A focus on lean manufacturing and eliminating disturbances from the production line will allow Volgren, Australia’s largest bus body builder, to double capacity at its Dandenong manufacturing headquarters.

Part of a company-wide transformation aimed at improving competitiveness and delivering more value for customers, the re-design has included a radical rethink of its production line, leading to development of a single, continuous flow line.

Volgren CEO, Thiago Deiro, said the new arrangement can work for both diesel and electric vehicles and was designed according to lean concepts.

“The previous assembly line was limited to one vehicle per day and was set up with stationary bays. The new chassis area is a continuous line on rails with pre-assembled parts just beside each work station. As soon as this new chassis layout is completed, together with new tools and jigs, the capacity will double and set-up times will be cut by half.

“The additional capacity will allow us to cope with growing demand, which is expected for the second half of this year and for years to come.”

Deiro said twelve Volgren team members from departments including Safety, Manufacturing Engineering, Product Engineering, Maintenance, Production, Logistics, Quality and Purchasing were involved in the re-design.

The new layout has been well-received by staff on the factory floor, which is important for Deiro, who wants to make certain that everyone at the company is part of major decisions.

“The best ideas for improving a process always come from the people who are actually doing the work. We have to train our people to see the waste in any process and then remove it. The kaizen approach of having a dedicated team working on a problem gives everyone a voice.

“In the end it will all come to a better and safer place to work for everybody and adding value to our customers.”

The doubling of capacity is one of a number of efficiency measures that Deiro has put in place since taking over as CEO in April 2019. Earlier this year, he made the decision to bring Volgren’s Victorian distribution centre ‘in-house’, relocating it from an off-site location to a new warehouse within the Dandenong facility.

The previous site was only a 2.25-kilometre trip from their headquarters, however those responsible for logistics were making, on average, 11 trips per day. The change brought about savings of about $108,000 per year in transport alone. 

“Relocation brought us big savings in rental, transportation, packing, material stock and unnecessary movements of people,” Deiro said.