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Kawasaki develops dealer intranet

Motorcycle maker has streamlined dealer operations using UK expertise and software as part of a regional IT centralisation project.

European motorcycle company Kawasaki has implemented a new dealer intranet as part of efforts to modernise its dealer operations.

The project has streamlined transactions with dealers, improved data accuracy and removed the need for multiple, manual data re-entry using a combination of IBM WebSphere middleware and QAS address verification software.

The company embarked on a standardised operational transformation programme some years ago. But Brian Haselgrove, senior information system department manager for Kawasaki Europe told IT PRO its European subsidiaries had, up until that time, run their own, individual operational systems, each developed in-house. "Head office decided to write one set of standard systems for the region from scratch," he said.

With the establishment of a new European headquarters in the Netherlands, the company decided to create one business-to-business (B2B) extranet for the whole of Europe to look after order placement, warranty registration, back-end production, order processing, invoicing and accounting.

"We had the most experience running systems for collecting customer data from Kawasaki dealers," said Haselgrove. "We first had an old system 38 for processing orders and then, in the mid-1990s, we wrote something for the internet that was based on IBM equipment that was very successful with dealers. So the decision was taken to write a new dealer system for Europe."

Kawasaki use IBM iSeries along with Websphere software to deliver an IT infrastructure that integrates a variety of functional applications online, including QuickAddress Pro Web from Experian subsidiary QAS to validate customer address details as they are given to the dealer. By entering only the customer's house number and postcode (or European equivalent), the remaining address fields in the Kawasaki customer database are automatically populated.

"Dealers are obliged to give us the name and address of a new customer for product recalls," Haselgrove said. "Equally, there are vehicle registration requirements we have to abide by in every country. But we are also able to use the information for sending out welcome packs, direct mail and other marketing purposes. The database is extremely useful."

Haslegrove and his team are working to add new modules around financial reporting and product orders to the intranet, which is now used by 1,800 dealers. But 90 per cent of warranty claims are now conducted using it, while the only manual intervention needed in clerical areas now are for the 10 per cent of exceptions involving customer information, where before, "each country had to have an army of staff doing clerical input," he added.

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