Major fleet funding organisations, along with large fleets, are recording reduced running costs by creating electronic links with providers of service and maintenance facilities through 1link.
The 1link system reduces paperwork and allows for automatic authorisation, saving service centres a phone call for permission to carry out work on a car. Customers requiring service, maintenance and repair work can access their approved repairer network through an online directory.
Advantages include the removal of the need for job coding and a massive reduction in the requirement for authorisation calls and paperwork. Fleets enjoying such benefits can see cuts in overheads of about 50%, epyx claims.
According to epyx, advanced features include online driver service booking, electronic authorisation and invoice processing, available to all fleet customers with any type of internet access.
Lex Vehicle Leasing signed up to 1link last July and Jamie Wiseman, maintenance manager of technical services at Lex, claims the system has significantly improved efficiencies across the business.
He said: 'The system is pretty amazing. Just two years ago, we had around 25% of our transactions going through the system – it now stands at around 80%.
'We have seven people working on the 1link system, completing 80% of the authorisations, whereas we have 14 people completing 20% of authorisations on the phone.'
The system has also had repercussions across the rest of Lex's back office workings, again improving efficiency.
Wiseman said: 'Using the system has had a knock-on effect with other parts of our business. Our invoicing pay team has become more efficient and it certainly has peripheral benefits around our staff.'
Despite bringing efficiencies to the business and streamlining staff processes, there have been no redundancies as a result of implementing the system.
'We have taken advantage of natural staff wastage by not recruiting after people have left or transferred,' said Wiseman.
Ken Trinder, head of business development at Epyx said: 'For many years people explained how e-commerce would take off in the fleet industry when we eventually reach a single standard.
'Because we were slow, it held the industry back, but 1link has achieved this single standard in the past 12 months, providing advantages for the fleet industry.'
The 1link system was unveiled at the end of 2002 and officially went live at the start of last year. Now 25 of the top 50 leasing companies – including Motability – use the system, which is also approved by a large chunk of manufacturers.
There are 14 manufacturers committed to adopting the 1link Service Network for their dealer networks. They include Ford, Audi, BMW, Citroen, Honda, Lexus, MINI, Volkswagen, Vauxhall, Peugeot, Toyota, LDV, Nissan and Renault.
The system covers two million cars and more than 7,000 service and maintenance outlets, including franchised dealers, fast fit, nationwide autocentres and independent garages.
These service outlets range from prestige franchise dealers to small independent garages and include major dealer groups such as Dixons, Pendragon, Lookers, Reg Vardy, Bristol Street, Caffyns, Arnold Clark and Glenvarigill. From the fast-fit tyre and exhaust side of the industry, ATS, Kwik-Fit and National Tyres and Autocare are all now members of the 1link Service Network. Independent garages have also signed up, including some of the larger chains such as Nationwide Autocentres.
Monika Winterbourne, procurement director at Interleasing, which signed up to the system over a year ago, claims 1link has provided noticeable benefits for the group's customers.
She said: 'We introduced the epyx 1link Service Network to process servicing, maintenance and repair work electronically.
'Suppliers are linked to our back office systems which enables them to gain authorisation and invoice us electronically over the internet, improving efficiency. It is already proving to be very successful, with over 70% of our preferred service and maintenance suppliers using the system.
'Our customers can see immediate benefits, with service and repair booked online while the driver is still on the phone. The customer then automatically receives confirmation by e-mail or SMS text, taking away the hassle of ongoing fleet maintenance.'
Epyx has regularly hit the headlines following groups signing up to the system and last September it was featured after acquiring one of its main rivals, Oasis, for an undisclosed sum.
The move created a standard platform in the repair industry and followed epyx's acquisition of former rival TransLease, which began a round of consolidation in the online service and maintenance sector.
Speaking about the acquisition, Greg Connell, epyx's managing director, said: 'Until now, some of the potential benefits of service and maintenance e-commerce have been compromised because of the presence of competing platforms in the market. We now have the opportunity to establish a common platform for the repairer community.'
Epyx is not fond of standing still and has major plans outlined for this year. The group wants to forge ahead with new products and has plans for international expansion following the success of the product here in the UK.
Kyle Truman, head of marketing at epyx, said: 'By the second quarter of this year, we are looking to provide short-term hire and following that, there will be a disposals product by the end of the year. In the future we will also have even greater integration with manufacturers. Renault, Vauxhall, Jaguar and Land Rover will all be offering menu pricing by the end of the year.'
International expansion across Europe and America is on the cards for the IT provider, and could be seen as early as next year.
Truman added: 'We will be launching the product across mainland Europe and North America, starting with the service network next year. We still need to complete translations, VAT calculations and invoice processing but many of our existing customers are already pan-European.'
The uptake of the 1link system has been little short of a phenomenon and following its spate of acquisitions it has a strong foothold on the market.
It has become the only option available for many users, but with the benefits and efficiencies it provides it's doubtful users will be returning to their paper-based ways.