An enviable track record of van conversions for some of the UK’s biggest fleets combined with an advantageous location in the heart of the UK means that Bri-Stor Systems is uniquely positioned to support its customers. Andy Skelton, Customer Handover Centre Manager, explains: “Opened in February 2020, our Customer Handover Centre sees us play an important role in supporting one of our largest customers in getting newly trained engineers out on the road as quickly and efficiently as possible.
For any new mobile engineer, training begins with a driving test starting from the customer’s main training base in Yarnfield, Staffordshire and ending at our Customer Handover Centre. Successful recruits will then collect their new van and begin an extensive training programme to become fully-fledged telecoms engineers.”
With up to 20 new recruits passing through the Customer Handover Centre every day, it’s perhaps no surprise that members of the customer’s Training and Recruitment team are also regularly on-site, adding to a sense of true partnership and ensuring that all our processes are aligned to provide exceptional customer service.
How is the Customer Handover Centre different to the regular vehicle delivery process?
“All vans that roll off the production line at Bri-Stor are complete with the requested storage solution plus any ancillary items such as heaters or lighting and go through an extensive inspection process, but the Customer Handover Centre is a bit different,” Andy explains. “It’s set up to support a single customer with an extensive fleet of over 2,000 vans and sees up to 140 additional items installed before delivery to the end-user – a field engineer. This means that when the field engineer collects their vehicle, they have everything they need to carry out their job. These items could include anything from generators and power tools to cones and traffic signs.”
The mix of vans flowing through the Handover Centre can be extremely fluid. As a result, Andy and the team are in daily contact with their customer counterparts and flex their kitting activities accordingly. Usually working a couple of weeks in advance, at times, the team has to change their picks at short notice to reflect an alteration in the mix of vehicles that the customer requires.
Opportunity from adversity
While further lockdowns and Covid restrictions in many European countries continue to affect vehicle production and the wider supply chain, ongoing semi-conductor, steel, rubber, and even wood shortages continue to compound the situation, limiting the stock of new vehicles available for conversion. However, from adversity comes opportunity, which in this case comes in the form of facilitating the transition of used vehicles from one driver to the next. Something Andy and the team are only too happy to support. These used vehicles may come into the Customer Handover Centre to be re-kitted and refurbished due to a driver leaving the company or, as we are seeing more regularly now, due to the customer’s transition to an electric fleet and swapping out older diesel-powered vehicles.
“Any tools or materials that are left in the old van are carefully assessed by a member of the team and provided they are not beyond economical repair will be re-used in a future conversion. Not only does this approach help to minimise the amount of material going to landfill – a key component of our environmental strategy – but also reduces the cost for the customer.” Andy adds.
“With space to store up to 400 vehicles on-site at any one time, our stock turnover is relatively high, so alongside the parts we can re-use from older vehicles, twice a week, a 44-tonne lorry arrives to restock our supplies. Most of these components are stored within the racking area of our 450sqm warehouse; however, urgent parts will be added to the kits of parts that are already laid out on pallets waiting for the next vehicle to arrive. “
At busy times there can be up to 20 complete kits ready to go, and the electronic SAGE report is updated to ensure stock records are up-to-date and replacement orders placed automatically once pre-set re-order volumes have been reached.
High volume parts and those considered critical for the engineer to carry out their duties are tracked transparently through a SmartSheet* that is shared directly with the customer. That way, supplies can be expedited and any impact on the engineer’s training programme minimised.
*Smartsheet – a cloud based computer solution that allows multiple people to access a database at the same time.
Developing deep understanding
“Through such a close relationship, we have been able to develop a good understanding of the customer’s operation, allowing us to use our experience to offer suggestions for improvement.” Andy continues. “A great example of this was when recently, we were presented with a cost-saving idea to remove generators from all standards of vehicle. On paper, a great idea, but thanks to our experience and knowledge, we demonstrated that while it would work on certain builds, others still needed the generator to be included as they didn’t come with an onboard battery pack as standard. The feedback was well received by the customer and together, we continue to ensure that no matter which standard of van the engineer receives, they’ll have the necessary power solution to perform their roles.
“It’s been an exciting time over the past couple of years watching the relationship grow and fine-tuning Handover Centre operations. Together with the customer, we have established a first-class facility that delivers significant efficiencies for their recruitment and training activities, and we look forward to having the opportunity to further strengthen the relationship in the years to come.”