Building and Creating Innovation

Bus & Coach International Pty Ltd

When you are dealing with safely transporting people, the ability to produce good quality, strong and dependable vehicles with a design flexible enough to change with the demands of technology and industry standards, is paramount.

It isn’t enough to simply accommodate and adjust to the customer’s needs; you have to be committed to excellence, which is what Bus and Coach International (BCI) is all about.

Australian owned and operated, family business BCI started in 1991 and was built on the expertise and experience of Ron Nazzari, its founder and current chairman. The company, which has dealerships across Australia and New Zealand, is different from other bus makers in that the manufacturing team tailors the chassis and the body to certain requirements, rather than using a generic chassis from a factory line.

Designing quality buses and coaches is an art in itself. As the company has twenty-eight models to choose from, each one can be specifically constructed to meet unique and individual specifications from the client or customer. Produced in China for the world market, BCI is one of the most highly purchased bus and coach brands in Australia.

Corporate Communications specialist Michelle Nazzari and Chief Executive Officer Ivan Furlanetto are quite proud of BCI and how far the business has come. Ivan, with his twenty years of experience in retail finance and a strong business management background, has played a key role in the successful expansion of the company into emerging international markets.

On an average day at BCI’s headquarters in Perth, things are bustling. In Perth, the company is running a full parts and service, bumper to bumper, warranty network while in its production facility, there is a team of engineers and managers developing the designs and ensuring top quality control. Engineers come to the company from Australia as well as from Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States and throughout Asia. The company’s operations moved to China in 2006, which enabled increased production whilst maintaining the Australian expertise and quality control. The move led to an impressive market share growth in Australia.

Ivan feels that many people view China in an inaccurate way. The company builds in China to be at the source of the component supply, as most parts of a car or bus already originate in that country. “We are taking the best parts and making a bus out of it,” he explains. “We are, in fact, making a product that meets and far exceeds the expectations of customers. Fortunately, we have those twenty-eight different models to choose from. We are running a western factory in China.” Indeed, the company finds sources for quality components from China and elsewhere. Some needed components are imported, such as transmissions and air conditioners from the United States and axles from Germany.

Environmentally speaking, BCI respects the fact that with the automotive industry comes a large quantity of waste metal, plastics and fabric materials. Through a robust recycling program, BCI keeps regenerating all reusable and valuable materials to save cost and, of course, to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

The zone in China in which the company factory is located requires that every part be accounted for coming in and going out. Ivan says that, for example, when a wooden pallet comes in, instead of being discarded there is a team of people who separates each piece, removing each nail to be recycled. “When there is welding, there is actually a machine sitting there extracting the air and purifying it.”

Ivan explains that, contrary to popular conceptions about environmental protection in China, the country is in fact making phenomenal positive changes. He cites a further example being the factory’s paint fumes which are sucked down through water to then be treated and purified before being reused in the plant. “The air around here is fantastic. From an outsider looking into China over the last ten years you can physically see the improvements in air quality.”

Much like any relationship, all parties have to have a strong connection. Ivan shares that, “All relationships need to be maintained and we are in a tight partnership. The Chinese are a great partner and we have really learned a lot from each other. It is a country which is improving itself on a regular basis. I’m very proud to be at this factory and to be globalising the East and the West together to build a world class product.”

The company takes great care in offering vehicles that represent quality and value for money. This is imperative given the competitive nature of the industry. BCI must ensure its products are of the highest quality to meet consumer and market demands and the success of that goal is reflected in the high level of repeat business. “It is nice to feel valued and we are excited to have long-term customers provide personal testimonials to potential new entrants into the industry,” says Michelle of the loyalty exhibited by the numerous long-term clients of the company.

She says that the current state of the automotive industry in Australia is changing. “The industry is going through a huge globalising trend with many longstanding Australian car manufacturers going offshore in recent years, or downsizing Australian manufacturing: Holden may pull out of Australia within three years and Ford vehicles are now built in Mexico and Brazil, to name a few.”

An influx of inexpensive Asian bus brands has entered the Australian market in recent years, yet BCI’s balance between an economical and a quality product has ensured that the coach company has maintained its strong market share. Bus operators approach BCI when they update, expand or replace a fleet as they value the company’s commitment to providing the best product and after service care.

With the industry becoming increasingly competitive, trailblazing BCI continues to push the boundaries of what it does, putting it in a great position for the future. Its innovative work in the development of galvanised steel, stainless steel and aluminium bus bodies is further evidence of this booming company’s leading role in the industry.

BCI has also started building hybrid and electric buses, and the innovations don’t stop there. It has also created a passenger compartment where, even in the event of the vehicle physically rolling over, the protective cage will not crumple. Cameras have been incorporated into the vehicles as well as collision avoidance systems and sensors to detect heavy braking or steering. The company is looking to move into technology that will predict and visualise what is on the road and be able to apply the brakes before the driver realises that they’re needed.

Clients shopping for a new vehicle can take one out for a test drive or even try it for a weekend. Michelle says, “We allow all kinds of vehicle trials for customers and if we see a great match between vehicles and a customer, then we know it is magic.” This flexible and accommodating approach has proven to improve the fleet as the company has used these trials to identify gaps in its market.

After examining a customer’s individual business requirements and then building a model specifically to meet that, a process begins between the sales team and the engineers to create a new niche product. Michelle says that this approach, driving innovation and new product development, comes from BCI founder Ron J. Nazzari. “You might say he takes that Steve Jobs approach. The late Steve Jobs once said, ‘A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.’ We tend to share that sentiment.”

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December 19, 2018, 9:22 AM AEDT