Driving Efficiency and Increasing Profitability for Automotive Dealers
DUPLEX Solutions was founded in 2004 by the former Head of Technology for SAP UK. Initially focused on SAP technology consulting and integration, the company soon came to see that mobile technology represented the wave of the future. As a result, the company expanded its services and offerings to include developing unwired business applications that would seamlessly integrate with companies' existing business processes and back-end systems.
With extensive knowledge of and experience in the automotive industry, DUPLEX Solutions realized that automotive dealers faced a number of challenges that were negatively impacting their revenue generation and profitability. Underlying most of these challenges was the fact that dealerships were using a combination of paper-based and outdated IT systems to run their businesses. These systems required unnecessary amounts of repetitive, manual input. They had no integration capabilities and the information they contained was often inaccurate or unclear.
DUPLEX Solutions understood that for dealers to compete effectively in a very challenging economic climate, they needed an industry-specific solution that would enable them to move vehicles through the system faster, more efficiently and more profitably. The company envisioned a mobile, data-driven, self-populating system that would eliminate the traditional guesswork, redundant administrative tasks and confusion that often led to reduced profits and off the cuff purchasing.
It employed its broad range of business and technology skills and its extensive knowledge of the automotive industry to create DUPLEX Solutions Automotive (DSA). Knowing that DSA would require leading edge mobile data management and movement functionality to deliver real business benefits, the company selected SQL Anywhere from Sybase iAnywhere to power DSA.
Hampered by Paper-Based and Outdated IT Systems
"The automotive industry was a market that was crying out for streamlining, for optimized end-to-end processes that would enable dealers to do business in a far better, smarter and constructive way than they had been doing before we developed DSA," explains John Donaldson, DUPLEX Solutions' Business Development Manager.
"Dealerships were encumbered by IT systems that weren't delivering meaningful business benefits. While companies in other industry sectors enjoyed an abundance of IT systems, all aimed at driving positive business results, automotive dealers were struggling to manage complex business processes with a mish-mash of predominantly paper-based systems along with some outdated and non intuitive IT systems."
To combat this problem, DUPLEX developed a core vehicle valuation module as part of DSA. The vehicle valuation module provides dealers with a fully populated valuation screen that clearly displays all of the critical information needed to accurately value any vehicle. The valuation module integrates directly with Experian's Auto Check and HPI to provide a complete V5/VRM backfill and both CAP & Glass's Guide mileage adjusted trade valuations.
Dealers purchase the right vehicles for their business at the right cost by researching the retail market when making important pricing decisions. The DUPLEX valuation module provides a market web comparison section that displays what similar vehicles are currently retailing for on the web. This allows the user to research the retail price of a vehicle and gain confidence in the market rather than just relying on the old fashioned trade guide and elements of guess work.
Before the availability of DSA, dealerships had no way of communicating with their operatives in the field, such as the individuals responsible for used vehicle purchases and vehicle appraisals. It was common for a dealership employee responsible for acquiring used vehicles, either at auction or from individual sellers, to employ a fair amount of guesswork to complete a used vehicle appraisal. At a typical auction at which a buyer would appraise and purchase a number of vehicles even minor inaccuracies in appraisals – such as missing the fact that a vehicle needed new tires or underestimating the cost of required body work – could translate into specific areas of vehicle preparation being overlooked that substantially reduces the profit margin that the dealer could make.
In addition to this there was no efficient way of notifying supporting departments such as preparation, body shop, parts, service, accounts and sales managers at the dealership that vehicles had been purchased for stock and what pre-sales reconditioning they would require after their estimated time of arrival.
The process of moving a vehicle from the preparation department through to sales could be very inefficient, taking a number of weeks which would further cut into the dealer's potential profit.
"What we've done by developing DSA," says John Donaldson, Business Development Manager at DUPLEX Solutions, "is to take the guesswork out of the appraisal process by providing vehicle buyers with precise information including base vehicle valuations premised on age, model and mileage, as well as reliable cost estimates for virtually every type of refurbishment and preparation the vehicle might need prior to sale. We've also built in a communications mechanism so that when vehicles are purchased, immediate notifications go out to the various departments at the Dealership and other managers so they are notified off the vehicles planned arrival, plan work schedules and resources to prep them for sale and even log them into a virtual showroom module so they can begin selling the vehicles even before they arrive on site."
By moving these vehicles through the preparation process much faster dealers will experience increased profits due to vehicles being prepared and available for sale much faster than ever before.
SQL Anywhere Selected for Ease of Deployment, Self Maintenance and Enterprise Caliber Functionality
The development team at DUPLEX Solutions knew as it began designing DSA that its ultimate effectiveness and success required it to have:
- a robust mobile database that could store detailed, accurate vehicle valuation and reconditioning cost information,
- a reliable synchronization mechanism to allow real-time communication between mobile workers and dealership-based staff, and
- Tight integration with standard industry applications, such as Experian's AutoCheck and HPI, as well as with existing back-end operational systems.
"We considered a number of vendor platforms including Microsoft, Oracle and SAP before selecting SQL Anywhere as our mobile engine," says Bhupinder Plah, Managing Director of DUPLEX Solutions "We were looking for a technology that was easy to manage, easy to deploy, that could be implemented quickly and deliver a rapid return on investment. We selected SQL Anywhere because it met these criteria. SQL Anywhere provided the core data management and synchronization functionality we required. We also found it very easy to use.
"SQL Anywhere delivers robust and reliable relational database and synchronization technologies designed specifically for data-driven mobile applications like DSA," says Gregg Taylor, Principal Developer at DUPLEX Solutions. "It offers enterprise-caliber functionality, and yet it's essentially self-maintaining. That allows us to offer a solution that provides customers with significant business benefits without requiring that they have onsite specialist IT staff. It allows them to focus on their businesses and to run their businesses more efficiently and profitably. In addition, incorporating SQL Anywhere into DSA enables us to offer an affordable solution, which is important to customers."
Delivers Immediate, Substantial Benefits
Having performed extensive testing and analysis with a major UK automotive group DUPLEX Solutions believes that dealerships that implement DSA will benefit from immediate savings in time to value. DSA enables them to streamline their key business processes, enabling them to redirect resources away from repetitive administrative tasks toward activities that can have a greater impact on business profitability. The company conservatively estimates that between increased operational efficiency and reduced costs DSA customers can achieve a significant first year return on investment and increased profits.
SQL Anywhere to Power Planned Handheld Version
"Currently, DSA runs on desktops, laptops and tablet pc's but we're already thinking ahead to creating a version that runs on handheld devices," says Taylor. "SQL Anywhere, with its UltraLite deployment option, designed for small-footprint mobile devices, will make it very easy for us to port DSA to run on handheld devices such as PDAs and UMPC's. And MobiLink is set up in such a way that when we do offer DSA on smaller devices, it will be quite easy for us to provide the same reliable and easy synchronization."
When UK-based DUPLEX Solutions decided to develop a mobile solution to help automotive dealers streamline operations, reduce costs and improve profitability, it turned to Sybase iAnywhere to provide the mobile database engine and synchronization technology required to power that solution. The result – DUPLEX Solutions Automotive (DSA) – provides automotive dealerships with the real-time critical business information, improved visibility into key business processes and intra-dealership communications they need to optimize the vehicle acquisition process, shorten the preparation cycle, maximize profitability and improve customers' buying experiences.