Workshop management system transforms Sovereign Recovery 06 April 2010

Sometimes an operator can become successful so fast that the challenge is no longer about achieving growth, but attempting to improve efficiency and joined-up working just to keep up.

That was what happened to transport recovery specialist Sovereign Recovery, which, from small beginnings, now has contracts with transport operators throughout London and the Home Counties. With big clients including Arriva, First Bus, Stagecoach, Metroline and TfL (Transport for London), Sovereign quickly became responsible for looking after thousands of public transport vehicles – and needed to sharpen up its act.

Sovereign Recovery director Sue Pope says that one of the keys to making that work was its vehicle maintenance management software, Accelerator. "Before we had Accelerator we were running ourselves ragged making sure that we were keeping up with our customers' needs. We were managing, but it was manic. We were organising servicing off a basic spreadsheet and there was no real way of linking the recovery and servicing with the invoicing."

She says that Sovereign's system changed everything, and that installation and training took just one day. "It was set up to do exactly what we needed [and], as all the information is just two clicks away, all our staff can get a complete view of what we are doing. So now, reminders are in place for scheduling repairs and maintenance. And that work can be directly linked to invoicing."

Sovereign accounts manager Linda Crack adds that the organisation as a whole now has a much better understanding of when work needs to be done, and says that it's made a big difference to the efficiency of both the recovery and workshop sides. She also says that less time and money is wasted, because the maintenance workload is managed efficiently.

On the recovery she explains that Accelerate holds all its clients' bus identification data, so that when a call comes in for assistance, it automatically provides all the information on the vehicle itself, the operator and the area, and generates the documents needed. "That allows us to get the right driver and vehicle to the location as quickly as possible, and provides us with all the tracking we need for the job," says Crack.

She also explains that Accelerator prevents jobs from 'disappearing' after the work has been done – ensuring that recovery truck drivers, who are stationed around the capital, file their paperwork so that invoicing is done on time.

The one thing Accelerator can't do, says Crack, is force bus operators to deliver their vehicles to the workshop on the due date. "If they've already got three buses off the road, out of a fleet of, say, 20, they're not necessarily going to be able to release them to us," she explains. But she adds that Accelerator allows bus maintenance and inspections to be rescheduled (accepting that later work may well mean more intervention), and subsequent dates moved forward, if required – and adds that the system also covers parts prices.

Says Pope: "With the recovery business being hands-on and fast-paced, we needed a system that would allow us to enter recovery jobs as they came in, monitor all stages of the work and invoice as soon as jobs are completed. Accelerator allows us to do all this… When you have to look after most of London's buses, you need a serious system to manage your business.''

Brian Tinham

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