Totalkare has grown in recent years from being a supplier of vehicle lifts to one that is now active across multiple types of workshop equipment. That, combined with an ongoing strategy for growth, has seen the supplier treble its product sales in value terms and double its service-related turnover. 20 mobile technicians are now active in the latter area of its business and it also has a dedicated installation team.
As the Totalkare range has grown to include brake and headlight testing equipment, pits, workshop furniture and others – and with more to come – so has a need for space. Totalkare now calls a combined office, workshop and warehouse building in Kingswinford home, and it is in the process of adding an additional floor of office accommodation.
The supplier lists quality service and products, a growing equipment line-up and strong relationships among reasons for its expansion. Changes within the coach and bus maintenance field have also been influential. The government’s super-deduction scheme to encourage investment has helped further, CEO David Hall notes.
“Our message has become that while we are still active across the vehicle lifting sphere, lifts are not all we do,” he continues. “That has taken effect and we are now viewed more as a workshop equipment supplier.”
Putting a brake on testing times with new range
Coach and bus businesses have shown strong interest in brake testing equipment, David notes. He refers to a brake tester as “a compliance product” in view of Traffic Commissioners’ placing of great emphasis on regular such testing, and the severity of regulatory action against an O-Licence that may follow if it is not heeded.
“We have seen lots of demand for brake testing products,” he continues. “Operators previously often used third parties, but it can be difficult to obtain appointments.” In-house brake testing “can also be a revenue opportunity.”
Most coach and bus operators that have purchased brake testers from Totalkare have fleets of 20-50 vehicles.
Besides giving surety of availability, an in-house tester reduces planned vehicle downtime, costs and the business’s carbon footprint.
Wheels and tyres are a further area where Totalkare sees scope to grow. Wheel alignment is key to fuel efficiency and is an area where the supplier is already active. Mounting and dismounting tyres could become an area of wider interest owing to the health and safety implications of doing so manually. Totalkare now has products that carry out those tasks both automatically and much faster than doing so by hand.
Lifting: All bases still covered by Totalkare
Although Totalkare has expanded into new markets, its core vehicle lift range remains strong. In the coach and bus sector, column lifts are the favoured solution. Totalkare meets that requirement with its T8 range.
The T8AC runs directly from a three-phase plug-in supply, while the T8DC is battery powered and thus cable-free. Typically, around 40 sets of four columns are in stock at Kingswinford. Older models are present for repair or refurbishment or having been taken in part-exchange.
Something that Totalkare is keen to stress is the importance of using six columns for tri-axle vehicles. Using four and leaving the tag axle unsupported sees the counterweight effect of the heavy driveline result in a major loading imbalance. Besides accelerating wear on the columns supporting the drive wheels, such a practice can also damage vehicle airbags on that axle and is something that should be avoided.
Lifting platforms retain a following in coach and bus, and Totalkare has issued multiple quotes for them to the sector this year, including for a 13m galvanised example. An attraction of a platform lift is the ease and speed of its operation, while it is also easily moved to new premises if needed. Sales Director Adam Bowser describes it as “a pit in the sky.” An in-ground lift, which uses hydraulic columns, is due to market soon.
Totalkare now a growing and diversifying business
In line with its diversification, David observes that Totalkare’s market proposition is now about offering “a full package” of well-supported workshop equipment. The business has paid close attention to service, he continues; in addition to field engineers, the parts supply process has been overhauled to ensure that it is as efficient as possible. That includes automatic demand planning to ensure that items are available.
Another move to strengthen service has been the appointment of two product specialists.
They work with lifting and testing, respectively, are involved with all aspects of the sale and operation process for their respective equipment streams, and are likely to be joined by others in the same role that will champion different areas of the business.
“We will continue to invest money to ensure that we are ready for the future,” David continues. “Our priority is to make sure that customers are happy with products and service. A lot of that comes through doing simple things: Answering the phone when it rings, having parts in stock and turning up when we say we will.”
A further example of Totalkare’s ‘full service’ approach is its project management capability when civil engineering work is required for equipment installation, while it has a strong and adaptable funding offer that includes contract hire and finance in addition to traditional purchase.
A service package can be incorporated into a monthly charge, of which repair and maintenance is popular among coach and bus operators. “Our one-stop approach is bringing us new customers and it is also allowing us to do more business with those that we have already,” David concludes.