High-tech services drive firm’s success

Brian Gott, left, and his son Ian, Technical Services Director at Gott Technical Services, at Morpeth Rotary Club.
Brian Gott, left, and his son Ian, Technical Services Director at Gott Technical Services, at Morpeth Rotary Club.

Morpeth Rotary Club

Ian Gott, son of Rotary member Brian Gott, is Technical Services Director at Gott Technical Services. He was invited to say what it does.

He sees the business as keeping the wheels of the automotive industry turning. It supplies equipment to garages and repair centres for cars, motorcycles, buses, local authority vehicles, refuse lorries, ambulances, fire engines, police cars, helicopters, vans, lorries, military vehicles, golf buggies and sit-on mowers. It supplies Benfield, Davidsons, Jennings, Automaster, Blackshaws and Vertu/Bristol Street.

It uses computer assisted design to organise garage workshops, bearing in mind the equipment needed and the work rate expected. Modern garages will have an MOT test bay, vehicle lift, metered oil systems, a drive-on roller that is used for brake tests, headlight checking, an air conditioning servicing area, wheel alignment, wheel balance and tyre changing equipment, and air compressors and industrial pressure washers. Garages take Formula One pit stop systems to aim for fast and effective inspections.

Garage service charges are between £60 and £100 an hour so Mr Gott would encourage drivers to replace any failed bulbs and worn windscreen wiper blades themselves before the MOT. Not everyone knows that they have a right to view MOT tests on their car. The Department of Transport says that every testing station must have a viewing area or railings to stand behind. The brake test is computerised and the test results are replicated on a screen. Much equipment is now connected by radio so that results can be seen in reception, although Wi-Fi does not always work well in garages.

New problems come up as technology changes. Checking headlamps was straightforward when they had lenses, but with LEDs and clear headlights, they need more advanced equipment.

The testing of car emissions has been much in the news. A probe at the back of the car is used to ‘sniff’ emissions. For petrol this is to check for gases, and for diesel it is a smoke meter. People have been asking why the VW scandal was not discovered earlier through UK testing, but the problem gas in the USA is nitrous oxide, which is not tested for in the UK, although some think that it should be.

An important part of the business is to check, maintain and service the garage equipment it supplies and installs. It provides service contracts with regular inspection for any sign of wear, but many garages will not spend the money. If the vehicle lift stops working, garages lose money at once.

One Friday, at 3pm, a garage had a customer’s car up on a lift that would not go down, leaving the customer furious. A few weeks ago there was another emergency call to a vehicle lift, but it would not go down because the mechanic had failed to switch on the air compressor. Poor maintenance can result in cars falling off lifts. In one case the lift arm went through a car door.

As well as the cost of damage, other possible expenses have to be considered. The Health and Safety Executive charges a fee if it has to go in following an accident. The average charge is £700 per visit and it will also levy a fine if the garage has overlooked something.

Every garage must have measuring equipment calibrated regularly. The company is accredited by various bodies to do that.

A key part of the work is advising customers on the right piece of equipment for their needs. The business works with Benfield Nissan and Newcastle Maserati, where the Nissan GTR and the Maserati are hard to lift. The GTR is very low so it is difficult to get equipment underneath. The Maserati has only a very small area that you may lift on. One point is exactly below the windscreen. If you are a few millimetres out, it flexes the windscreen, which costs £1,000 to replace.

For larger vehicles, there are mobile vehicle lifting columns, which can be taken to where the vehicle is and can tilt it as each column can move independently. There are Bluetooth and battery-operated columns that can communicate with each other. Vehicles can be lifted and put onto stands so the lift can be used elsewhere.

Some contracts are very demanding, such as service support for helicopter equipment. Specialist lifting arms have to be used for freeway and golf trolleys.

The company is keen to encourage training for the industry and pleased to work with vehicle maintenance classrooms in schools and colleges. It has recently worked with Atkinson House and Gateshead College. It launched a student competition to design and place garage equipment where the winner got a work experience placement that led to a job.

It regularly employs mechanical engineers and hydraulic engineers, and in future may advertise for someone with IT skills.

Instead of the traditional motor mechanic approach, newer cars are hooked up to a high-tech diagnostic machine to say what is wrong. A small garage would need to spend £3,000 to £4,000 to get equipment for one type of car, but would need five to cover all types.

The company works mostly in the North East and Carlisle, but where it has contracts with garage groups it might go as far as Mansfield, Chesterfield, Wigan, Dunfermline and Glasgow.

The vote of thanks was given by Brian Gott, who founded the company.