Walon is the leading supplier of finished vehicle logistics services to the UK automotive industry, responsible for over 1.2 million vehicle movements each year on behalf of vehicle manufacturers, fleet operators and dealerships. In its first year with LANSA, Walon has delivered a real-time Workshop Management Control system and given manufacturers and dealers Web access to its Vehicle Tracking Management System (VTMS).
Colin Williams, Head of IT at Walon, says, "Using the LANSA tools and members of our own highly experienced team we have added new functionality to our existing VTMS. We are now able to manage our workshops in a far more sophisticated way and offer our customers contracts that measure activities in greater detail and in real-time. We have also supported the creation of totally new revenue streams for our business. There is now enthusiasm in the company for us to deliver more good-looking applications through LANSA and add further new products and services to the business."
There is now enthusiasm in the company for us to deliver more good-looking applications and add further new products and services to the business
- The challenge of adding value
- Online vehicle configuration
- Real-time workshop management
- Modernizing the core system
- Company and System Information
The challenge of adding value
Walon takes responsibility for a vehicle from the point it arrives in the UK off a ship, or from the production line of a UK manufacturer. From its network of 25 centers and using its fleet of 500 car transporters, Walon then delivers the vehicles to the manufacturers' dealers. Walon handles over 1.2 million vehicle movements annually, which is half of all new UK registered vehicles. Walon's customers include most major vehicle manufacturers and leading brands, including Alfa Romeo, BMW, Fiat, GM, Lexus, Mini, Nissan and Toyota.
In addition, Walon offers a range of related services, such as customs and excise paperwork, pre-delivery inspection, secure vehicle storage and managed services. Walon also takes care of technical enhancements and late configuration of vehicles to meet model variations, local requirements and individual order specifications.
Williams explains, "Our value-added technical services let manufacturers build more generic vehicles for the global marketplace, which we then enhance for the UK marketplace and to individual requirements. In our workshops, we handle anything from changing a badge, fitting an alarm or audio system, upgrading wheels and tires, to cutting and stitching leather for the interior and seats."
"We manage all the administrative processes in our Vehicle Tracking Management System (VTMS). Starting from the beginning, when a batch of, say 800 to 1500, vehicles arrive at a compound and our staff scan the barcode with handheld terminals. The barcode uniquely identifies the car through its preparation and delivery stages. All of our compounds have wireless networks, so the moment a barcode is scanned, the vehicle is registered in real time in our VTMS as being under our care and responsibility."
"We update the manufacturer via EDI or data transfer with vehicle progress, including as components are fitted," explains Williams. "The manufacturer typically feeds these updates into their dealer management system. We receive EDI transmissions throughout the day from manufacturers instructing us to deliver vehicles to specific dealerships or destinations. Most of our data communication is with the manufacturer, they are our customers, and historically it was up to them to keep their dealers informed."
"However, things are now changing. We want to give both dealers and manufacturers Web access to our VTMS for them to see the progress of their vehicles. In the past, we used Web facing products, but these have their limitations."
"We have just over 600 internal users on our VTMS, which has been enhanced and extended continuously in RPG since we delivered the first version in 1990. Over the last few years we have evaluated modernization tools and selected LANSA for its productivity and easy integration with our existing VTMS and System 21 (Aurora) software."
"LANSA has a single development tool approach, even though there are different modules, as a whole LANSA is a single easy to learn product. LANSA also stood out because it offered a practical framework approach to modernizing our internal applications. LANSA's Web Application Modules (WAMs) let us use the same components in Web applications for external users, as well as Windows applications for internal users."
"In 2007, LANSA became a major part of what we call Project Vision, our VTMS modernization project. In addition, we also equipped our fleet of trucks with PDAs and printers using GPRS for data communication, promoting a paperless environment and allowing us to inform our customers of the actual delivery date and time."
"To meet priority business requirements, we started with three small but very visible and high impact LANSA projects."
Even though there are different modules, as a whole LANSA is a single easy to learn product
Online vehicle configuration
Walon's first LANSA developed application lets dealers configure vans and small trucks over the Web.
First, the dealer places the order for standard vehicles on the manufacturer's Web site. If modifications are needed, the site re-directs the dealer to Walon's site. For example, vans for a plumbing company might need to be fitted with special racks and shelves.
As the dealer selects options on Walon's site, they will get to see the price and expected delivery date. "In effect the dealer is registering a work order directly in our VTMS scheduling system," explains Williams. "We invoice the manufacturer who then invoices the dealer. Because the vehicle modification is scheduled immediately into our VTMS system, planning is smoother and we can let the dealer know instantly how configuration options affect the delivery date."
"Using LANSA we created a totally new revenue stream for our business. Without a Web solution the costs could have been prohibitive."
"Even though this was our first Web application and also our first LANSA project, two members of our existing VTMS team delivered it in just three months."
Even though this was our first Web application and also our first LANSA project, two members of our existing VTMS team delivered it in just three months
Real-time workshop management
The second LANSA application Walon developed was a workshop management control system.
Historically, Walon would book the budgeted time for all the modifications that were done to a vehicle, regardless of the actual time taken. This didn't provide Walon and its customers with details of actual time spent on jobs. Toyota required more clarity throughout the workshop management process.
Walon installed screens and scanners beside the technician's work bay, so they can register each job as it is done. Each car has a 'my job card' with a barcoded list of the activities that need to be carried out. The technician deals with the activities that he is skilled in and registers the actual start and stop time for each individual task directly into VTMS.
"We can now measure how efficient the workshop is and provide details of the workshop hours we are selling. Managers can see the efficiency of the whole workshop live through a WAM-developed dashboard," says Williams.
Simon King, Walon's divisional manager for Toyota at the Royal Portbury Dock, comments, "The main difference is we can monitor performance levels, both individually and as a department, in real time and take immediate remedial action during a shift. Previously we could only analyze performance levels the following week."
"Dealing with a problem live gives you the opportunity to minimize its effect and recover. It is not just under productivity that gets our attention. Over productivity, which can indicate poor work quality, can also be investigated immediately."
"We have up to 100 people in a shift. If you walk around, you only get some of the information, but now we have live and statistical data for everyone and everything. Prior to the introduction of the system we had some staff performing at around 80% and 90% of their budgeted throughput. Now even our 'poorest' performers achieve around at 110%. Our quality has gone up two percent and at the same time our productivity has gone up in the region of four percent," concludes King.
"We work very closely with Toyota and they have their management on site," continues Williams. "They actively take part in managing the process. They are very impressed with the application we have delivered."
"We are now able to manage our workshops in a far more sophisticated way and offer our customers contracts that measure activities in greater detail and real-time. The historical information we are building also helps to implement structural improvements and more realistic planning."
Walon's third LANSA system, also built in 2007, caters for the administration of demonstration cars. Large companies typically have huge fleets of leased cars for their staff. Manufacturers provide these companies with loan cars for a trial period(s), to encourage them to enter into purchase or lease agreements. Walon takes care of the inspection, delivery and collection of these cars and also for any damage or warranty issues whilst that car is on loan. The manufacturer is still responsible for the bookings.
Walon built a Web appointment system that allows the manufacturers to look at their fleet of available cars and book out a car. "We delivered a functionally rich user interface which catered for the calendaring system. Again, as with other developments, LANSA allows us to utilize the existing VTMS data structures, but in a much more modern way," says Williams.
We can monitor performance levels in real time and take immediate remedial action during a shift
Modernizing the core system
"Within a year of purchasing LANSA we have been able to deliver three major new products and services to our customers and a lot of business benefits, using our existing team," says Williams. "Our VTMS still sits virtually unchanged behind the new functionality, but with LANSA we now have better tools to develop new functionality and frontend applications."
"Now that we have started, there is now enthusiasm in the company for us to deliver more good-looking applications through LANSA WAMs. Users are coming up with new ideas all the time."
"We enjoy working with LANSA. Gaining experience in developing XML-based Web applications has given a boost to the skills and confidence of our development team as well."
"Expectations have been raised and we should now use LANSA to modernize our core VTMS system. We are delivering systems in agreement with the business and give priority to where we can add business benefit, so from that point of view it was good to start with a few very visible Web systems," concludes Williams.
Within a year of purchasing LANSA we have been able to deliver major new products and services, using our existing team
Company and System Information
- Walon, headquartered in Yeovil, Somerset, UK, is a leading supplier of finished vehicle logistics services to the UK automotive industry. With a fleet of over 500 car transporters and a network of 25 centers nationwide, Walon is responsible for over 1.2 million vehicle movements annually. Walon UK has 1,800 staff and is part of the AutoLogic company. AutoLogic is a leading provider of logistics services to the automotive industry specializing in the preparation, enhancement and distribution of new vehicles as well as used vehicle refurbishment.
- For more information visit: www.walon.com
- Walon has 23 people in their IT team of which 11 are in development. Currently four developers are trained in LANSA.
- Walon uses an IBM System model i 525 for the production environment. In addition, a 525 and 520 are used for DR and development respectively. The LANSA developed applications integrate with Walon's bespoke RPG-based Vehicle Management Tracking System and Infor's System 21 (Aurora).