A Knowledge Transfer Partnership helped car retailer Benfield Motor Group to implement 'lean' techniques for their aftersales service – increasing annual sales turnover by £720,000.

Impacts

  • Greater operational efficiency enabled more routine services to be carried out with existing levels of resources.
  • Customer waiting time at the dealership for routine services reduced from two hours to less than 45 minutes.
  • Process improvements reduced booking lead-time for repair or service from 1-5 days down to one day.
  • In cases where a courtesy car was requested, lead time was reduced from 1-15 days down to 0-9 days.
  • Operational changes at the pilot sites increased the company's annual sales turnover by £720,000. The roll-out of the project to other sites was expected to increase company sales by £4.3 million after three years.
  • Lookers plc, who acquired BMG/Addison in 2015, were so impressed by the KTP improvements that they decided to progressively roll it out across the entire Lookers Group – now comprising 8,000 staff, 31 franchises and 160 dealerships across the UK.

About the research

An ESRC/Innovate UK-funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between Newcastle University Business School and Benfield Motor Group (BMG, trading name Addison Motors), launched in January 2014, aimed to increase productivity and improve customer service as part of a 'Work Smart' programme. The change programme was carried out by KTP Associate Melissa Whipp working under the guidance of Business School academics including Professor Chris Hicks, Dr Adrian Small, Dr Tom McGovern and Dr Tracy Scurry. The team had previously worked with small and medium-sized companies in Europe and NHS North-East on implementing transformational change and 'Lean' – an approach that focuses on maximising value and minimising waste.

The KTP Associate led small teams of technicians to design and implement process improvements in the BMG aftersales department. Employees were trained in using problem-solving tools, understanding value streams and the importance of managing workflow to meet customer requirements. The aftersales work was segmented into a 'green stream' for fully predictable work (such as car services for new cars up to three years old), 'amber stream' for semi-predictable work (eg, services and repairs for cars older than three years) and 'red stream' for unpredictable, reactive work (for instance after car accidents).

The improved efficiency of the operations enabled the company to service more cars with the existing workforce and facilities. Implementing the green stream led to a closer integration of service provision in the aftersales department. A team of employees (for example, a service advisor, two technicians, a parts advisor and a valeter) were empowered to manage and improve this stream, and it's now the team's responsibility to solve problems and make operational improvements. The bonus system is currently being restructured to encourage team-working and group efficiency.