February 2013, Automotive Fleet - Feature
Technology has revolutionized all areas of fleet management from spec’ing vehicles to tracking fuel use to routing; making the industry more efficient, safer, and cost-effective. Fleet maintenance management is the newest area that will feel the benefits of the digital age. Auto Integate is bringing a proven concept in the UK to the shores of the U.S. It is implementing this electronic authorization technology from two sides — partnering with Emkay on the fleet management side and Sears on the vehicle repair side.
Emkay has worked with Auto Integrate for the last 18 months to develop the e-authorization platform for the U.S. market. Greg Tepas, Emkay’s president and CEO, sees the system as a game changer. “I believe Auto Integrate will become the universal platform for our industry in North America,” he said. Emkay has been using the system for its clients’ fleet maintenance needs since June 2012.
Sears Automotive had experience with e-authorization as well, partnering in 2011 with LeasePlan USA to develop E-AUTH, an electronic authorization platform. The system, which leveraged LeasePlan USA’s existing e-authorization platform, quickly proved itself as a viable successor to traditional telephone-based systems.
Sears worked with Auto Integrate to link its existing E-AUTH system to Auto Integrate and to begin offering the service to more customers.
Translating UK Efficiency
Fully integrated electronic authorization systems offer countless benefits over an outdated telephone authorization platform. Among them is the elimination of double keying of data, which needlessly ties up service personnel, according to Terry Bartlett, CEO of Auto Integrate.
“What we’re trying to do is centralize and come up with a straightforward trading platform between FMCs and vendors by doing electronic data transfers. Our plan is to go to the national vendors’ point of sales and have that data go straight into Auto Integrate’s system so there’s no double keying whatsoever,” he said.
Robert Santor, director of Commercial Sales for Sears Holdings, said the system fit an important need. “We saw a need to employ a supplier, such as Auto Integrate, to reach out to more customers quicker. And, in our opinion, Auto Integrate is getting a really good foothold in the U.S. and may very well become an industry standard, and we wanted to be first to market with it,” Santor said.
Bartlett, who has a background in fleet management in the UK, said Auto Integrate developed its system specifically for the U.S. market. But, the company leveraged its knowledge of the UK fleet market’s long use of e-authorization systems to develop its U.S. system.
The fundamental difference between Auto Integrate’s U.S. system and those found in the UK is flexibility, according to Bartlett.
“We built in flexibility because of the U.S. market. We believe each FMC has unique offerings. Each system has its own nuances. The real idea of the system is that [a significant amount] of it will be the same across all the FMCs as it is implemented,” he said.
Operating in real-time, Auto Integrate’s maintenance system encompasses the entire business cycle, including:
● Initial detailing and costing of required services by the supplier.
● Automated authorization within pre-agreed parameters (the company estimates 70 percent of repairs are authorized immediately).
● Workflow-managed environment to expedite the referral of events.
● Subsequent communications between the repairer and the FMC.
● Validated billing and streamlining of the payment and invoice handling processes of both parties — and, as a result, reduced invoice rejections and subsequent supplier write-offs.
● Significantly reduced implementation and training demands.
When it was ready to move into the U.S. market, Auto Integrate came into contact with Emkay, which was in the process of creating a portal to facilitate e-authorizations.
Ironically, when Auto Integrate approached Emkay three years ago, the FMC decided to turn down the company’s proposal to become partners because the company was deeply involved in developing its own system.
Instead, Emkay initially decided not to partner with Auto Integrate as it thought having its own portal would provide a competitive advantage. A review of the marketplace found that many FMCs were also working on their own portals or were planning to develop one, according to Emkay.
This had a potential to develop a literal Tower of Babel with maintenance vendors and FMCs having to cope with nearly a dozen individual portals.
“For a maintenance vendor to use six to eight different portals does not make sense, nor would it make sense to have our mainetenace advisors logging in and using eight to 10 different national account portals. At that time, we realized the market had a real need to have one universal platform to conduct business,” Tepas observed.