Founded in 2001, The Fleet Auction Group is an award-winning company that has a reputation for being one of the most progressive and innovative motor vehicle auction groups in the UK. The company – which has its head office in Coalville, Leicestershire, with a second site in Doncaster, Yorkshire – is focused on setting the benchmark standard within the fleet auction industry and leading by example. To do this, however, it needs to be able to clearly demonstrate its firm commitment to quality and corporate environmental responsibility.
In today's highly-competitive market such credentials are essential to remaining competitive. A reputation for the highest standard of performance can keep a company ahead of its competitors during the tendering process and also help with the retention of clients while, from an operational perspective, having internationally-recognised quality and environmental standards in place can bring far greater operational efficiency and associated cost savings, which can then be passed on to clients to further increase competitiveness and brand satisfaction.
Steve Clarke, Key Account Manager & Auctioneer at The Fleet Auction Group, says that the decision to become ISO certified has helped open up new markets for the business.
He said: “Deciding to go for certification was driven by both commercial and reputational reasons. Within the auction industry there weren’t any companies in the UK that had ISO certification so we have been able to use certification as a unique selling point (USP) compared to our competitors.
“It is becoming more and more apparent, and not only within our sector, that companies need certification to ISO standards to move their businesses forward.
“When dealing with larger businesses, you need to be certified to be part of the tendering process. This is especially the case when dealing with manufacturer-type businesses such as BMW and Volkswagen.
“Environmental and quality management is very much at the forefront of their business models and they are themselves ISO certified, which means that you need to be seen as an ISO-certified business to be considered as a partner.”
The Fleet Auction Group worked with world-leading multi-sector certification body Exova
BM TRADA to achieve ISO 9001 Quality Management
and ISO 14001 Environmental Management
systems certification. By certifying to these internationally-recognised standards, the company can ensure that the company and staff meets the requirements of the business’s own exacting quality and environmental responsibility policy, comply with legal frameworks and demonstrate to clients that it is a company committed to maintaining and improving its quality and environmental management system and performance.
The journey to certification
The Fleet Auction Group commenced the certification process in 2008, choosing to be certified for ISO 9001 and 14001 at the same time.
The auditing process is split into two stages, with the stage one audit comprising a review of the management system documentation, evaluation of the location and site-specific conditions, review of the status and understanding of the requirements of the standard, and evaluation of whether internal audits and management reviews are planned and performed.
The stage two audit is undertaken to confirm that the management systems fully conforms to the requirements of the standard. It includes an evaluation of the level of implementation and effectiveness of the management system according to the requirements of the standard, a sample audit of the processes and activities defined in the scope, and a written report on the audit findings and any non-conformances that need to be addressed.
Clarke, who oversaw certification, says that it was a learning curve for the company, but one that took no more than six months in total to successfully complete.
He said: “During the initial certification process there were challenges to overcome. Our industry is not known for having a specific process-driven trail and every business runs a different process format.
“When we started there wasn’t anything documented and though a local consultancy previously assisted us in putting a skeleton framework in place it wasn’t relevant to our business to begin with.
“Once we engaged with Exova
BM TRADA we found that the audit process helped us to continually improve our processes and build a model that fitted our business. The Exova
BM TRADA auditor went through every department and looked at certain processes to ensure they were compliant with the standards.
“All our staff from top to bottom were aware of our ISO certification and were actively involved in the auditing process.”
The Fleet Auction Group passed both audits within six months and received certification in 2008 through Exova
BM TRADA. Certification is valid for three years and is maintained through a programme of annual surveillance audits and a recertification audit in the third year before the certification expires.
Why Exova BM TRADA?
Clarke says that Exova
BM TRADA came highly recommended as a market leader in the field of ISO certification, and that the body’s global presence made it even more attractive as a certification partner.
He said: “It was Exova
BM TRADA’s global presence and reputation that ultimately led us to appointing them.
“In 2008 The Fleet Auction Group entered a partnership with a Kuwaiti business, Ijara House Holdings, and as a truly global business, Exova
BM TRADA fitted well with our commercial aspirations going forward.
“Having them as our certification partner means our parent company can use what we have in place here in the UK as a model to build a market-leading auction business in the United Arab Emirates.”
Clarke adds that Exova
BM TRADA’s level of service and expertise was excellent throughout, and beyond, the certification process.
He said: “They have been absolutely fantastic. Their auditors are very knowledgeable and understand our business from top to bottom.
“The auditor comes back every 12 months and it’s like they only walked out the door last week. They know all the people here, know the business inside-out and know everything that’s going on both now and in the future. I don’t know how they do it!
“Having the support of the auditor helps us maintain our certification, achieve our current targets and also set new ones.”
The benefits of certification
Certification to the ISO 9001 and 14001 standards has brought significant benefits to The Fleet Auction Group, including greater customer satisfaction, the introduction of a consistent and well-understood procedural framework, improved operational efficiency and reduce costs, and increased competitiveness with access to new markets.
Clarke said: “Once we had put the initial processes into place there were massive savings. For example, certification made us look at what we were marketing to customers.
“At the time we were sending out nearly 5,000 catalogues per week, at 30 or 40 pages a time. We looked at cutting down our physical mailing presence out to customers and in the space of just over a year we saved £45,000 in associated costs in sending physical catalogues to customers.
“Our levels of service and the standards of staff have been strengthened and made more consistent. To use the same example, we are now using eMarketing tools and have processes in place so activity happens every day at the same time.
“And thanks to ISO 14001 certification we have reduced our waste costs. Before, we were putting all the items found in the trucks and heavy commercial vehicles that came to us into skips, but we didn’t realise this was all going to landfill. Now we break down the waste into cardboard, metal and so forth.
“It has also made us look at our utilities very closely. We operate on a 14-acre site which is all being lit and the energy output was huge but we have since replaced all light bulbs with LEDs. This necessitated a massive investment at the front-end, but the savings over the longer period outweighs this investment.
“Both standards have brought our company the competitive edge by enabling us to improve operational efficiencies as well as allowing us to tender to companies that require ISO certification. This has led to us winning numerous accounts over the last five years.”
Advice for certification
Clarke has no hesitation in recommending ISO 9001 and 14001 certification to other companies, both within and outside the automotive auction sector.
He said: “At the start there was a huge amount of work but for the last four or five years we’ve only had to make tweaks to our processes for the annual reviews.
“It is no longer a massive undertaking to keep on top of it, and our customers have the reassurance of seeing that we have these processes in place.”