As a dealer, you don’t notice it for some time, how all the paperwork your dealership generates as it sells and services vehicles starts to amass. First, it’s a few file cabinets, then banker’s boxes stacked in every available nook and cranny until you’re renting storage off site.
For Fields BMW stores in central Florida, for which I am vice president and general manager, all the paperwork we generated, stored and later had to search through to do business and satisfy OEM warranty audits slowed us down and cost us money.
For us, this paper tsunami had gotten so great that we were spending thousands of dollars a year for off-site paperwork storage. You can imagine then the scope of our document search field whenever our OEM warranty auditor came calling. We spent inordinate time and resources looking through all this paperwork for the supporting repair order documents required to satisfy our warranty claims and avoid losing valuable warranty claim dollars.
Because of this frustration and because we sometimes could not find the paperwork we needed to justify a warranty claim, we were hit with too many chargebacks,
We have always strived here to be more efficient at everything we do to service customers. We have already invested heavily in technologies designed to help us modernize how we sell and service vehicles and communicate and market to customers. There did not seem to be a way around the use of all the paper required to run our business however, from write-up forms in the drive to all the paperwork required for deal jackets.
To address this need, we focused on the service process, which is by far the most productive paper-generating culprit in the dealership. We wanted to find a better way to process and archive repair order paperwork, especially to help us better satisfy factory warranty audits.
We knew that many dealer management systems and the vendors of other technologies do offer forms of electronic archiving. None seemed to be as complete a solution as we sought. In other words, these systems still required some degree of paper printing, scanning and storage. We wanted to get away from all those steps if possible.
As we reviewed these alternatives, we learned that a new paperless system from Canon Solutions America called IDEAS (Intelligent Dealer Electronic Archive System), was being reviewed by BMW, which was later endorsed. This system, built on Scanless Automatic Filing Engine (SAFE) technology, would give us new ability to create, modify, file and archive ROs, diagnostic forms and other supporting documents. We expected it to make a dramatic difference in warranty audit speed and thoroughness.
As illustration of the extend of our challenge, our OEM often required 30 to 40 or more pages of supporting paperwork to support each warranty claim. Pulling together all these documents for the 100 or so VINs the OEM would be auditing — if we even found them all — often took two people the better of a week to find and retrieve.
Yet under our paperless service department, all these various documents for a single repair order are indexed automatically. In other words, this paperless system links every related supporting document to the correct RO so when needed it is easily found by the software. And because we can’t close out an RO now until all supporting documents are attached, we eliminate incomplete files.
Now, to get this information out and ready for the auditor, we simply run a search for the ROs representing the VINs to be audited. We then download these records to CD. This CD is then given to the auditor for his or her viewing.
Because every document needed to satisfy a warranty audit is now digital – created, captured, archived and retrieved digitally – and easily searched and always available, we’ve reduced warranty chargebacks
This is a huge savings, considering that chargebacks are levied against ALL warranty claims for the period audited, not just the 100 or so repair orders the factory will audit at any given time.
According to API International, by using paperless workflow archiving technology, a single service tech may save 50 minutes per day, which means a more productive technician and more productive shop. We are experiencing such savings.
I have heard said that solutions like our paperless service department are like the electronic medical records have made revolutionized the efficiency, cost and accuracy of patient medical data for hospitals and other care providers. We have been so pleased with our paperless service centers that we are rolling it out to other Fields stores here in central Florida.
About the author: John Mantione is vice president and general manager of Fields operations in central Florida, including Fields BMW of Orlando, Fields BMW of Daytona, Fields BMW of Winter Park, Field BMW of Lakeland, and Fields Mini, Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz stores, also in Lakeland.