CommercialFleet

Northgate’s data drive transforms its defleeting

Northgate Vehicle Hire opens new branch in Manchester

Northgate Vehicle Hire has transformed the way it makes its vehicle acquisition and defleet decisions, based on a new way of collecting and analysing data from within the business.

The van rental and leasing company specialist established a business intelligence team five years ago.

The five employees behind it have been working on developing a new way of feeding in data from across its fleet of 55,000 vehicles.

Northgate is now using PDAs across its depots to track multiple data streams, including point of collection, hire duration and time of hire.

The process can be updated in real time to feed back into the management information system and includes closer tracking of wholelife vehicle costs over the full lifetime of  the vehicle.

The Northgate fleet is also being fitted with telematics in order to improve mileage capture accuracy.

Telematics has been added to 8,000 vehicles, but this will soon ramp up as Northgate replaces approximately 20,000 vehicles a year.

The launch of the new Northgate management information (MI) portal coincides with the promotion of Mark Hunt as the company’s UK finance director, having made the move up from group financial controller.

Hunt has focused on creating closer links between the finance department and the rest of the business.

The introduction of the new MI portal is being rolled out over the next two-to-three months and, while Hunt was unable to give a specific number in terms of the financial improvement it will bring to the business, he said it would help speed up the time it would take to make decisions on purchasing and help the business improve the quality of decision-making on disposals.

Hunt told Fleet News: “The goal of this new technology is to use it to influence operational decisions on what we are buying, when we’re buying and when we’re defleeting.

“There’s no doubt this will give us the edge against competitors and ultimately drive up our profit per unit.”

Northgate posted an operating profit up £18 million to £69m over the last financial year. The business added eight new rental sites in 2014 and will open a further 15 locations in the next two-to-three years, taking it to 90 locations.

This strategic expansion is the result of a targeted campaign to increase its number of SME customers – Northgate’s primary target audience.

The company chose to open new branches in London and the north west, following research that indicated these areas were under-served by commercial vehicle suppliers, allowing it to take advantage of a gap in the market.

Justyn Castle, Northgate’s business intelligence manager, BI and data services, said the company has been analysing its fleet since its inception 30 years ago, but the business is now able to more accurately track wholelife cycles and feed that data back into the business.

He said: “Five years ago, tracking the lifecycle of our vehicles would have taken a lot of manual work.

“We’re tracking everything, from the moment the vehicle is delivered to us. Previously, we were just monitoring usage when vehicles had started to be used by a customer. We’re using this information to eliminate operational wastage.”

Hunt said the data model is based around wholelife vehicle costs, with the addition of data fed in from the fleet in operation. This information is then interpreted by the business intelligence team to influence how the company chooses its next vehicles.

Castle said: “A key output of this is that we’ll have a better disposal process too.

“We’re able to react much quicker to changes in the customer market. We can easily track if there’s a move away from panel vans to small wheelbase vehicles, based on usage, and we can change our vehicle acquisition decisions based on that information.”

Data is also fed into Northgate’s vehicle sales arm, Van Monster, in order to make sure vehicles are defleeted at the best price.

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