PMF takes a trip to Autosupplies to find out what has changed at the Chesterfield operation since the previous visit, and how the acquisition of Butlers Automotive has affected the business.
Autosupplies’ Chesterfield warehouse is unique in many respects, but one feature only few will know is that the facility is ISO accredited. For a UK motor factor, this is rare and pretty exceptional. Those who have visited the site might conclude that this accreditation goes some way to explaining why the operation runs so smoothly. After all, ISO status can only be achieved by maintaining the same high standards year after year. So, having these seamless processes firmly in place has allowed Autosupplies to expand and develop its wider business. For David Clarke, Managing Director, this has led to a very busy year.
And then there were two…
Let’s start with the most significant development. Just before PMF’s last visit, Autosupplies had announced that it would be acquiring Butlers Automotive, a smaller motor factor in the Barnsley area that had fallen on hard times. In operation for more than fifty years, a series of unfortunate setbacks, including the sad loss of the company’s owners, Philip and Nicollette Parkin, left Butlers in an untenable position and in need of help. David decided to step in, and has almost tripled the factor’s profits in the year following the takeover.
The business is now firmly back on its feet, with a new counter area and telesales office to bring it in line with the Autosupplies branding.
David Clarke commented on the rejuvenation: “Butlers may have been experiencing difficulties, but there was one aspect to the business that made it easier to restart than first anticipated – its name. Butlers has always been well known within its community, which means we didn’t have to start from scratch. Its customers were still there, but it had suffered at the hands of misfortune. This is why we kept the Butlers name; we wanted to keep its identity.”
The key is communication
Butlers acts as a satellite branch to the main warehouse in Chesterfield, bringing in business from further afield. However, this system isn’t without its challenges – the most obvious being the balance of stock between branches. To this end, the company began using MAM Autopart to ensure that inventory is suitably managed. David explained, “When an order comes through from Autosupplies, it will flag up on the Butlers system and lets them know immediately whether or not the Autosupplies branch has the part in stock. If it does, then we have six vans set aside for the express purpose of moving product between Chesterfield and Barnsley, and as long as Chesterfield has the part then we can ensure same- day delivery.”
What’s more, as David happily pointed out, the software allows customer orders to be put through 24 hours, seven days per week – even when the factor is closed.
Growing in size and stature
Much of the factor’s stock management capabilities have also come down to the 6,000ft2 expansion of the main warehouse in Chesterfield. The extra room has enabled many of the big changes that Autosupplies has experienced over the year, especially since the space was filled within three months. Not only does this mean that Butlers is rarely kept wanting, as was mentioned previously, but it has also meant the factor can cover new areas, such as Retford and Matlock. This has had the knock-on effect of increased fleet size, which now consists of 60 vans, all wrapped in Autosupplies branding, with a select few showcasing the premium brands available from the factor. In addition, the growth created the requirement for more staff, bringing the total to over 100 employees between the sites.
As well as more space, more vans, more staff and more areas, there have also been new product brands added to the mix. In a bid to appeal to the premium market, David has brought in the likes of Mahle, Bosch and Textar to the portfolio. Given Autosupplies’ start in the refinishing business, catering for a niche has become second nature and provides opportunity to supply what others can’t. David explained, “I go against the grain a little with this thinking, but I always say about Autosupplies that we need to concentrate on looking at how to improve and adapt, then we are more likely to find a successful formula.
“Don’t get me wrong, this has led to mistakes in the past, but it is far better to make a mistake and move on, than stay rooted to the spot, afraid to make a decision. This is part of the reason why we decided to look at the premium market as well, and, speaking frankly, it has led to a great deal of reward.”
So, what’s next?
With the last planning permission application still firmly in memory, David is once again looking at how to take the next step: “I would like to find a way of improving our van bay area. There is a plot of land outside our main gate that would work perfectly as an overflow car park, which would give our vans more manoeuvrability. You might think this is only a small improvement, but these sort of adjustments generally pay out.”