For each vehicle it rents, Fleet Hire Services must manage a mountain of information—from lease agreements and invoices to repair records. Could it find a more efficient way to harness this content?
Fleet Hire Services worked with Open Connections to streamline data capture and storage using IBM enterprise content management solutions, helping teams manage complex operations more effectively.
GBP 14,400saved annually through more strategic vehicle management
Supportscost-effective growth by empowering staff to work more productively
Enhancescustomer experience as teams have more time to focus on client engagement
Business challenge story
Steering a growing business
For more than 35 years, companies across the UK have turned to Fleet Hire Services and its subsidiary West Wallasey Car Hire Limited for flexible vehicle rental services. To provide every customer with an exceptional rental experience, teams must handle vast volumes of content behind the scenes—from customer correspondence and rental contracts to penalty charges and invoices.
With its fleet of 11,500 vehicles expanding steadily—and a relatively small team managing it all—Fleet Hire Services found that its burgeoning business was quickly outgrowing existing document management processes.
Tom Tierney, IT Projects Coordinator at West Wallasey Car Hire Limited, takes up the story: “Traditionally, we have run our operations on paper. For instance, if a customer called to book a car or van, our hiring team would write down their details, enter the information into our core rental system, and print out the rental agreement and damage check sheet. And when we deliver to customers across the UK, they signed the paperwork. The paperwork is then returned to our scanners, where our teams would scan it into a separate system for archiving; they would then update the rental system to change the status of that vehicle to be on hire. It was a very convoluted process, consuming a great deal of our staff’s time and effort—and it was a similar story for almost every other area of the business.”
He gives an example: “When we want to renew or expand our fleet, we typically buy the vehicles in bulk. So it’s not unusual for us to receive huge batches of invoices and delivery notes—for hundreds of vehicles—all at once. Teams would have to manually enter information on each vehicle, such as its registration number, engine number, chassis number, color, Road Fund Licence [RFL] tax, purchase cost and many more details into our back-end systems—which was another time-consuming and tedious task.”
Recognizing that there had to be a more effective way to manage its growing volumes of information, Fleet Hire Services set out to find a solution that could help take the pressure off back-office teams, and support more streamlined, automated ways of working.
On the road to smarter content management
The company’s search led it to Open Connections, an IBM Gold Business Partner, who proposed a powerful document capture and management platform built on IBM enterprise content management software.
“Open Connections showed us that IBM enterprise content management could take us exactly where we wanted to go,” recalls Tom Tierney. “We came to them with our requirements and an overview of how our existing processes worked, and they helped us see how we could do things better with IBM solutions.”
Fleet Hire Services started small, introducing IBM® Datacap and IBM FileNet® Content Manager as the foundation for a more efficient and consistent way of capturing and storing vehicle hire information. The company worked with Open Connections to integrate the IBM solutions with back-end applications, including its rental management system. IBM Content Navigator provides an intuitive front-end interface for the new content management platform, giving business users easy access to information.
When we deliver a vehicle to a customer, they sign a rental agreement that contains a barcode, which Fleet Hire Services then scans. Datacap automatically extracts key information from the document image, and feeds it through to the rental management system. This process also triggers a timer function, which shows how long a particular vehicle has been stuck in a certain status like “Being Delivered” or “Being Collected”, this indicates that the paperwork has not been returned to the scanner. In the future, Fleet Hire Services is considering introducing mobile apps and e-signatures for hiring documents, making the process quicker and easier for customers.
Building on this early success, Fleet Hire Services has subsequently teamed up with Open Connections to extend IBM enterprise content management solutions throughout the back-office.
“Once we saw what the solution from IBM and Open Connections could do for our vehicle hire processes, we realized that there was huge potential to optimize many other areas of operations,” says Tom Tierney. “Our experience just goes to show how flexible the IBM solutions are—while we initially introduced them to solve a specific need, we’ve been able to adapt the software to enhance many other processes.
“The Open Connections team has been the driving force behind all of this customization. We just have to come to them with an idea or an issue we want to fix and they’ll find a way to make it work. We’ve been very impressed by the quality of the work they have delivered, as well as their support and advice—they’ve been an invaluable asset to this project.”
Driving more efficient operations
The new approach to content management is helping teams across the business work faster and more efficiently. In accounts payable, Fleet Hire Services has moved away from manual invoice processing; today it uses Datacap to automatically extract key information from invoicing documents as they arrive, and stores the data in a central FileNet Content Manager repository. The electronic content then flows through to accounting systems, ready for review and payment.
Tom Tierney comments: “We handle hundreds of invoices and Penalty Charge Notices [PCNs] a month, and even thousands at our busiest times, so eliminating the need for staff to manually enter information from all of these documents saves our workforce considerable time and effort.
“We are also getting smarter about the way we manage the invoices and PCNs. Open Connections helped us develop a feature that organizes invoices and PCNs based on the date of issue and payment deadline. If a particular invoice or PCN is nearing its due date, it will trigger an alert, notifying the team that payment is required soon. This makes it much easier for our staff to stay on top their workload as they can prioritize the most urgent items, making sure that our suppliers, councils and police are always paid on time.”
In addition, newfound insight into enterprise content has helped Fleet Hire Services to unlock valuable cost savings.
Tom Tierney explains: “All our vehicles must be taxed before they can be used on the road. If we buy a vehicle, but don’t intend to use it immediately, then we have to apply for a Statutory Off Road Notification [SORN] so that it won’t be taxed—and we use a reference number from each vehicle’s log book to complete a SORN.
“As we tend to buy vehicles in bulk, and gradually add them to our fleet over the course of a few months, it often happened that we would be paying tax on vehicles that were just sitting in a dealership—a completely unnecessary expense—simply because we lacked easy visibility into each vehicle’s tax status.”
He continues: “Today, we use Datacap to automatically pull information from vehicle logbooks and confirm whether they should be taxed or not. We estimate that we are saving around GBP 1,200 a month by avoiding unnecessary taxation costs, and it’s all thanks to the improved visibility that we get from IBM enterprise content management solutions.”
As Fleet Hire Services continues to expand its use of IBM enterprise content management solutions, both its employees and the customers they serve are reaping the benefits of improved information access and control.
Tom Tierney concludes: “Before, we captured lots of data, but we weren’t doing much with it. Thanks to IBM and Open Connections, we are now making the most of our enterprise content. Teams spend far less time hunting down paper files, printing out documents and keying data into different systems; they are working faster and more accurately. As a result, they can get through higher volumes of work, which helps us keep the business growing in a profitable way, as we can avoid increasing headcount.
“And equally importantly, the efficiency gains free up more time for our employees in customer-facing roles to focus on client interaction. By providing engaging, responsive service every time a customer gets in touch, we strengthen their loyalty, which is vital to the continued success of our business.”
About Fleet Hire Services
Fleet Hire Services specializes in the service and repair of commercial vehicles and cars. It also offers commercial vehicle rental services through its subsidiary, West Wallasey Car Hire Limited. Fleet Hire Services currently operates a fleet of more than 11,500 cars and light commercial vehicles, serving large and small companies throughout the United Kingdom.
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Open Connections is an IBM Gold Business Partner based in the UK with a wealth of experience in a wide range of products and technologies based around automating business processes typically involving paper and electronic documents. To learn more about products, solutions and services from Open Connections, please visit: www.openc.co.uk