I regularly sponsor various events held at Coffs Harbour Golf Club. K & J Trucks are annual sponsors of the Special Children's Christmas Party, Careflight and The Grafton Truck Show and Social Club.
We have also previously sponsored Coffs Harbour Breast Cancer Clinic, Coffs Habour Rugby League Club,Coffs Harbour Clay Target Club and Coffs Harbour Rotary Club. It is imperative for locals to support locals in order for our local community to continue to grow and prosper.
Where do you hope to take the business in the next 30yrs?
Who knows what
the next 30yrs will
bring. Perhaps the next generation will continue
to develop and grow
the business. Maybe our grandchildren will come to work here one day? But one thing we have found out for sure is "the harder you work the luckier you get".
- Kevin & Joanne Schuhmann