also provides RAC springboard to new business opportunities. Finding the most effective way to support the launch of a unique new service is never an easy task. For RAC it meant developing an entirely new supply chain system that incorporated enhanced levels of automation and stock visibility with the logistics expertise and delivery flexibility provided by ByBox Ltd. Most importantly, it had to be 100% accurate.
A year after the two companies began working together, the time and effort they put has been shown to be worthwhile. Not only has ByBox been able to find solutions that meet and exceed the challenges of accurately and reliably providing an essential component of the new service, RAC have been able to use the resulting distribution system as a valuable platform from which it can offer additional business propositions to new partners.
Prior to launching its new 'Pay as you Drive' insurance scheme in October 2006, Norwich Union needed to find a way to supply and fit the special telematics 'black box' that all customers would need in their vehicles to monitor road usage and which was critical to its success.
It was agreed with RAC (part of Norwich Union) that RAC engineers would fit the black boxes to customer vehicles at a time and place of the customer's choosing. However, as every black box must be pre-assigned to a particular customer, it was imperative to ensure that the right box is always installed in the correct vehicle, lest the customer end up paying for someone else's insurance. Not only was accurate delivery required, but also a fully automated supply chain that enabled complete visibility of stock from end-to-end.
RAC outlined its requirements to ByBox and together they designed a new supply chain system that met them, which involved ByBox adding some new strands to its existing delivery service and developing several new ways of working.
In operation, ByBox holds a stock of Norwich Union black boxes in its central warehouse. As people join the 'Pay as you Drive' scheme, Norwich Union send an installs request to RAC who then contact the customer to arrange the install. At 4pm each day, RAC's IT system automatically communicates with Bybox's system, placing equipment orders for jobs to be completed the next day. From these details a black box unit is assigned to each job and the information is entered automatically onto ByBox's innovative ThinventoryTM system, a single platform that manages inventory planning, warehousing, picking and delivery to the RAC engineers, plus the delivery of returns if required or re-routing to another location if a customer's fitting requirements change.
At 11pm each night, ByBox sends RAC a file confirming that all that day's orders have been picked, including each unit unique reference number. This is linked to the correct job number. RAC then automatically process the data and forward this information on to Trafficmaster, an organisation providing intelligent driving services aimed at helping drivers reduce costs, improve vehicle efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint.
Each black box is then delivered overnight into the locker box designated by the relevant RAC engineer that will be fitting it, based on their location and proximity to the customer premises. There are over 14,000 locker boxes in the ByBox network, situated at 1,000 different locations around the UK, so engineers have ultimate flexibility to select the most appropriate and thereby minimise their travel time between jobs.
All the black boxes are delivered into their relevant lockers by 8am the following morning, ready for the engineers to collect them and fit them to a customer's vehicle. Each has been tracked throughout the entire process and its precise location is known at any time. They are also scanned as they leave the locker and the time they are collected and by whom is recorded for added security.
Once fitted, all the engineer has to do is press a button on the box to validate it with Trafficmaster and confirm the vehicle's registration. Once this has been done the 'Pay as you Drive' service begins operation, monitoring the motorist's driving profile.
Various enhancements to the system have been added as take-up of 'Pay as you Drive' has grown in the past year. The most significant of these is tracking by unique serial number.
But perhaps more significant is the way the system is now used by RAC to extend the process to other business propositions, such as the supply of other telematics components, hand-free phone installs, alarms, immobilisers and in-vehicle video, which it undertakes to supply and fit on behalf of partner companies. This enables the RAC to generate new revenue streams and drive the business forward, as Steve Pierrepoint, National Operations Manager for its In Car Services division explains.
“Now we have a system that provides complete visibility of stock we have the ideal platform to develop new business opportunities that use the same supply chain as the black boxes for 'Pay as you Drive'. This maximises the potential of the system and its cost effective operation, and means we can quickly implement new services as required,” he says.
“Not only is this the ultimate solution to providing the new services that will enable us to grow the business, I know that ByBox will happily customise any further requirements we have or meet any requests for new processes we might need in the future because they have demonstrated their flexibility and capacity for innovation on many occasions to date, and succeeded every time.
“When we have a problem, they always find a solution. You can't ask much more from a partner, but I'm sure we will and they will always deliver,” he adds.