A true underdog story: Scania Sheffield prove to be the UK’s top workshop team
Scania’s Top Team competition isn’t for the fainthearted. A gruelling two-year competition to discover the best workshops from across the world. It’s also where underdogs can be become potential world beaters.
5th August 2022
Scania’s Top Team competition is an intensive global training programme, to celebrate and motivate workshop teams. The goal is to improve their knowledge, working practices and teamwork to create a more cohesive and efficient unit.
Started in 1989 solely for Swedish workshops, this successful concept has been rolled out globally, with the UK first entering the competition in 2007. Aaron McGrath, Head of People Development at Scania UK, has fond memories of taking part – not just in the national competition but also representing Scania Great Britain in the European and World Finals.
“This is the only opportunity a technician has to get some serious recognition,” he says. “The whole programme is about being the best of the best.
“There’s kudos that comes along with it, but it’s also the experience you take away with you. After the World Finals in 2010, we operated much more efficiently because we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses – and collaborated more.”
But don’t think for one moment this competition is for the fainthearted.
It’s two years of gruelling competition starting with a national programme. Every UK Scania service centre can take part, with the first rounds consisting of answering technical questions under pressure. Teams are quickly whittled down to the best 10 teams who battle it out in the national finals.
The pressure continues to increase, as the finalists face a mixture of theoretical and physical challenges. It’s a true test of each team’s mettle to complete a technical workstation in 20 minutes.
Speaking with Aaron, who now runs the UK Top Team programme, it’s clear if you want to compete internationally you need to bring your A-game on the day. But the key to being successful is preparation, preparation, preparation, to be able to mentally deal with any potential curveballs.
And there were curveballs a plenty. Aaron and his team made sure of that.
Scania UK Top Team Finals 2022
This year’s finalists were Bridgewater, Darlington, Eurocentral, Exeter, Grahams Commercials, Grangemouth, Keltruck Newark, TruckEast Norwich/Thetford – a joint team, Purfleet and Sheffield.
Each one ready to do battle across five technical workstations. Four practical assignments diagnosing and solving mechanical and electrical issues with trucks, buses and a power solutions engine – installed in a Terex crusher, and one focused on answering 50 theoretical questions.
What transpired was a tight, keenly fought competition with only 16 points separating the top four teams and a mere 41 between first and last.
Aaron says: “We raised the bar with the technical challenges, as we were keen to ramp up the pressure and make the tasks as realistic as possible. And how each team responded. It shows how well prepared and seriously everyone took it. A clear indicator of the level of competence of Scania UK’s best people.”
An underdog’s story – Scania Sheffield
Competing in their first national finals, Scania Sheffield arrived at Scania’s Technical Training Centre in Loughborough intent to give the competition a good go.
Despite having plenty of experienced team members, General Manager Darren Woodward, said their inexperience was clear to see.
“We didn’t realise how seriously each team took Top Team,” he adds. “They all had matching attire and looked the part, whereas we probably looked like the poor orphans when we got there.
“We’ve never been this far before, and we were keen to give a good account of ourselves.”
Unfortunately for Sheffield, the first task was a struggle as they got to grips with the competition and the pressure. Darren recalls it being the longest 20 minutes of his life. But equally it was short-lived in his team’s minds, as they dusted themselves down and went again.
They clearly started revelling in the occasion, as Team Sheffield began to build momentum and grow into the competition. Before they knew it, they doubled their points in round two. Claimed more than 30 and 40 points in the next two rounds. And peaked with almost 50 points in the final round.
Confident they’d given a good account of themselves against experienced competition, including some who’d taken part in the European and World finals in previous years, a podium finish now seemed realistic.
Against all the odds, Sheffield put in a performance of a lifetime as the five-man team took victory and claimed their places in Bratislava for the European finals in September. Marginally beating Scania Eurocentral, Scania Purfleet and Scania Exeter who finished joint second and third respectively.
Darren says the shock of the announcement was met with instant euphoria by the whole team.
“I couldn’t be more pleased for the team and the whole depot,” he adds. “It’s given us such a much-needed boost. It’s fantastic to see the team rewarded for all their hard work, and now they will represent their country.
“It’s a true underdog story. We had to make the most of this opportunity, they don’t come around often, so we had a go and had fun along the way.
“We also learnt a lot about ourselves too. This victory has brought everyone closer now – not just the team but the depot as well.”
Scania Sheffield’s twelfth man
Aaron McGrath, Head of People Development at Scania UK, was impressed by what he saw as the consistency shown by all the teams was an indication of the thoroughness of their preparations.
Adding: “It was a tough competition and for Sheffield to come to their first finals and win it. That’s some significant achievement.
“It’s a really fast learning process across all our product ranges, from truck to bus to power solutions – both electrical and mechanical, and health and safety. But also, it teaches you how to interact with your colleagues better.”
Despite still enjoying their unexpected victory, Sheffield’s focus has quickly turned to Bratislava with one eye on making it to the World finals in 2023 in Södertälje, Sweden.
Plenty of intensive training and preparation will be required, but the team is keen to continue the momentum they’ve built up. And supported by Aaron’s team of technical trainers, who knows where their journey might lead them. There’s an underlying confidence building that Sheffield could be crowned the best Scania workshop team in the world.
Although there’s a long way to go before then, the team has the right mix of camaraderie, experience and aptitude to achieve it. And with the support of the whole depot in Sheffield, the team will be able to rely on their 12th man to help them overcome any challenges along the way.
“We’re excited to see where this journey will take us, but we are not planning to finish at the European finals,” Darren adds.
“We will make sure our 12th man is there with us. As we won’t just be representing Scania Great Britain but also everyone at Scania Sheffield.”
And with the help of their secret weapon supporting and pushing the team on, who knows where Sheffield’s journey will take them. But one thing’s for sure the team has their sights set firmly on Bratislava and their European counterparts. For now.
Meet Team Sheffield:
- Darren Woodward – General Manager: Is a massive fan of the pop group Level 42, who had a chance meeting with lead singer Mark King and got everything a keen fan would want – a photo, getting to know their idol and, of course, a restraining order
- Steve Lyness – Workshop Controller: Always has his eyes on the ball, except on the one occasion he was knocked out cold by a wayward shot from former Leeds United and Sheffield United star Tony Currie
- Steve Clarkson – Escalation Technician: Once came to Lionel Richie’s aid by fixing the coach he was travelling to a concert in. After sharing a can of coke they ended up dancing on the ceiling.
- John Clift – Master Technician: Is one lucky man. He was so excited at the birth of his first child, he fell asleep and only just made the birth of his daughter with two minutes to spare. Neither mother or daughter were any the wiser…until now.
- Adam Wilcox – Workshop Services Manager: Is a connoisseur of Formula One and has visited every single track to ever feature on the racing calendar…at least virtually.
- Andrew Simpson – Parts Advisor: A person who dislikes exams and fears being behind a desk answering questions. Unfortunately for him, that’s exactly what his job entails now.