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Inchcape Automotive Services Ltd

Autograph Inspect & Collect®

Automotive Services Company Chooses State of-the-Art Mapping Technology and Saved £5,000 in a Week in Measured Cost Savings


“While our competitors find that their customers assets virtually disappear in-between collection and drop-off, we can track our PDAs and give our customers confidence that their assets are safe. We’ve already won some new business and retained our existing customers on the back of this implementation. It’s vital
to the success of our business.” Craig Marsh, IS Manager, Inchcape


Inchcape car transporterAutomotive service company Inchcape Automotive wanted to track where its customer assets were at any point in time. It also wanted to ensure that its drivers always took the fastest route to collect or deliver a vehicle.

 

Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner Anglia Business Solutions implemented a new infrastructure based on Microsoft MapPoint® Location Server, Microsoft MapPoint Web Service, and Microsoft Windows MobileTM 2003 software for Pocket PCs, and Microsoft SQL ServerTM 2000.

 

With the new technology in place, Inchcape and its customers can see where their vehicles are along the delivery process so customers have greater confidence in the safety of their assets. And because MapPoint Location Server can calculate the shortest distance between two specific points, Inchcape can provide its drivers with the quickest routes. As a result, quotes, which are calculated according to mileage, are more accurate, saving the company money and helping to ensure accurate customer billing.


Situation

 

International automotive services group Inchcape provides quality representation for its manufacturer partners, a choice of channels to market, products for its retail customers, and a range of business services for its corporate customers. Predominantly operating in the U.K., Greece, Belgium, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, Inchcape’s core business activities include import and distribution, retail, business services, automotive commerce, and financial services. Its key business partners are Toyota, Subaru, Ferrari, Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Land Rover.


To support its services operations, Inchcape’s U.K. division, Inchcape Automotive, uses a vehicle appraisal system called Autograph Inspect and Collect®, which is based on Microsoft® SQL ServerTM 2000. Using mobile devices, drivers assess the damage of a vehicle in the field and report the status of a vehicle back to the host systems and subsequently onto its customers.

 

Craig Marsh, IS Manager, Inchcape Automotive, says: “As technology has moved on and the demands of the industry and our clients have changed, we wanted to set up a new Autograph® system that would support wireless, general packet radio services (GPRS) communication, the inclusion of photographs in vehicle condition reports, and send data across to our host systems in real time so information didn’t need to be held on the handheld unit. “A lot of our staff work away from a traditional desktop environment, appraising or delivering/collecting vehicles, and conducting in-yard inspections. It’s vital that they can depend on quick and effective mobile communications.”


Inchcape Automotive also found that it didn’t know exactly where its customers’ assets were at any one time. It wanted to be able to track the progress of its customers’ assets so that both it and its customers were always informed. Marsh says: “We wanted to record the location of vehicles at key points in the delivery process. We also wanted to communicate this information to our customers thereby ensuring enhanced customer confidence in our reliability.”


Solution


Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner Anglia Business Solutions engaged with Inchcape in July 2004 to develop a new solution based on Microsoft Windows MobileTM 2003 software for Pocket PCs, Microsoft SQL ServerTM CE, Microsoft MapPoint® Web Service, Microsoft MapPoint Location Server, and the Microsoft .NET Framework.


With the new solution, a PDA’s location can be tracked. A MapPoint Web Service sends the longitude and latitude of the PDA’s location and maps that data onto MapPoint Location Server in real time.


Information such as customers’ asset delivery location and vehicle damage assessment is now stored on a SQL Server 2000 database in our hosting facility, and published to the Web through Web services, where it can be viewed by Inchcape staff and customers. Around 250 users in Inchcape Automotive are already using the system and more than 50 customers could have access to their assets delivery location through the Internet.


MapPoint Location Server can also calculate the distance between two points and provide mapping and routing information to ensure drivers always take the fastest route to their next pick-up or drop-off point. Marsh says: “The new technology helps us to operate much more efficiently. Our drivers will always take the best route from A to B, and we can calculate the exact mileage of each journey. That’s of massive importance to us, because we charge our customers according to mileage.

“If we go over the mileage estimate for a job, we can’t charge for it. We calculated one week that we lost £5,000 in mileage quoted and charged. Now we have greater confidence in the accuracy of our quotes, because they have been calculated by MapPoint Location Server.”


Benefits
 

Greater Visibility of Driver Activities Improves Efficiencies
With a clearer view of where its customer’s assets are, Inchcape Automotive can organise its activities more accurately. Marsh says: “Now that we can track where our PDAs are at various points in the day, we are better placed to schedule vehicle deliveries/collections more accurately. “Our drivers also benefit enormously from the new solution. As soon as they pick up their handheld device for their first job of the day, their workload has already been downloaded and their routes planned. It saves time for them, and means that we have more control over what they do and where they go on a day-to-day basis.”


Enhanced Customer Confidence Delivers Competitive Edge

With high-profile clients, Inchcape Automotive is responsible for vehicles that can cost up to £50,000. Its customers must have the reassurance that their high-value assets are being well looked after, or
Inchcape Automotive is liable to lose their business. Marsh says: “The automotive services industry is highly competitive so we must find a way to differentiate ourselves. We’ve put ourselves at the forefront of our field with this new technology. While our competitors find that their customers vehicles virtually disappear in-between collection and drop-off, we can track our vehicles and give our customers confidence that their assets are safe. “We’ve already won some new business and retained our existing customers on the back of this implementation. It’s vital to the success of our business.”


More Accurate Quotes Result in Cost Savings

In the past, Inchcape often found that it was losing money by quoting its service costs according to the mileage a driver had accrued on a journey. Drivers might make detours, which were not accounted for in the original quote, and could therefore not be charged to the customer. Marsh says: “Now that we can track our drivers, and suggest the fastest routes to them, we have cut out the need for additional travel. Obviously, if a detour needs to be made because of road works, extra mileage is unavoidable, but that won’t have a dramatic impact on our bottom line”.


Integrates with Inchcape IT Strategy
As a company that is very dependent on mobile applications, Inchcape Automotive has been keen to embrace technologies that are based on the .NET Framework. Richard Jones, Development Director, Anglia Business Solutions, says: “By using the .NET Framework, developers can take advantage of pre-built code libraries, so they don’t need to spend hours writing standard code. This means that any new technology can be integrated into the infrastructure quickly and easily.”


Future Plans

Inchcape Automotive plans to integrate Microsoft Office SharePoint® Portal Server 2003 into its infrastructure so that its clients can view vehicle information that is specific to them only. Marsh says: “We plan to deploy specific, branded portals for each customer so that they receive a more personalized service. “We also plan to use MapPoint Location Server to extend our service offering. It integrates with mobile phone technology so that we can alert customers with a short message service (SMS) when a driver is close to their location. And we are confident that we will be able to offer more reactive scheduling and re-routing technology for our drivers as we continue to build on the solution.”


Software and Services
 

Products
− Microsoft SQL Server 2000
− Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Windows CE Edition
− Microsoft MapPoint Location Server

 

Technologies
− Microsoft .NET Framework
− Microsoft Pocket PC
− Microsoft MapPoint Web Service

 



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