Aston Martin is a name that needs little introduction. Whilst obviously part of the UK’s automotive heritage where the name has always stood for fine, hand-built, high performance sports cars, the production of these prestigious vehicles, designed and produced by skilled craftsmen, means that this is not a standard automotive process. There is a special place in the market and in the hearts of buyers for bespoke aspirational products which conform to this ideal.
Even so, every Aston Martin is very much a product of today’s technology. New resources and new investment in the latest computer aided design and engineering facilities, in statistical process control and many other leading edge disciplines, including new business solutions, are ensuring that for Aston Martin the future is dynamic and forward thinking without losing the heritage that creates the aspirational demand.
In 2007, Aston Martin was bought out from Ford by a Middle Eastern-led consortium. This created some business issues, in particular the pressing need to source a new accounting system.
Implementation of Finance
Aston Martin, which currently employs 1300 people at three locations in the UK, created a stringent tender process to find the right solution. eBECS and Microsoft Dynamics AX were selected over SAP because of the flexibility of Microsoft Dynamics AX, the option to expand into a complete ERP solution, and the implementation strategy proposed by eBECS. Within four months Microsoft Dynamics AX Accounting Module was up and running.
Bradley Yorke-Biggs, Strategy & IT Director at Aston Martin, said: “eBECS automotive experience was very important. The automotive industry is very unique, as are the challenges within it. We weren’t just looking for a partner that understood the technology; we also wanted a partner that understood our specific sector, so that all they had to learn was the Aston Martin way of doing things.”
He continues, “eBECS’ technical and industry experience was important, but it was the depth of their manufacturing and engineering understanding that eBECS really brought to the table. We knew we needed a complete business solution – not just something perceived as an IT solution – and one that could change the way the entire business performs.
Benefits of the Finance System to Aston Martin
Microsoft Dynamics AX works across all ledgers: general, purchase, fixed assets and sales. Whilst the benefits were immediate, it took some time to see the concrete evidence.
“When we were using our previous financial system, for example, we experienced a lot of payment rejections, which indicated that we had inaccurate or out-of-date data,” said Bill Wilkins, IT Manager at Aston Martin. “After launching Microsoft Dynamics AX, this stopped immediately. Having one integrated system made our operations and information flow more easily and efficiently, but we had to wait a short while before we could actually prove this.”
Launching a new system in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis allowed Aston Martin a level of agility to better manage many of the challenges that it faced. As trading conditions tightened, the company was able to analyse inventory and cash flow with a level of accuracy and confidence not previously experienced.
Bradley Yorke-Biggs said: “We were able to get financial data generated quickly, our cash flow management processes and aged debtors reports were rapidly processed, which was necessary when we were micro-managing cash flow issues and it gave us much greater efficiency in reporting. We couldn’t have done this without Microsoft Dynamics AX. Today, as the market improves, we still have regular finance meetings and we use the up-to-date and accurate data that the solution gives us to focus on the pressing business decisions at hand, rather than data crunching. The way in which we manage our business has changed and is more dynamic because we can rely on Microsoft Dynamics AX.”
The Next Step
As an aspirational brand recognised throughout the world, it is essential for Aston Martin to understand the profile of its customers, ensuring current and potential vehicle owners are clearly segmented from people making more generalised enquiries. Following business requirement analysis, and with support from eBECS, Aston Martin has decided to extend its use of the financials module and also incorporate Microsoft Dynamics AX CRM. This will allow the company to replace an unmanageable series of spreadsheets and unconnected databases, resulting in a comprehensive and fully-integrated database of contacts that can be segmented into categories of interest and ownership to ensure that the nature of the relationship can be tailored precisely to the customer.
“We need to determine at an early stage with the customer whether they are ‘contacting’ us through the app, the website or through the dealer network,” commented Yorke-Biggs. “We need to know the difference, for example, between a 14 year old boy looking on our website for a cap for his Dad’s birthday, or a One-77 customer willing to spend £1.2 million pounds on a supercar. There are methods we can use to help us segment those touch points so that we can build accurate customer profiles, allowing us to talk to customers at a level that’s relevant to them and to us as a brand. There’s little point us sending a glossy One-77 brochure and an invitation for a viewing to someone who is buying a cap off the website, and vice versa.”
Aston Martin is currently looking at options for moving some of its systems to the cloud and is evaluating Office 365, and it is also in the process of undertaking a more complete implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX in 2013. “With the full implementation of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, we will have a far more accurate and resilient product structure and engineering change management environment. Currently this is a manual process but this solution will bring with it an electronic change management capability which is a big leap for us. It will improve the integrity of the system we use and affect changes to manufacturing faster, but still respect our unique engineering and manufacturing concept .” said Yorke-Biggs.