New services and more effective ways of working prove beneficial to ongoing partnership
When Mastercare signed a contract with fledgling new company ByBox Ltd a few years ago becoming one of its first customers - it was seeking a distribution solution that could significantly improve the visibility and stock management of parts returning to its business.
What it got was this and a lot more. The contract has grown exponentially in the interim, and whilst Mastercare has since rebanded to become The Tech Guys, the relationship with ByBox has remained as solid as ever: it currently involves the movement of over 2,000 shipments a night using ByBox unique UK-wide, 18,000-strong, 1,200 location box delivery network, and the recent development of several new key services that meet the demands of the companys changing business profile.
Mastercare, which provided after-sales support for customers of Dixons, Currys, PC World and The Link in their homes using a team of 450 service engineers, was already using the ByBox pre-8.00 a.m. delivery service to get parts to its staff when it decided it needed a new system that could provide full accountability of returning stock so it could be repaired or scrapped.
For the solution to be successful, ByBox needed to provide Mastercare with 100% visibility of stock during its outbound and return journey. To meet the challenge, ByBox worked with Mastercare and developed BlackStripe, a service it now offers all customers. In operation, the engineer simply applies a black stripe to the original delivery label to transform it into a return. The two-dimensional barcode in Blackstripe can then tell ByBoxs scanning system the part is a return and route it back to its origin using the outbound tracking number on the original label.
This simple but highly effective solution was the springboard for the many others that have followed since and cemented the relationship between the two companies. When Mastercare became The Tech Guys about a year ago, one of its first tasks was to ask ByBox to develop an effective way to meet the requirements of the impending WEEE Directive that came into force in January 2007.
To ensure compliance, ByBox developed a completely new supply chain that ensures The Tech Guys can keep track of and record what is used, what is not and what ultimately happens to parts that have been replaced. With the added visibility over parts movements provided by the new system, which is enhanced by supplying engineers with two colour-coded labels green for good and red for faulty - once The Tech Guys have decided whether a part is used, unused or faulty, they are now able to change its route as necessary to meet the WEEE requirement to reuse, repair or recycle whenever possible.
More recently, and as The Tech Guys increased its number of field engineers to 500 and split their responsibilities to encompass business users as well as consumers, whilst also training them to deal with the newly introduced range of brown goods such as TVs, ByBox has been asked to develop and provide several new services.
The first of these involves the new van kits that every PC engineer now carries, which comprises 23 essential items. The Tech Guys didnt have room to hold stock of all these items in their own warehouse in Lincoln, so they asked ByBox to store them at its central Coventry distribution facility.
Furthermore to add value to the service ByBox at the same time devised a way for the engineer to order them using a web portal that accepts orders up to 8.00pm each night and guarantees delivery pre-8.00 a.m. the next morning into the box they nominate.
The solution is important, as The Tech Guys in their continuous quest to drive for excellence, insist that engineers are never without a full set of items for their van kit, and it also extends to ByBox being able to supply these items to the companys repair agents as well, another useful benefit. Overall, The Tech Guys say the new van kit replenishment service saves it a great deal of hassle, time and money.
A second new service requires that ByBox work with The Tech Guys business-team technicians for the first time. It involves the provision and delivery of loan laptops while a contract-customers faulty laptop is repaired. And as well as also booking-in the faulty laptops and sorting these for repair, ByBox has now set up a first Technical Inspection Area where those that require it are reimaged before going back into stock. Once reimaged, the laptops are booked back into stock using ByBoxs unique Thinventory system, a single platform that manages the supply chain from end-to-end.
ByBox says that by reimaging the laptops on site it can save The Tech Guys a day that would otherwise be lost moving the computers to an appropriate place to carry out the work, and it hopes to extend this service to other customers in the future.
In addition, and amongst 10 new projects that are ongoing with The Tech Guys is one involving delivery of plasma-screen TVs that if successful will mark another first for ByBox. An initial trial is planned whereby ByBox will supply two-man teams that deliver and install TVs on behalf of The Tech Guys, working out of a bespoke depot that houses the stock. If all goes well, the new service will be launched in 2008.
The Tech Guys is the first to acknowledge that its involvement with ByBox in recent years has made a huge impact on the effectiveness of its own services, and that the companys innovation and problem-solving has enabled the new levels of flexibility needed to grow the business.
Describing the relationship as a true partnership, The Tech Guys confirm that ByBox is always coming up with better ways to enhance the field engineer operation and introduce new ways to support the logistic challenges presented as the core business expands. It welcomes the input and is confident it will continue in the future.