Pentagon Motor Holding s Ltd12/10/2015
Pentagon's mission when it began selling vehicles in 1991 was to make car and van buying and servicing easy and affordable, and the mission is still unchanged. Over the past 21 years of considerable growth, Pentagon now has become one of the UK's top 30 dealer groups.
Pentagon's mission when it began selling vehicles in 1991 was to make car and van buying and servicing easy and affordable. Achieving the 'easy' part hasn't been helped by an IT system that prevented sales and administration staff doing their jobs properly due to slow performance over the network. With customers being kept waiting and a potential loss of business as a result, something had to be done.
The company has grown considerably over the last 21 years and now operates from fifteen locations, with sales and servicing operations at most and a couple of accounts departments at different places. The increasing number of sites was becoming more of a problem because they all process through servers at Derby, where the central database and the main applications are held. Applications include email, human resources software, file sharing, all printing through a single print server plus the business critical dealer management system that handles the bulk of the processing.
Seeking Practical Solutions
Activities are typical of any motor dealership, with vehicles being sold and part exchanged, and service and maintenance being booked in, processed and invoiced. This, as Pentagon's IT manager confirms, can lead to peaks of activity:
“The peaks come between 8 and 10 in a morning when people are dropping their cars off, which puts a heavy load on the system. But then it calms down and picks up again from 3:30 in the afternoon until 6 o’clock when people are picking up their cars and all the invoices are being printed. Then you’ve got the accounts team, who are constantly using the system heavily, processing all the different orders on a daily basis. When it gets to the end of the month, they're processing the ledgers and producing monthly reports, so you definitely see a peak in the last three days of every month.”
The various locations provide different loadings, some with only 5-6 staff and others having more than 80, with varying levels of activity depending on the roles of the people based there. Performance problems were becoming an increasing concern and two sites in particular — Scunthorpe and West Hallam — were struggling badly to achieve an acceptable level of throughput. The former was a relatively new site and it was soon realised that performance there was likely to have grave repercussions for the company.
“It was serious for the business because it’s not the impression you want to give to a customer. The danger is that people will be so unhappy, they'll take their business elsewhere. I think there was definitely a feeling that we wouldn't be able to sustain the business at these branches and it might not be viable to keep them open if the connection speed wasn’t improved in some way.” Pentagon's IT manager recalled;
The first thought for this sort of situation is generally to increase bandwidth through installing new leased lines. However, this was going to be prohibitively expensive and, in the case of Scunthorpe, wasn’t going to be possible at all due the location of the branch. A solution eventually came in the form of a cold call from Sangfor, when the ensuing conversation revealed that this might just be what Pentagon needed.
“There are other devices that will do very similar to what the Sangfor unit does, but a lot more money, very expensive units and hard to justify in front of the board.” recounts the IT manager.
“We spoke to another company and they came and showed us a very similar unit. That made us realise that Sangfor offered value for money. It wasn’t a massively expensive box to take a punt on and luckily it worked out and did the job.”
A two-week trial was run initially, with an S5000 installed at each of the problematic sites and an M5500 at the Derby data centre. The improvements were immediate and were obvious because, as the IT manager recalls:
“End users were smiling. The printing speeded up, general access to the DMS system is just as quick as it is on the other sites and so it is just another site for Pentagon, it’s not out there on a limb as it used to be.The staff on site are no longer at a disadvantage to do their job and IT is not on their agenda at management meetings, which is what we aim for. It’s a constant issue if the salesman is struggling to get online quotes for finance documents or if service invoices can’t be printed. All these issues are fed back to IT and so our aim is to make sure that IT is not mentioned in any management meeting.”
The overall effect, he believes, is at least a 50% improvement in productivity on the system. And helped by Pentagon having its own IT department, it all went in without problems: “Sangfor just supplied the unit pre-configured to our specifications and we dropped it in the site. Tweaks have been made over the following weeks after it went live but it hasn’t been a difficult implementation. The Sangfor box is quite a straightforward unit to understand. I know it can do a lot more than we’re using it for at the moment but we have started growing and learning with it as more bits and upgrades come from Sangfor.”
With the initial equipment having been in for around six months, we are now rolling the service out across other locations.
“Everybody’s happy,” remarks the IT manager.
“The Financial Director is happy with the cost of the units and IT definitely see a way forward for any other sites and foresee no issues with any new sites that are taken on. The end users themselves can just get on with their work.”
A Sangfor M5500 WAN optimiser is installed at the Derby data centre with S5000 devices at Scunthorpe and West Hallam and most other branches except 3 of the larger ones that will have M5000’s.
- Cost-effective alternative
- Highly resilient and flexible
- Full unified bandwidth management
- Data caching and compression
- Simple drop-in deployment
- Opportunity to trial