Saab Automobile AB is testing a new parts distribution system for dealers that will improve customer service without forcing dealerships to maintain large inventories of parts.
The automaker will test the system in Sweden before rolling it out in other markets.
Saab developed the system after research last year revealed the availability of spare parts at some Saab dealerships was as low as 65 percent.
Saab asked logistics experts at Sweden's Gothenburg University to investigate the shortfall. They identified three causes:
1. Dealers tended to determine their parts requirements for basic models.
2. Dealers were only aware of local trends.
3. Many were either too busy to run a good stocking system, or had not been taught about proper stock management.
Saab decided to give all its dealers centralized logistical assistance via an automated stock replacement system. Saab appointed Jeff Delahorne as project leader, and called in Cap Gemini - an information technology consultant - to develop the program.
Since Saab dealers operate in many markets, the automaker kept the system as simple as possible. It uses basic Web technology, and only requires a computer, an Internet connection, a Web browser and security software. All require a low level of staff training.
By offering centralized information, the new system provides Saab's management with local, regional and global insights into parts stocks and trends. It also frees service managers from the need to fill out purchase orders. The system also includes a locator function that can tell a dealer if another dealer nearby has a part he requires.
All 40,000 items in the Saab parts catalog are included on the database, which has the capacity to list 150,000 Opel parts and 300,000 parts for other General Motors vehicles. But Saab dealers will not necessarily stock a larger inventory of parts, said Delahorne.
Dealers will be able to carry lower stocks while still ensuring they are not going to run out of a particular item, Delahorne said. This is made possible by the system's ability to manage huge quantities of information.
Delahorne says the new system 'supplies parts when the dealer asks for them, whereas traditionally parts have been pushed on to dealers.'