Staff Profile: Neil MacPherson
Author: Cathy Anderson
When you pick up your ex-rental motorhome from RV Sales Centre Australia, the man you need to thank for putting it all together in the first place is Neil MacPherson, Production Manager Australia.
When he’s not busy juggling vehicle production schedules or developing new and innovative ideas for motorhome design, you’ll more than likely find RV Sales Centre’s Neil MacPherson carving up a trail on his mountain bike, photographing beautiful Australian landscapes, or taking one of the 4WD models up to vist classic Aussie bush huts.
Here, he chats to Cathy Anderson about his role, his 12-year history with the company, and draws back the curtain a little as to what actually happens on the factory floor.
Q: How long have you been with THL?
A: Nearly 12 years. I came in as a factory supervisor which was mainly hands-on with the tools and, within 12 months, was put into the Production Manager role. Prior to that, I was with one of Australia’s largest cabinetmakers, which builds kitchens, for eight years. Funnily enough, they supplied furniture that went into the back of our Britz HiTop, Britz Voyager and Maui Ultima motorhomes and the 4WD back then.
Q: What does your job entail?
A: I manage people in the purchasing teams and the crew on the factory floor to build and fit out our rental fleet of motorhomes and campervans. I also transition those vehicles out of the rental fleet and into the sales yard for RV Sales Centre when it is time for them to go for sale or if there is a big demand for a particular model. I am also the THL rep for Australian Design Rules for vehicle safety, and I play a part in the design of certain vehicles.
Q: Do you enjoy the innovative side of your role?
A: I think that’s one of the main reasons I do it. I enjoy working with people and see people grow and develop within my team on the factory floor and in the purchasing team. But that innovation, vehicle design, ideas, that is a big passion of mine. We are looking at innovating our two and four-berth van products at the moment and I am very much enjoying that as well as the project management side of it - coordinating the builds and ordering and seeing it all logistically flow and work is really satisfying.
Q: Can you give an example of how you have innovated in the last few years?
A: When I first started, we built our own 4WD models with pop-top roofs and pull-out kitchens and you slept in the vehicles - but they were only used during the peak 4WD season in Darwin, Broome and Alice Springs. In the wet season, they just sat around. For us, it was a chance to think about whether we want to be in this space. So the idea of the leasing option came about five years ago and we haven’t looked back since. We now lease vehicles, fit them out for the dry season and then they go back to the manufacturer. We have two models, the five-berth Safari, based on the Toyota LandCruiser, and the Outback, based on a Toyota HiLux Dual Cab. But we got a lot of feedback, particularly from our European customers, that they were worried about sleeping outside with Australian reptiles and insects. I then went to all the different manufacturers to find out who does a 4X4 van and quickly shortened the list to Mercedes. We launched the Scout model which has an ‘Action Pod’ where you can sleep inside. It has proven to be a success. We are now building a stronger kit for that through a local manufacturer - I was out there looking at the prototype just recently and they will be fitted soon.
Q: I assume quality is a huge factor in your work?
A: That’s one thing we pride ourselves on, trying to be the innovators and the leaders in that rental space.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work?
A: One of my biggest passions is fitness - cycling, running, mountain biking, I am training three times a week and that is my outlet now before work. I did the Oxfam event a couple of years ago which is the 100km walk and I just loved that whole experience with seven other people and getting everybody across the line.
Q: Do you travel in a motorhome?
A: Yes definitely. I haven’t used the 4WD products as yet, but I am keen to grab a Scout as soon as that is finished. My wife and three kids and I would have done seven or eight trips in motorhomes - we are limited to a six-berth because there are five of us, but we have done trips around Victoria. They love it. The kids are always keen to get in and jump around the Luton peak like a cubby house.
Q: Top travel spots?
A: One of our better trips was up to Bright for the Autumn Festival for the changing of the leaves - that was a really cool trip. My wife and I want to go up to Craig’s Hut on the top of Mount Sterling - it’s the Man from Snowy River country. We went there in January and hiked up but I would love to go back and stay in the 4WD and do some photography as that is another passion of mine, too.