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Allied production team praised for creating new minibus model from scratch

A top team from Allied Vehicles is being praised for their ingenuity in developing a prototype minibus from scratch in a process that can be applied to virtually any basic panel van.

The need for a new approach stemmed from a shortage of base vehicles for Allied’s popular Flexilite minibus, which is built on a Citroen Relay van base.

Assistant production manager Chris Baird said the company managed to source a number of Renault Master vans, which meant his team had to figure out how to convert them into minibuses.

“The biggest challenge we knew we were going to face was the design engineering team are all currently on projects, working on different tasks like long-term projects, and we didn’t have the time to wait,” said Chris.

“So, we were looking at how we could fast-track this, but also deliver a good quality product. “The guys from the shop floor came up with different ideas to address the challenges on the product itself, and basically turned out what we have today.

“It’s been really good to see something coming from the ground up, going up so quickly through the whole design process and coming out at the other end.

“More importantly it’s given the guys a badge of honour that they’ve been involved from the  very early stages and have actually seen it through from start to finish. I think that’s been an important learning curve for myself as a manager.”

Lasers are used to cut out window spaces, wiring looms are adapted for lighting and speakers and the interior of the vehicle is lined and carpeted before the seats are installed.

The new Renault Master base model offers the market a different style of vehicle and Chris says the versatility of having the ability to design and build a new minibus on a non-standard vehicle, is something Allied’s competitors don’t have.

Stephen Mather, one of the assemblers, said: “We tried things to see if they worked or didn’t work, so it was just a bit of trial and error and when we were happy, we’d go for that, because we were doing our own designing.

“It was definitely enjoyable for us to convert … it gives you a bit of pride in your work, doing something that’s never been done before.

“There are 16 vans to do so hopefully there might be more.”

Steven Smith, Allied’s corporate and minibus development manager assessed the Renault Master’s potential for conversion before the production team mapped out a plan for the entire operation.

“We had to obviously look at the legal aspects of how much weight we could put in the bus, how many seats, whether it’s wheelchair accessible or not and from the sales point of view what we were trying to convert it into,” said Steven. “I’m really happy with the end result.”

Operations Director George McAdam says the need to adapt was driven by vehicle supply issues, and he’s delighted with how everyone has adapted.

“When we couldn’t get our usual vehicles we had to take replacements, but it took a lot of lateral thinking to work out how we would maintain the integrity and quality of the existing builds,” he says.

“I’m delighted to say we managed that down to a great team effort that involved a host of people including those from engineering, production and design, through to sales admin. A great result all round.”

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Some of the Allied Vehicles production team who designed and built the new Renault Master minibus from scratch

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Notes to editors

NOTE TO EDITORS: Allied Vehicles Group is the UK’s leading manufacturer of wheelchair accessible cars, minibuses, and taxis. The company supplies special purpose vehicles to private and public sector customers throughout the UK and, increasingly, in continental Europe. The group also provides assistive living aids for older and disabled people and a full range of automotive after-sales services including service and maintenance, accident repair and nationwide parts distribution. Allied supports a range of local community initiatives and national disability charities and is a member of the Disability Positive employer scheme.

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