Simon Hill, Operations Director at Ancaster, has been at the helm of this digital transformation.

“About four years ago we started to look at ways we could create a paperless archive across our group. Due to the strict compliance laws that run through the business and the constant changing of the surrounding rules and regulations, we generate a lot of paperwork on a day to day basis, some of which we have to keep for an infinite amount of time.”

Initially Simon started exploring a document storage system but found this option fell short.  “It was an off the shelf solution for F&I only and not an all-encompassing system,” explains Simon. “I couldn’t make the flow work the way we wanted it to or rename areas to suit. You want the system to be shaped to suit you rather than change a process that works to suit the system.”

He confirms that whilst this product was a cheaper fix, “these things aren’t ultimately about price; it didn’t work for what we needed it for.”

Retaining a familiar way of working with mstore 

On the recommendation of a new service manager who had used mstore at another dealership, Simon took a look at mstore and the project changed course. “When we understood what mstore did, we decided to broaden it beyond F&I to all car sales and aftersales.”
“I find mstore very straightforward. It was refreshing to find a system that seemed familiar in following our internal processes in both sales and aftersales."

Simon Hill, Operations Director.

"We were able to just fine tune a few areas such as renaming things to suit and this was no issue for Arena.
It was important to find a solution that felt familiar. Some of our staff have been in the industry a long time and are not that confident with new technologies. Once we had implemented the system and given them a short time to use it and get used to it, they had that lightbulb moment and can appreciate the benefits it gives them and in turn the business. It is now second nature to them.”

The burden of paper-based working

mstore tackles the paper-based problems that hamper dealerships such as finding the right paperwork when you need it and the need to manage unwieldly storage.

“Managing a large paper archive was holding back the business in terms of lost time looking for documents, the ever-spiralling need for storage, and managing the process of getting rid of documents beyond the relevant retention period,” confirms Simon. “It was becoming harder and harder to retrieve information, the biggest issue being time.”

“The most important risk is financial and ultimately even criminal. Over time we have been presented with various claims from the Motor Ombudsman and in these instances it is imperative that we can find the relevant paperwork to prove one way or another whether we are at fault. These claims can be from over a number of years, sometimes even as far back as 20 years ago, and finding the time to search our various storage facilities is not easy."

"Not only that, but we have thousands of records coming through the business every week and so it becomes increasingly difficult to account for every sheet of paper relating to each file over time."

"Another big consideration for moving to an online platform is the physical storage and disposing of data. Due to the sheer volume of paperwork we accrue, the upkeep and disposal is a monumental task and one that unfortunately falls further down the to do list when it isn’t just one person’s responsibility. Eventually we had to invest in an external storage facility for our accounting and HR archives which doesn’t make much sense in this day and age."

"When it comes to disposing of the data, of course we would treat this with the utmost care, which means ensuring that the paperwork is shredded and collected by a secure company. The importance of this means that we only get round to the disposals every now and then and recently went through an exercise of disposing of 20 tonnes of paperwork securely.”

Going digital with mstore 

Whilst addressing a number of issues Ancaster had been dealing with for some years, Simon had something of a digital epiphany, that challenged the prevailing mindset. “Or you could just say, getting into the 21st century!” jokes Simon. “It was a challenge to get others to realise that the team could do it; change was thought to be a massive hurdle,” he concedes.

“Once we realised what we could do using a digital model, then we started to think about things a bit differently. Having a digital deal file keeps everything neat, and the system will tell us exactly what needs to be added to the deal file to complete it. This means we know we have a full file rather than relying on individuals, where important documents might be missed.”

“The mstore onboarding process was really useful. The initial presentation is followed by a discussion around exactly what you want and need for your business. This is translated into an initial build which is then also presented and again we could make any changes that we hadn’t necessarily thought of in the initial discussions."

"The next stage was roll out of the system and training for the staff. We were then given another opportunity to fine tune the system and make any changes following user interaction.”

Digitising dealership-wide

As workflow specialists that have honed the mstore for automotive specific platforms over 12 years, Arena can support transformation dealership-wide. Having a key partner in the dealership at leadership level can be a key factor for success too, with Simon fulfilling this role at Ancaster and driving the project forward.
“Since going live, we have continued to develop our processes by adding Customer Service and HR to the platform. The more we use the system, the more we understand how it can support our business and make changes to tweak the way we set it up initially.”

Simon Hill, Operations Director

“The Customer Service platform was built for us from scratch by Arena and the mstore team. This was really exciting addition as we are now able to access all complaints and relevant documentation in one central location.”

Being able to work through different operations with one platform is critical for Simon. “I don’t think that this is where it’s going to end. I see some options for our accounts function and no doubt there will be some other things as we go forward. The ability to scale mstore is enormous for us.”

A bespoke HR system

Creating slicker on boarding and leaver processes, and providing immediate access to personnel data for leadership are key for Simon and the HR team.

“Interacting with our IT department is key when people start and leave. A new employee expects to be able to sit down on day one and get on with their job – email, passwords and so on. With mstore we’ll have a way of being able to identify starters by their start date and give access to the IT department."

"The other side of it is when people leave, turning all those things off. They have access to certain things they could use outside of working for Ancaster, perhaps in the same type of industry. You should be able to shut everything down and redirect emails."

Immediate access to records and information is vital for the leadership team. “Accessibility is key for us. As a Director of the business, we need to be able to find what we need, when we need it,” explains Simon, “Currently the documents are kept in various files, which are all locked away when the HR department leave the building.
With mstore, Directors can look into various files as and when they need to.  We have a complete overview of all departments and can quickly and easily access any information within these at the click of a button. 

Simon Hill, Operations Director.

"mstore gives us the ability to bring all the information together, and through the system we can give people the right accessibility with the right levels of access to look at certain things."

“We currently have around 330 employees but obviously the staff turnover is fluid. We have to keep personnel files for quite a while, even if they are only in the business for a short period. The mstore system makes the process of keeping this information and recoding the correct deletion date really simple.”

“The trial system for HR was exactly what we asked for and looks like what we said we wanted. It’s nothing like what you had on the shelf; it shows mstore’s total flexibility.”

Saving on people, paper and print

“Our contract of employment is around 18 pages and a company handbook of 90 pages which is printed in duplicate and posted. We’ve managed to get that to DocuSign format, but printing and filing it and the time it takes just doesn’t make sense.”

“It’s frightening how much we spend on copier paper. I don’t think we’ll be completely paperless, but I think we can get to producing 90% less paper. There are some areas that we can’t influence, such as acceptance of digital signatures from some of our partners and suppliers. From a sales and aftersales point of view in the next 12 months we’ll be getting close to 90% less paper. I’m happy with the progress we’re making.”
“Whilst the system can potentially help us to reduce the headcount due to less time being spent on paperwork management, it will in fact make us more efficient as those members of staff will no doubt have other areas they will be able to focus on that currently can’t receive their full attention.”

Simon Hill, Operations Director.

Keyloop integration

“The Keyloop interface is working very well for us. Part of the conversations very early on were around what mstore could do with our DMS system and we went on from there.”

As well as pulling data between systems to avoid double keying, the reporting creates more visibility for Ancaster to monitor and track. One report the software team has shared with Simon after an initial few months of data compares what Keyloop is telling him against what  mstore is telling him. “That works really well. It’s like a double check type report and I like all that!” he enthuses.

Managing audits

“We have external auditors and will be able to give them remote audit access to go in and retrieve the files. Previously, they would visit and take the deal files. The idea is if they have any queries they can ask and it can be dealt with rather than dragging things out for another day or two. The team are looking forward to avoiding the time it used to take to set up ready for an auditor visit. The systems self-explanatory; if they’re looking for six documents in particular, it’s there in mstore on the list to click and see if it’s been signed, accurate and so on. It’ll make the process much easier and quicker.”

A strategic partner

Simon sees all the mstore modules – sales, aftersales, HR, customer service and so on, as the starting point in a whole dealership wide platform.
“Definitely, I would class Arena as a strategic partner moving forward. And I look forward to developing other areas as and when we can. We wouldn’t keep investing in mstore if we didn’t think this because this isn’t just an investment for a year, this is for moving forward for however long.”

Simon Hill, Operations Director.

“The Xerox acquisition of Arena Group adds great weight to the business and makes complete sense. And they’re a powerful, global company.”

Read more about mstore for automotive.