Western Truck Group parts expert bows out

Scott Smith.

A Western Truck Group parts manager is, after 38 years, entering retirement.

Scott Smith first began his near four-decade stint in the industry with Sue and Leo Ryan at Transport Field Service in Warwick.

The year was 1986. He had previously apprenticed as a boilermaker at Toowoomba Foundry before making the switch to spare parts.

“The transition came surprisingly easy to me,” he told Prime Mover on the eve of his retirement.

“It was easy. I loved it.”

In 1988, having moved to Toowoomba, he accepted a job at Westco Truck Sales where he would remain for the next 29 years.

He worked again as parts interpreter for eight years before being promoted to parts manager, a position he held for the next 21 years.

“When I first started we used Kardex. We had a tray full of cards with part numbers. You would write in minus the part number and the customer it was sold to,” Smith recalled.

“When the stock came in you would plus it on the card.”

At the time everything actioned would need to go through a handwritten process.

“It was a fair learning curve,” said Smith.

“Instead of using your hands you had to write everything down. All invoices were handwritten. All parts ordering was done over the phone or fax.”

That also meant physically cataloguing everything.

“All parts interpreting was accomplished by books or microfiche or memory,” said Smith.

“Slowly we turned to electronic interpretations and electronic parts ordering to the processes and software used to this day where everything is done online.

“It’s been a fair journey.”

A repository for the legion of parts that have been added to the vast inventories of Volvo, Mack and UD trucks in the intervening years, Smith admits he misses doing it from memory.

“There weren’t a lot of changes in truck models back then,” he said.

“But today there are so many variations of the trucks that are made,” continued Smith.

“Trucks might look the same but there is probably not too many that are the same these days.”

He worked with many different fleets over the years citing Nolan’s Transport, a well-regarded Volvo customer, as one of the best to deal with.

“I always enjoyed getting the right part at the right time for the customer,” said Smith.

“Basically, in our industry customers are everything.”

In recent years customers have also adopted digital processes for their own parts interpretation.

“In the old days it was face-to-face or on the phone. These days customers have electronic ordering systems,” said Smith.

“Communication is largely done by email. A lot of the customers have their own electronic tools so they can interpret their own parts.”

Over his 38-year journey there have been many milestones.

Joining Western Truck Group in 2018 as parts manager he set up the spare parts for the workshop.

It was a significant undertaking as there is over 2 million parts in inventory.

With the digital integration it was an achievement Smith is understandably proud of.

“That’s because workshop parts are such a big part of our business and customer satisfaction,” he said.

“That’s what it’s ultimately about.”

Parts are now replenished by Volvo every night.

“We have a system in place where if we sell a part, it is ordered again straight away and it ships to us in Toowoomba from the distribution centre out of Minto in Sydney,” he said.

Another seismic change in the industry was Volvo Group Australia’s integration with Mack.

Then later again UD Trucks being brought into the VGA fold.

“From a parts perspective running two models in the interpretation system was a change,” recalled Smith.

“But there is still a lot of things done from memory for old Mack units given its lasting legacy in this country.

“They’ve had a lot of history here especially since Cyril and Curly Anderson brought Mack into the country as OEM in 1963.”

Mack Trucks Australia was founded that year with a national headquarters and assembly operations based in Archerfield in Brisbane.

Smith has especially enjoyed helping to grow the skills of some of the colleagues he has worked alongside of.

Tony O’Connell, the current Managing Director of Volvo Trucks Malaysia, is one former protege, who worked under Smith for several years.

During his final year Smith has been tasked with servicing the internal customers at Western Truck Group.

But having lasted 38 years was Smith tempted to make it to 40?

“No, I just turned 60 and it was time,” he laughed.

“It’s time to spend time with my wife Debbie.”

Smith, who has been married for 37 years, also restores Morris Minors and currently has four in his collection.

The couple plans on travelling Australia with a new caravan once they purchase it.

First stop is likely Fraser Island, a regular holiday destination for the Smiths, before they trek further north.

“We’ll go up the coast to warmer climates,” he said.

“I would like to thank Western Truck Group for the opportunities.”

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