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BT invests £100m to grow van fleet and update IT

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BT Fleet is giving its IT system a major make-over, recruiting more mechanics and ordering thousands of new vehicles thanks to a cash injection of £100 million.

The investment from its parent company BT Group aims to build on significant growth already achieved over the past few years.

Critical to that success will be an investment programme in both people and IT systems at its nationwide network of 65 workshops which services both BT’s in-house vehicle fleet and its external customers.

By the end of March, 2015, all 600 mechanics will have a tablet computer. These will be used to log and process jobs online and in real-time.

BT Fleet’s managing director Dave Bowen said: “That will improve efficiency within our workshops and it means at any one time, anyone within will know where a vehicle is and what stage it is at. It gets rid of all the paper.”

Meanwhile, customers will benefit from a new platform that will enable them to access crucial management information through bespoke reports.

Currently, reports need to be pulled off manually. But the online portal, which is being rolled out in the coming months, will bring an end to that.

“It will be real-time and customers will be able to look at the information in the way they want to look at it, not in the way we choose to give it to them,” continued Bowen.

BT Fleet is also in the process of recruiting 60 vehicle technicians, 10 of which will be apprentices, to help support the roll-out of out-of-hours servicing, with selected workshops staying open until midnight.

The company has been trialling the service for its Openreach business at the Maidstone and Manchester workshops. This will now roll out to a further eight sites over the next month.

The service will initially be used by the Openreach fleet, but Bowen told Fleet News: “It will be made an external offering at some stage, probably in the spring. It could also be extended to another 20 or 30 workshops.

“Our customers like our garages; it’s our unique selling point, so the more we can do in our own garages, in our own network, is absolutely critical to our success.”

There is certainly scope for BT Fleet to bring more business in-house. Bowen estimates that it currently puts around 80% of its work through its own network.

However, while significant sums are being invested in IT and its network of garages, the lion’s share is being spent on securing the biggest bulk vehicle order BT has made in the past three years.

Bowen explained: “We have signed off and ordered around 5,000 vehicles costing £80 million and they will be delivered from now until the end of March.”

A dedicated team has been tasked with deploying the new Openreach vehicles, which will be conducted through 12 hubs across the country. Consisting of Fiat, Ford and Vauxhall models, they include around 3,500 replacement vehicles and 1,500 units for new employees.

“It’s a good time to be making these investments,” said Bowen. “We’ve had two years of rapid growth and, while we’re still growing this year, we’re not in the process of on-boarding a major customer.”

The company has recently announced a series of contract renewals, including South West Water, Sunwin Services Group, Taunton Deane Borough Council and EDF Energy.

Bowen is sure of securing further contract wins and renewals, and says the £100 million investment illustrates that his confidence is shared by BT Group.

He told Fleet News he expects to grow the business by 5% this financial year and by between 5-10% the year after. “Over a five-year period that will be almost 40% growth,” he said.

The company has 78,000 vehicles under its management, including Openreach’s 33,000-strong fleet, but Bowen is not resting on his laurels.

“There’s no reason now after this investment why we can’t take it to the next level,” he said. “My personal ambition is to get the business to £100 million in the next two to three years.”

This financial year, it expects turnover to be around £75 million from external revenues and Bowen is confident that these changes will help him achieve his goal.

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