"We are a stand-alone, multi brand operation that taps into the benefits of being backed by a large privately owned business," declares Steve Waterworth, Commercial Business Manager at THVS. Whilst most will be familiar with the Thomas Hardie Commercials Ltd Volvo trucks dealership, established back in 1985, fewer folk outside of North West England will be aware of THVS, which was originally founded as Thomas Hardie Engineering in 1996.
Simon Cartwright, Workshop Controller at THVS can trace his career progress further back to Nova Scotia Bodies, when he started there in July 1993. Nova Scotia Bodies was the company bought out by Thomas Hardie 22 years ago to form its engineering division.
"It's been quite a journey across two neighbouring premises. We've been involved with every commercial vehicle marque over the years and plenty of passenger service vehicles. People do, quite rightly, instantly associate the Volvo trucks name with Thomas Hardie, but at THVS we of course see plenty of Volvos with our dealerpoint support work, but in any given week there's also a wide range of truck types here," notes Cartwright.
THVS' steady organic growth received a major boost five years ago, when a substantial investment in technology and equipment was complemented by the arrival of Steve Waterworth as Commercial Business Manager. The move next door to larger premises in 2016, undoubtedly paid dividends, but the associated rise in business and vehicle throughput means the firm has almost outgrown the current property.
A new main area of growth has complemented the firm's mainstay vehicle painting, refinishing and accident repair works. "The supply and fitting of Hydraulic solutions has filled a niche gap in the marketplace and we offer an all makes, bespoke fit service to customers across a wide swathe of the UK," reports Waterworth.
At the time of CM's visit, hydraulic projects were in progress for customers in North East England, The Midlands and Humberside, thereby giving THVS potentially a much wider geographical reach that its parent company's dealerpoint responsibilities for Volvo trucks. "Our work involving PTO driven solutions has really taken off," quips Cartwright. "Tipping wet kits and walking floor kits probably predominate these works at present but we also do shaft driven solutions, alongside hydraulic and pressure discharge equipment," he adds.
Every hydraulic fitment at THVS is different and both Waterworth and Cartwright prefer face-to-face communication with their customer base to agree the design and build process. "With such a wide variety of commercial vehicle chassis in the marketplace, good communication levels get the detail correct on every project. Weight is the key issue now and we've invested both time and expertise into tank designs and best use of chassis free space. The attendant Adblue tanks and larger exhaust silencers required by Euro 6 emission regulations has made us more innovative," Cartwright says.
"Hose routing and coupling types or locations are also examples of components that differ vastly according to the host vehicle type. We have the equipment on site to manufacturer our own hydraulic hoses and we stock high turnover items such as PTOs and pumps. And of course Volvo truck customers at Thomas Hardie Commercials who have specified PTO driven hydraulics get everything supplied under one complete package, with just one warranty document to deal with," he adds.
Getting the correct pump for the job can also have environmental and cost benefits as Cartwright explains, "there's a popular misconception that high revving engines increase flow rates. That's wrong. The pump alone regulates the flow rate and we like to specify faster working PTOs and pumps. These keep the engine revs down, thereby reducing noise levels and fuel use."
THVS' engineering solutions take many shapes and sizes. During CM's visit a double decker bus is undergoing substantial front-end accident damage repairs, whilst nearby a temperature controlled drawbar trailer is having a new floor and rear door surrounds fitted. Across the workshop floor, a group of Volvo FH tractor units are having additional nearside door glazing panels fitted to improve urban visibility levels for a large blue chip customer.
"The extra passenger door glass panels are proving popular retrofit options for quite a number of truck types now and for accident damage work we deal with eight out of ten major UK insurers," notes Waterworth adding, "we also do a lot of Hatcher air management kit fittings, catwalks for SB Components and a host of other ancillary equipment like chassis side skirts, tool boxes and additional lights or beacons." This production line capacity can often see major fleets booking in new multi vehicle orders for a campaign of engineering solutions.
The well-worn phrase that ‘you only get what you pay for,' rings true at THVS, who are justifiably proud of their top quality vehicle painting and refinishing services the Chorley property contains two, state of the art low bake oven booths, which can accommodate anything from a small cab panel right up to a full height double deck trailer. "THVS are an active member of PPG Industries' Paint Guard scheme. Everything is painted with two pack and there are stringent quality standards to be adhered to across the entire painting process," Cartwright notes.
Recognising the need to minimise downtime for customers, THVS keep a stock of pre painted Volvo cab panels and use a ‘Pit Stop' system for speedy repairs. This sees instant availability on around 80 per cent of Volvo truck cab panels finished in primary colours, with Volvo Winter White being the most popular.
A triage facility for trailers is offered to a number of major retail customers with RDCs close by THVS' premises in Commonbank Industrial Estate. "This service peaks in the run up to Christmas and we can turn trailers needing running repairs around quickly. We work hard to be in sync with every customer's business requirements," Waterworth declares.
The 14 strong team at THVS Chorley work a two shift system which sees Monday to Friday opening from 5am to 10.30pm and Saturday / Sunday opening by appointment. A previous campaign entitled ‘Give your truck a weekend break,' proved particularly popular for operators with accident damaged tractor units requiring minor, out of hours cosmetic repairs.
THVS enjoy several benefits of being part of the Volvo family, albeit in a more stand-alone fashion. "The separate business branding is important to us, but we are subject to the same stringent auditing and environmental policies deployed at the truck dealerships. The latter green issues also see us work collaboratively with Chorley Council on a frequent basis. We can tap into Thomas Hardie Commercials' IT and HR systems in addition to the group health and safety policies, thereby maintaining professional business standards across the board," Waterworth concludes.
Customer Case Study - A Fresh Approach
THVS' production line systems were recently deployed on eight Volvo trucks delivered to Huntapac Produce Ltd of Holmes, Lancashire during 2017. The FH460 6×2 tractor units were supplied by Thomas Hardie Commercials Ltd.'s Preston dealerpoint and the prime movers were sent to THVS at Chorley for fitment of wet kits.
"We operate around 50 tipper trailers in our fleet and our association with THVS goes back around four years when we specified hydraulic gear on another batch of Volvo trucks," notes Will Hunter, Operations Director at Huntapac Produce Ltd. "The specification, fitment and performance of the hydraulic equipment is spot on. THVS know our requirements and we're happy to place repeat orders for the same specifications," Hunter adds.
Huntapac Produce's specification saw THVS fit a single line tipping hydraulic motive wet kit that included a chassis side mounted, aluminium oil tank with a capacity of 200 litres. An OMFB 82 litre pump and OMFB fixed wheel Power Take Off (PTO) are located at the gearbox rear to produce an operating flow of approximately 95 litres per minute.
Inside the Volvo FH cab, the tipping control is fixed next to the driver's seat at floor level, whilst back on the chassis, a power pipe exit in front of the fifth wheel adjoins a 360 degree swivel fitting terminating with push on coupling and storage point.
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