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Case study: National auto parts retailer improves information flow

Earning customer loyalty by making information available and accessible.

About the National Auto Parts Retailer

As a national auto parts retailer, this organization operates many distribution centers, service centers and retail stores.


A successful auto parts retailer continued to add stores, which meant more parts to manage, more customers to service and more paperwork to complete. Distribution centers managed certain functions for the stores, including sales, returns, debit memos, credits and returned goods. To initiate work orders, employees were filling out paper forms, scanning the documents and sending them to the distribution centers via email.

As the business grew, email volume ballooned to more than 2.1 million per month, causing transaction delays because critical information was stuck in email queues. Other challenges affected both customer service and business operations:

  • Employees spent up to 80% of their time searching for information.

  • IT spent too much time managing bandwidth issues.

  • Manually entered information led to problems with accuracy, missing data and redundant work orders.

  • Lack of a standard audit trail made it difficult to track work orders.

  • Inventory was difficult to monitor.


Based on a 15-year relationship with us, the retailer was open to our ideas for digital document management and business process automation.

The first step was to get a grip on what was happening, so we observed and assessed workflow processes for two weeks. Then we implemented our recommendations:

  • An electronic process to gather information, such as orders and returns generated at the stores, and centralize it at service centers.

  • Integration of new digital workflow processes into existing front and back office systems, including enterprise content management.

  • A cloud-based dashboard that allows everyone to track orders and view the same, up-to-date information.


The new digital information workflows integrate flawlessly into front and back office line-of-business applications, with no need to rip and replace infrastructure. Workers are far more efficient — an early estimate is 20% more productive — because they can:

  • Interact with inventory or billing specialists because everyone can pull up relevant information with a click or two.

  • Find the information they need without searching through stacks of paper and scores of emails.

  • Speed up decisions related to customer requests and disputes.

  • Count on receiving complete, accurate forms from coworkers.

In addition, the IT staff isn't spending time on inboxes and network servers that used to be clogged with emails. And customers are happy because they can get instant feedback on orders and returns.

Based on reducing redundancies and guesswork, the retailer expects to reduce operating costs by $15 million over a three-year period.

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