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Continuous Improvement: The Importance of Partnerships 

At Wheels, we know our clients depend on us to keep their business moving. Therefore, quality is built into everything we do. To us, quality is more than reducing defects, it’s about building partnerships. And through those partnerships we learn how to get better as a service provider. 

I’d like to share a success story that demonstrates how partnerships play a key role in continuous improvement. We identified an opportunity to reduce the time between terming a vehicle and getting it to auction.  Our goal is to pick up termed vehicles within 10 days, 80% of the time. But when we took a deeper dive into the data we identified that although we meet our target there were instances that took significantly longer.  

To improve upon this opportunity, we assembled a cross-functional team with a number of our department leaders in Remarketing, Client Services, Process and Quality Management, our transport partners, and one of our clients. With this team, we led an internal week-long kaizen event, which is a quality process of working together to solve a problem or improve a particular process within a company. The team’s first step was to better understand the source of these extended pickups. As with most problems, there were several causes.

First, we realized our process was built around the client returning their old vehicle to the dealer when picking up their replacement. There were a number of reasons why this didn’t occur:

  • The client needed to transfer tooling from one vehicle to the next.
  • Seasonal business needs warranted a need for both vehicles.
  • Occasionally, the old vehicle was being used at a different branch.

Next, we identified an opportunity to further standardize the escalation process and increase visibility to aging vehicles. Lastly, we recognized the transfer of information between Wheels and the transport company wasn’t frequent enough to facilitate a quick response. 

As a result of our kaizen event, we developed a new process, established new dashboards for monitoring outliers, implemented daily huddles, increased the frequency of calls with our transport partners, and built a technology solution that fostered real-time vehicle data transmission and communication. Then, we set up a pilot with our client partner to test.

During our pilot, we reduced average days to pick up from 10 days to 3.5 days and picked up 97% of vehicles within 7 days. Due to the success of the pilot, the new process has been rolled out to all clients.

If you would like to partner with us on a continuous improvement project, please reach out to me at JLipes@wheels.com

About the Author

Jason Lipes is the Sr. Director of Solution Services at Wheels, Inc. He oversees Wheels’ Integration Services, Project Management Office, and Process and Quality Management teams. His focus is driving quality and continuous improvement across the organization.