With the help of ISDN technology from Eicon, Mazda Cars Ltd found a solution to improve communications with their dealerships across the UK
"From the start, the onus was to ensure that any IT solution which we recommend is backed by a strong business case," comments Andy Collins, IT business manager at Mazda Cars. "Each of our network of 150 franchised dealers is an independent business and has to fund its own IT needs. There is also a need to ensure that when we develop any new IT solution, it is as simple to use as the current systems, which, in this case, had been up and running for 10 years. Staff in the motor trade need fast and easy access to information and any system should be, as far as possible, intuitive. Our dealer network does not want to spend a lot of time learning new skills."
Mazda had used a system called Dealerlink for about 10 years. This system, which is common within the motor trade, is based on videotext technology and provides character-based information. Over time, the Dealerlink system developed to provide solutions to a number of core business demands. It provided information on car availability, ordering of parts, ordering of vehicles, warranty claims and processing of financial transactions. The system was also a crucial element of direct mail marketing campaigns for Mazda ( with each dealer providing information on customers to a central database. The communications architecture of the Dealerlink system used an analogue modem over the Public Switched Telecommunications Network (PSTN). This provided a low speed data transfer solution.
As Mazda entered the 1990s, it became clear that Dealerlink had a number of key limitations. The system was beginning to look dated, especially compared to mouse-based technology. The Internet was transforming access to information and intranets were being developed using the same hypertext technology to provide an easy-to-use, intuitive interface.
From the dealer community's point of view, a further frustration with the system came from connection and data transmission speeds, combined with a low level of reliability ( the lines had a tendency to disconnect midway through data transfer. Using modem technology over PSTN, connection times were upwards of 30 seconds, which had to be repeated on each occasion the line failed. As the dealer network began to use the Dealerlink system to transmit more and more information, this delay was costing time and money.
Mazda undertook a study of alternative technologies that could provide a faster and more reliable service to the dealer network. "Having considered PSTN, X.25 and leased line technology, we decided that ISDN was the only technology which matched our key criteria of fast transfer times, multiple sessions and speedy connection times. In addition, by utilising ISDN Technology, we could continue to use the Dealerlink system at first and then consider developing an intranet in the future."
"On completion of the upgrade to ISDN, the only initial difference to the dealer would be connection times of less than a second and unrecognisable speeds of data transfer," commented Andy Collins. When Mazda announced to their dealer community that ISDN was available, the take up reached an astonishing 95 per cent and was higher than any previous IT initiative. Roll out took place over the following seven months. Mazda Cars has experienced a number of business benefits from the installation of ISDN:
There has been a significant reduction in the overall time associated with using the Dealerlink system. Initial studies have indicated that this saving alone could be in the region of $4000 per annum per dealership
The average duration of each connection to the system has also been reduced by 25 per cent saving telephone call costs and charges for using the system
The ability of ISDN to provide two concurrent connections over a single telephone line, coupled with the terminal adaptor's two ports which can connect two PCs to one line and allow both to connect concurrently, provided further savings for Mazda's dealership network
Without exception each dealer that joined the scheme noticed, within three months, a significant saving in time and money.
The transfer to ISDN technology provided Mazda with the platform which they required in order to take their plans further forward and to develop an intranet, which could replace the Dealerlink system with a more instinctive platform.
Mazda put into place the key elements of the network, which were required at the host end and sought the advice of Eicon Technology to provide a connectivity solution at the client end of the intranet. Eicon Technology was able to provide a card-based ISDN connectivity solution that would maximise the benefit of the digital connection. Eicon's Diva Pro 2.0 Card provided an ideal solution to the connectivity needs of the dealerships.
"Eicon's Diva Pro 2.0 card, with its on-board processor, could handle full-speed ISDN without slowing down the server's processor. In addition, it could negotiate a connection in about one second or less, providing a vastly improved service for our dealer network." Dealers can now access company advice, dealer support, provision of background information and a much greater level of information on new and used vehicles, including multimedia where appropriate.
In addition, the intranet development has provided Mazda with the ability to cut down significantly on paper pushing. With almost every form, from sales certificates to warranty documents, freely available to download, dealers have all the information they require at their fingertips.
Andy Collins describes the adoption of ISDN at Mazda as "the single most important instrument for change within Mazda. It is already delivering real business benefits and cost savings to our dealers. It has also provided the platform to revolutionise the way in which we communicate as an organisation."
"Eicon Technology's part in the development of this exciting new business communications tool has been essential. As a company, Mazda has benefited from Eicon's high level of service and support along with a product which is amongst the best on the market.
"We are looking forward to the roll out of the intranet project to more and more dealers. Certainly, it has proved a very popular communications tool with the dealers who have been on-line for some time. We hope to continue our roll out programme hand in hand with Eicon."
Compiled by Mike Burkitt
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