For decades Bikecorp has been one of Australia’s leading wholesalers, mainly focusing upon P&A. But throughout this time it would be fair to say that the succession of larger premises they’ve occupied have been ‘no frills’, to put it politely.
This is about to change dramatically as Bikecorp are just about to be handed the keys to a purpose built, state of the art facility that has been designed to their exact specifications.
On Friday 7th May, Bikecorp veterans Neil Watson and John Dunnachie took time out of their hectic move preparations to give us a preview of their new headquarters, which was then just a couple of weeks away from completion.
We started with a chat at their current premises of 10 years’ standing, which was in full ‘pack up’ mode.
By rough count this will be the sixth home for Bikecorp. All have been located in the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, starting with a small shed in Oakleigh. Neil has been with Bikecorp for 34 years and John for 29.
“We’re a bit different I suppose because we celebrate 20 and 30 year staff anniversaries with the company, rather than people celebrating just 10 years,” John said. “We’ve got nine people that have been with us over 20 years. 80% of the full-timers have been here over 10 years.
“It’s a good culture and a good company to work for.”
John and Neil said that the decision to move was not a difficult one to make.
“We’ve been walking around this warehouse with umbrellas up!” Neil laughed.
“It rains more indoors than outdoors when it rains,” John added.
“Getting everything under the one roof is a big factor,” Neil continued. “Here we’ve got one big warehouse then two more out the back. It’s just going to be so much easier in the new place.”
“We’ve been fortunate to build a new facility,” John resumed. “We’ve been able to design offices and warehouse how we want it, with plenty of room for expansion. It’s totally different to this warehouse. I think this warehouse we go six pallets high and at the new warehouse we can go nine high.
“We’ve got to get in a new forklift from overseas with will reach those lofty heights.”
Bikecorp has been growing, and the new headquarters, which is located about three kilometres east of the old one, will be home to about 20 to 25 people depending upon the number of casuals employed on any given day.
“Since COVID the whole structure of Bikecorp has changed between the office and warehouse. All the office staff now are doing two days warehouse and three days here (in the office) or three and two… whatever. It’s has helped the culture of the place. It’s not ‘us and them’ anymore, it’s just ‘us’.”
Bikecorp will close for a few days to make the move. It’s a bigger job than just moving house. They’ll be moving about 1,900 pallets full of stock from both their current facility and overflow storage at another site.
Unfortunately there have been delays in completing the new premises, so shipping containers they were hoping to divert direct to the new premises have had to be delivered to the old one and ‘double handled.’
“But it’s going to be fantastic to have a purpose built place with a proper showroom,” John continued. “Ever since Neil and I have been here, you don’t want to invite dealers here, to a degree (due to the modest facilities). If they visit and they walk into the warehouse they’re still amazed at the size and the functionality of what we’ve done with our RF scanning and things like that.”
Neil added, “Yes, I think everybody is pretty excited and proud of the new place. We’ve been in pretty ordinary premises since day one at Bikecorp. To move into somewhere like this will be good for everybody’s morale coming to work.”
“We’re continually adding brands,” John continued. “In the past 18 months we’ve added Bellweather, Profile and Tannus Armour (tyre protectors). Tannus started off as a four or five small box delivery that’s now coming in 40-foot container loads. Things like that that are just showing huge growth.”
“We’re not one major brand. Between Azur, our own brand that we’ve built up now over the last five to seven years to be one of the strengths. Freedom which is our rubber brand that we build up ourselves.”
Having a blank canvas to start with, Bikecorp were determined to improve several key factors in their new headquarters. Most important of all, optimising the layout of the warehouse.
“We wanted to have ease of, not just picking, but no longer constantly having to replenish our picking stock,” Neil explained. “For example right now Quadlock, we replenish three times a week. We’ll now be able to designate an area to it that we’ll always have two weeks of stock sitting in there. That saves a lot of downtime of guys having to replenish.”
John elaborated, “More picking shelves, bigger picking shelves, but also room too to expand each brand. For instance, when we took on Profile. Profile’s got a lot of parts. We didn’t have a specific area in this warehouse, so they’re spread everywhere. Now, they’ll be in one specific area.
“We have started from scratch and we’ve done numerous layouts, designs. For example our tyre area and tubing area is going to have in-rack sprinklers put in because of the fire risk and the OH&S laws these days. Again, purpose built, the racking, so the tyres can be easily picked. It’ll be an opportunity to rather than just having them on one pole, we could have multiple poles with the same tyre on there, again, just for ease.
“We know where our downfalls and our bottlenecks are. For example we’ve got four packing benches over there, but we’ve got flexibility to bring in another two packing benches. So if there is an influx of orders, we can put more people onto packing.
“We’ve bought a new wrapping machine that’s a portable ‘RoboCop’ basically… you take it to a pallet, set it up and it automatically wraps. When containers come in, we can take it out to the loading dock, so we can have somebody wrapping pallets that they can be put straight into storage.”
Seeing Bikecorp’s impressive new premises, even before it was operational, was heartening, not just for the direct benefits to Bikecorp’s staff and customers. It’s a large, tangible vote of confidence in the future of Australia’s bicycle industry and in particular a vote of confidence in the wholesaler / independent bicycle dealer distribution channel, which has proven itself to be resilient in the face of growing competition from direct to consumer online channels.
It’s also fair reward for decades of hard work, customer service and good management.