SOE News

Corporate Partner focus: Tower Transit

23rd Aug 2017

To understand how irtec and workshop accreditation can aid business performance, it is indicative to look at bus and coach operator, Tower Transit.

For some perspective, it was in 2013 that the group purchased their first vehicles to operate in London. The group now has five depots in the UK and has entered the competitive market of Singapore.

Satnam Cheema, Group Engineering Director, explains: “We are on a growth trajectory, and we never see obstacles; only challenges. We’re never shy to enter a new market. It’s also important to make quick decisions, and our team understand this, meaning we are fast at assessing our options.”

Part of the blueprint for success, Satnam says, is their ambition to maintain these high standards at all levels and in all operations of the business, particularly in the area of engineering where they’ve forged an alliance with the IRTE, through Workshop Accreditation and irtec assessments.

Accreditation standards

“The accreditation is now part of our DNA. When we approach a new market without well-established industry benchmarks, accreditation sets us apart and puts us in the company of some of the best workshops in the world. That says a lot to local authorities,” says Satnam.

Digital technology - with contactless ticketing and high definition IP cameras – has been willingly adopted by the sector, whilst emission restrictions on harmful gases has seen operators embracing electric, hydrogen and hybrid alternatives.

“We won our contract in Singapore based on our quality initiatives. In everything we now do, we set ourselves high standards. Processes, documentation, equipment, health and safety will all be of the highest possible specification,” says Satnam.

New markets

“We tailor make our operations to every market, and while operating environments are unique, we wanted a consistently high standard for all our workshops. We identified Singapore very early on. In Singapore, there was not a big enough market for highly trained technicians. In addition to a shortage of talent, there was also a lack of professionalization and therefore a shortage of recognition. So, where we weren’t able to hire the desired skills, we hired the desired attitudes and invested resources in mentoring,” says Satnam.

Tower Transit Singapore has since established an engineering centre of excellence where a top-flight leadership team is helping to shape all-rounded, highly-skilled and technologically-forward technicians. A key part of that upskilling has come from IRTE, in the form of irtec licensing for the company’s technicians. The company used approved assessors S&B Automotive to train its technicians towards the irtec Inspection Technician license which has recently been conferred to all 12 of its vehicle technicians and four from the management team.

“Licensing does two things for us,” says Satnam. “One, it assures us and our clients that our technicians meet stringent professional standards and two, it assures us that our technician training programme is robust. This is just the beginning of their training and we intend to continue upskilling them.”

Skills challenge

Tower Transit entered two teams into the IRTE Skills Challenge 2017. One from the UK, and one from Singapore – the first team from outside the British Isles to compete in the event.

Both teams found success. Two members of the UK team won ‘Top Scoring Electrical & Mechanical Award,’ while two members of the Singapore team won the Runner-up Mechanical & Bodywork Award; a considerable achievement for two technicians new to the public bus industry.

“Winning awards was really just the icing on the cake. The value of the Skills Challenge for our technicians in the UK and Singapore really is that it pushes them, gives them tremendous exposure and allows them to benchmark themselves against the talent that is out there. It is also recognition of their potential and ability to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best,” says Satnam.

“It’s gone down well in Singapore and has been great for the morale of the team. For many of them, it is going into the unknown, but the experience has inspired them and they’ve brought some of that inspiration back to their colleagues. Next year we want to enter even more teams,” says Satnam, who collected the runner-up award on behalf of the Singaporean team.

Challenges

As new technology begins to transform the bus industry, the challenge for Tower Transit will be to attract new engineering talent and help those it already has to flourish.

“Constant training and development is crucial to ensure our technicians stay at the forefront of developments in technology. That’s why we’ve set up a centre of excellence in Singapore. It’s why all our workshops around the world are accredited and why all our technicians are IRTE members and irtec licensed.

“We are helping to set industry benchmarks and are actively involved in knowledge transfer to the transport authority. We’ve co-hosted SOE events in Singapore which have been very well received,” says Satnam.

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