Big Wheels Services Ltd
Big Wheels Services Ltd is a specialist supplier of CV and PSV spares, accessories and consumables. Operating from premises in Exeter, Taunton and Cardiff, the company supplies fleet operators and repairers throughout the southwest of England. Since its inception in 1980, Big Wheels has taken great pride in combining first-rate customer service with quality branded products and competitive pricing.
When the company first began in 1980, stock was controlled by a manual bin card system. This was replaced in mid 80's with the company's first computer system, which served the business until the early 90's. By this time, the business had expended to three locations, employing more than 30 staff. With over £350,000 worth of stock on the shelf at any one time, Big Wheels needed a new system capable of supporting their growing business.
"We were using an old UNIX-based system at the time" recalls Big Wheels Director Graham Staplehurst. "It was extremely restrictive and its limited functionality was hindering the development of the business." Recognising that they had to change, Graham spent the next 12 months researching the market thoroughly, seeking advice from peers, colleagues and suppliers.
"Our relationship with our existing provider had become fairly stale" says Graham. "We wanted to explore all avenues and MAM was the company going places. When I first met Brian (MAM's sales representative) it was evident he wasn't your typical pushy sales rep. He was much more of a 'gentlemen' – a thoroughly nice guy. He took time to fully understand our business and appreciate our objectives."
When first shown MAM's Windows-based Autopart application, Graham was immediately impressed by its vast functionality. "Autopart had what seemed an endless range of facilities – it was way beyond our previous system. We instantly recognised it would give us the ability to do things we could never do with our existing system."
MAM installed and implemented Autopart in all three Big Wheels branches in July 2004. Operating in a live-on-line environment, data stored is stored centrally at the head office in Exeter and accessed via an Internet-based VPN from the branches. Crucially, this provides all staff with access to the same, up-to-the-minute information.
Improved customer service
One of Autopart's major benefits is its flexible point-of-sale. From here, staff have access to business-critical information that empowers them to make informed decisions on the spot. "We're very much a knowledge business" explains Graham. "When supplying CV parts, it's not just about prices and stock; it's about providing quality customer service and value for money. Autopart puts us in control and gives us the information where and when we need it".
Increased profit margins
Autopart's comprehensive pricing functionality enables Big Wheels to operate a flexible pricing strategy. Prices are defined per item, per customer and staff have instant access to profit margins at point-of-sale. "We no longer have to discount a whole product group just to price an individual part" explains Graham. "With Autopart we can tailor prices individually, based upon what the customer is prepared to pay. This means we generate more margin across more products. And if we need to discount on a per-sale basis, staff can see the margin at a glance, enabling them to make a decision on the spot. After all, why lose a sale for just a few pence?"
Additional sales revenues
Autopart is also helping Big Wheels achieve greater sales through the configuration of alternative and linked parts. Staff are automatically prompted to offer alternative items when a part is out of stock and Autopart also suggests selling linked items when a trigger part is sold. "It's very simple but very effective" explains Graham. "For example, if we sell a sell a mud flap, Autopart will suggest new brackets and bolts; clean threads are much easier to work with. It may not seem much, but selling linked items can add £5 to the value of a £50 transaction. If we do this just four or five times a day, it starts to become very significant."
The information gained from Autopart is proving invaluable to Big Wheels, both at point-of-sale and in the back-office. Instant sales history helps avoid disputes at the counter when a customer queries a previous purchase price. And surcharge tracking keeps tight control on used cores returned for credit. This later functionality is especially important for Big Wheels as they operate their own brake relining workshops.
In the back-office, sales analysis helps identify areas for potential improvement. "It's not about what our customers are buying, it's what they're not that's important" explains Graham. "Autopart helps us identify gaps in buying patterns. If someone's not buying our batteries, we want to know why".
Prior to implementing Autopart, Big Wheels was being restricted by an ageing system with limited functionality. According to Graham, Autopart has helped put staff back in the driving seat and given the business an added edge. It has become an integral part of Big Wheels' business and plays a significant role in its success "In Autopart, we've got a robust system that doesn't let us down. It doesn't take holidays and it isn't sick. It's a valuable tool that makes us more professional".