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Dealer links slash Ford lead times

Antony Adshead
Ford has cut lead times between the order and delivery of new cars from 80 days to 40 in a project to connect dealers to back-office systems at manufacturing plants.

The Order-to-Deliver project has saved millions of pounds by cutting inventory from the supply chain, allowing dealers to view and change cars in production, and contributing to increased levels of customer satisfaction.

The system allows 2,000 European Ford dealers to view the status of cars in production, order them and make changes to their specification according to customer requirements.

Dealers view the cars' specifications in the order bank held on an Oracle database via a web browser. Changes can be transferred overnight into production scheduling systems on a mainframe to enable new parts to be fed down the supply chain.

Ford's IT and e-business director Richard Thwaite said, "The project has changed the way dealers approach the selling process. Previously, stock was pushed out to dealers and they sold from that stock. Dealers can now offer vehicles in the pipeline and make changes to a vehicle's configuration to customer requirements."

At present, customer requirements are keyed in from dealers' back offices. There are plans to develop a front-office version where customers will be able to see changes to car specifications.

Simon Bragg, an analyst with ARC Consulting, said, "Improving the outbound supply chain is vital. One way the dealers can avoid offering discounts to shift the metal on their forecourt is to sell the specification the customer actually wants. It means more cars can be sold at list price, which should add quite a few per cent to dealers' and vehicle makers' revenues."

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