First published in Vehicle Salvage Professional magazine, June 2010.
All under one roof
Vehicle Salvage Professional editor Steve Rooney takes a look at the impressive new premises of Oldham-based BVSF member Dronsfields.
The prophets of economic doom are ever present. No sooner had the immediate banking crisis subsided than they moved on to deficit frenzy. We seem to be so weighed down with pessimistic fortune tellers, it’s a wonder that anyone bothers to get out of bed in the mornings.
So it is very good to see one business which is definitely investing in the future. Dronsfields has operated in Oldham for more than 40 years and has recently moved into new premises as part of a major investment programme. The new site is around the same size as the previous one, 8.5acres, but it is on a level site and much better integrated with an impressive fully-racked warehouse for recycled parts.
Dronsfields is a Mercedes specialist and handles everything from cars to light vans and commercials. It has customers across the world thanks to a thriving export business and offers a one-stop-shop to UK customers with a full servicing and fitting workshop.
The company was started by Melvyn Dronsfield and continues as a family business overseen by his daughter and two sons, although Melvyn is still on site every day. The original business dealt in commercial parts, but early on Melvyn saw an opportunity to specialise in Mercedes and when his eldest son Steven joined the business in 1988, they expanded into car parts as well. Steven was later joined by his sister Angela and brother Ian, and the business today is the largest independent UK specialist for recycled Mercedes parts.
The export side of the business is overseen by Steven, while Ian looks after parts sales and Angela handles the general management and marketing.
The project to relocate to the new premises took around 18 months. This included a partial redevelopment of the main office block which now houses a sparkling reception and a new container bay was installed to provide level access for easy loading. The former site has been retained for the moment as stock is run down, but will eventually be sold for development.
Export is a very important part of Dronsfields’ business and can mean as much as 50 per cent of turnover at its peak. Three to four containers a week are loaded with parts and vehicles for shipment to customers in Europe, Asia, Middle East and Far East. “The bulk of the export business is for car parts and commercial,” says Angela Dronsfield, “but we do have requests for complete vehicles.”
The company has a lot of experience with exporting, having been doing it for the past 17 years, and it has built a portfolio of regular customers. Most of the markets are left-hand drive but of course this is not too much of a problem when you are dealing mainly in recycled parts since most are common to right- and left-hand drive models.
The majority of parts for export are mechanical items rather than body panels, but Dronsfields’ experienced packing team are adept at skillfully loading the containers with whatever the customer needs and ensuring that the contents are not likely to get damaged in transit.
The worldwide economic downturn has had some impact on export volumes, explains Angela, but after a sharp fall 18 months ago, confidence and orders are now returning.
“We arrange all the packing and shipping for our overseas customers,” says Angela. “All they need to do is come and select the parts and arrange payment.”
And there is even accommodation on hand for overseas buyers with eight ensuite rooms incorporated into the redevelopment of the site. Bed, breakfast and parts sales – all under one roof. The facilities have already been christened by a group of Lithuanian buyers staying on site during a recent buying trip.
Dronsfields is entirely focused on dismantling for parts sales. It doesn’t deal in salvage and buys breakers from other BVSF members and auction sites. Once a vehicle arrives on site the process is very streamlined. All the required parts are identified and added to a computerised, stock control database supplied by DH Systems. A pick list is then produced for the dismantling workshop where trained eyes undertake quality control on the parts and any unsaleable items are disposed of immediately.
“Dismantling is carried out very quickly after a vehicle arrives,” says Angela. “There is no stockpile of cars awaiting processing. We like to make sure it is done within a couple of weeks.
“We just keep the best selling parts from each vehicle. We know the 10 or 20 parts that will sell well. If a good late model car arrives we might keep it for a while, but older stock is stripped and disposed of straight away.”
Dismantled parts are labelled with a barcode and stored in the warehouse racking system. All incoming items are scanned against the shelf location barcode. When an item is sold it is then deleted from the system to complete the process.
“The DH software allows us to assign costs such as transport and labour against the original purchase price of car,” adds Angela. “As parts are sold they are logged against the car and it shows us when we are in profit.”
Recycled parts accounts for around 85 per cent of turnover and there are between 60 and 100 parts sales a day. A standard three-month guarantee is offered on parts and a next day delivery service in the UK.
Increasingly, the internet is the shop window although Dronsfields does maintain a small amount of press advertising in motor magazines. “Nowadays we use the adverts to prompt people to visit the website for more details on a car,” says Angela. “Web-based marketing has become a key part of our operation.”
The telephone remains an important tool however and in the first week of operation at the new premises, Angela’s new IT system logged 8,500 incoming calls.
A new website is about to be launched with a fresh design and an extended online shopping facility complete with photographs of all parts for sale. The whole system runs off the same DH Systems’ database with full integration between the web-based shop and sales from the physical site.
Angela has also commissioned a special video which will be available to view on the website explaining the company’s operations from the arrival of a vehicle to dismantling, parts identification and storage and loading for export.
Parts customers range from traders to individual car owners and the development of a workshop with fully-trained Mercedes technicians and Star diagnostics systems means that Dronsfields can offer an unrivalled service to Mercedes owners for parts sales and regular service work. Dronsfields will also supply new parts if necessary.
“We have lots of customers all over the country including many in London and the south east,” says Angela. “We can collect the vehicle and bring it to Oldham to supply and fit the parts and it still proves very worthwhile for the customer since it is a fraction of what it will be at a main dealer.
“But price is not everything, customers want to buy from a company they have faith in. By supplying and fitting recycled parts, all of their warranty is with one company which gives them added peace of mind.”
The move to the new premises has resulted in additional jobs taking the total number of employees to around 50. As a niche player with a well organised system and extensive IT resources, the Dronsfield family business is clearly set to continue to expand in the future.
News Release November 2011
PUTTING EMPLOYERS IN THE DRIVING SEAT
With a collective mission to raise skill levels and create more opportunities for young people, key employers from within Greater Manchester’s automotive sector last night pledged their commitment to developing high quality, best value training opportunities by becoming members of the Automotive Group Training Association (GTA).
An initiative created by Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, the GTA works in partnership with businesses to help identify their training requirements, both to develop existing employees and to recruit and train new personnel.
Angela Dronsfield, managing director,Dronsfields Ltd, and member of the GTA, said: “Skills are in short supply and this is a serious problem for employers. It’s hampering business, holding back the economy and denying young people the chance to succeed at work.
“Times are tough for many businesses but by pooling our resources and sharing experiences, this collaborative action will not only create a network which will help grow our businesses, it will also help to combat rising youth unemployment.”
The GTA is hoping to create 150 Apprenticeship opportunities across Greater Manchester which will be funded by the National Apprenticeship Service.
Marc Roberts, business development manager at Automotive & Logistics Solutions, said: “We are delighted that we’ve been able to attract such a high calibre of membership to the GTA. This will ensure that we can continue to respond effectively to the changing needs of employers in the automotive sector and secure the skills required to remain competitive.
“GTA’s are controlled by employers, which mean that our members really are in the
driving seat to develop and access the training they need to meet their skills requirements.”
By signing the pledge to become a member of the automotive GTA, employers will receive regular updates on funding available and invitations to events and a GTA business advisor will conduct an Annual Skills Review, which will improve the way businesses operate.
John Myers, regional employer services director for the National Apprenticeship Service, said: “GTAs are the ideal way for employers to come together to ensure that Apprenticeship training meets their needs.”
Membership of the GTA is completely free and businesses of any size can apply. For further information please contact 0845 602 5481.