Company Car Today

Paul Barker grabs a cuppa and a chat with one of fleet’s most influential figures – Calum Slowther, Commercial Director, Engineius.

A new name is attempting to shake-up the world of vehicle movements with what it describes as a “tech-enabled solution”. Commercial boss Calum Slowther talks us through Engineius’s plans.

Why should fleets be interested in Engineius?

We’re actively involved in the three key parts of vehicle movement: new vehicle deliveries, then the mid-life movements such as moving vehicles from one branch to another, and then the end-of-life stuff, which includes collections and taking it on to auction.

There are very few vehicle movement solutions that are available to fleets that operate across the whole UK; there’s only really a couple of options. So one of the key things with Engineius when we decided to in-house the supply chain, of drivers in particular, was to make sure that we had full coverage everywhere

What were the driving forces behind your launch into the vehicle-movement sector?

One of the key missing things in vehicle movement was transparency, and that’s really important for corporate fleets; not only from the perspective of internal efficiency so that they can avoid the phone calls, emails, things that are used to organise vehicle moving outside of a single online portal, but also from a service level perspective.

Before the movement the user will get a text, which offers them the ability to pick a convenient slot to take delivery of their vehicle. During the movement, they get the live tracking text to track the vehicle prior to arrival, and then afterwards they get a feedback text to ask them how their experience was. That’s a much better experience for everyone, not only the end user but also the corporate fleet operator; they can use that data and that visibility to better manage what they do.

In your opinion, nobody was doing it before. Why?

Our take on the market was that vehicle movements are mainly done by a fragmented base of small providers who are good in some senses – when it works. So if you’ve got a guy around the corner from the dealer delivering your new lease vehicle, and they’re really reliable, know all the processes inside out, that’s great. But what happens when you need to deliver three vehicles. Where’s the scalability, where’s the technology, where’s the data?

We feel like that was where most of the market was, and there’s this cycle of operating at a smaller scale, so not having the money to invest in creating a platform. And you need the tech platform in order to scale up, so that you can service lots of companies at once, and you don’t have hundreds of drivers on the road and not know where they all are, so you can get visibility on movements; there are so many reasons why you would want that technology platform. We are trying to use technology to provide a better service.

And the process is all in-house, rather than any sub-contracting of drivers or being a platform external companies can bid for work on?

It’s a service, not a platform; you definitely don’t want to be seen as you’re punting an order out, and hopefully it comes back. People sometimes ask, when we describe that we are a service rather than a platform, whether we give a guaranteed service, and we very much do.

So you’re not putting a tender out and punting work to 200 sub-contractors?

Yeah exactly, because what happens is of those 200, four of them come back and quote so you think that’s good, I’ll pick that person. Then by the time you pick that person they’ve gone and done something else. This is why Engineius thinks those platforms don’t work.

What are the company’s goals for growth moving forward?
More of the same, in that we just need to expand into the market and look for new customers. Within that, we need to make what we do more robust. And once we’ve nailed the vehicle movement model, then there’s value-added stuff that we can do. For example, inspect-and-collect at the end of life – we would like to be able to do BVRLA inspections.

How big an opportunity is out there, and why was no-one willing to take the plunge and make the investment?

There are at least 10 million movements a year in the UK outsourced to third parties.

As for why no one’s gone for it before, there are two camps within the market.

There’s a small fragmentation of guys who don’t have the means to invest in the platform and go into the tech-led play that we’re going for. And then the other end of the market is you’ve got the auction giants and the logistics giants, and they are really only doing vehicle movement to feed a core business. The auction houses are not interested in doing vehicle movement, they are interested in doing vehicle movement as a means to drive volume into their core business.
Have customer expectations around vehicle deliveries changed in the wake of more experience of online retailing?

We’re in an age where people get everything delivered online, and they’ll get a text before it arrives. The delivery experience to the end user is becoming more and more important. Two guys in high-vis vests just carrying a clipboard and without any sort of app and without taking any photos of the vehicle might not cut it. Or where you don’t get a text on the day saying when you’re going to turn up and the person waits around until five o’clock; that doesn’t cut it.

What market trends are impacting how you shape the business?

Companies are having to make fewer vehicles work harder. So, utilisation has got to go up, and downtime is going to go down, so vehicle movement is quite an important way that they can increase efficiency and reduce downtime; moving the fleet around better to make sure the vehicles are wherever they’re needed.

And fleets are trying to be greener as well, trying to shrink the overall fleet that they’re running and run things more efficiently. And things like ULEZ zones and compliance zones; a lot of fleets are having to shift around vehicles to be compliant.
You say you’re focusing on service as the company’s selling point, rather than price?

Absolutely, it’s very much service-led, rather than price. The key things are service and experience, these are the things I think that was missing from the sector before – just one single place where you can potentially do things in vehicle moving.

The idea of Engineius is that it allows the senior stakeholders within the leasing companies, for example, to sit there and ensure that they’ve got control over what in the past has just been the sort of an analogue industry that you can’t measure. And if you can’t measure it then you can’t manage it.
Presumably there are pricing benefits as well, because as much as people want the service and want that visibility, they won’t want to pay more for it?

We definitely don’t claim to be the cheapest in the market but equally we see ourselves as pretty competitive within the price range that there is. We feel like we’re cheaper than a lot of particularly retail-facing delivery specialists, and we think there’s an awful lot of benefit to using us versus running an internal vehicle moving operation; that’s certainly true.

What our customers essentially want is all of the control that they get from doing vehicle movement in-house, but they want the advantages of it being outsourced. They want to be able to pull it on demand, pay for what they use and nothing else. But at the same time, they want the same feeling of control they’ve got if they employ their own drivers.

If they have control and flexibility, the price just falls.

One of the projects we’ve undertaken with a client is about reducing the number of vehicles that they transport versus those that are driven. And we reduced it from 60%-plus transported to about a third. That in itself is saving huge amounts of money. So, even on a like-for-like basis, if we were more expensive than the other treatment options they had, by taking a data-based approach and giving them transparency and visibility over the whole process, we’ve saved them a lot more money than they would otherwise have been able to.

Slowther on...

Entering the vehicle logistics sector

“The real opportunity for Engineius is really nailing doing vehicle movement well, because there is such a huge demand from the whole market for doing that. It’s a simple business in theory, but in practice it’s something everyone struggles with.”

Calum Slowther, Commercial Director, Engineius - Image 2

WHO IS ENGINEIUS?

The company was born out of “several decades” of management experience within the fleet and vehicle management sector.

Engineius commercial director Calum Slowther tells Company Car Today that the executives saw “no obvious solution” to the issues around vehicle movement.

“As a fleet manager or dealership or a rental company, everyone had their own way of doing things,” he says. “But none of them seemed particularly good.”

That combined with the issue of there being no easy way for companies with capacity to access vehicle movement work, so the original plan was for Engineius to become a platform to put the different parties in touch. But that quickly evolved.

“People didn’t just want to be put in touch with people that can provide the service they were looking for,” continues Slowther. “They just wanted an easy solution to vehicle movement. They weren’t interested in finding a recovery agent with a backlog to get it 50% cheaper, they wanted a vehicle movement to be easy.”

According to Slowther, volumes of vehicles have increased by 2.5 times per year since the firm’s April 2018 launch, and now sit at more than 5000 movements per month.

Top picks

Slowther selects his stand-out cars

Past:

G WIZ
Purely for being ahead of its time and the groundbreaker that laid the foundations for other EVs to follow. It was apparently hated by Top Gear, which makes me like it even more.
Coffee with - Calum Slowther - Commercial Director - Engineius - Top Picks - Present - Renault Twizy

Present:

Renault Twizy
For most short hops around London and other cities… why not?!
Coffee with - Calum Slowther - Commercial Director - Engineius - Top Picks - Present - Renault Twizy

Future:

EV version of the Suzuki Jimny
I would have said the petrol version that was on sale until last year if the emissions were not so terrible. They are now in limited supply in the EU because Suzuki would have faced significant fines! I’d love them to do an electric one!
Coffee with - Calum Slowther - Commercial Director - Engineius - Top Picks - Present - Renault Twizy