Northern lights: R2c Online, Commercial Motor’s Workshop Innovation of the Year winner, 2017

George Barrow
April 23, 2018

Anyone who has driven over the viaduct on the M1, where the much-missed cooling towers used to welcome visitors to Sheffield, might not be aware that they’ve passed very close to the home of one of the largest workshop and fleet management software businesses in the UK.

R2c Online counts some 900 commercial vehicle workshops as users of its software, but that’s not the primary reason why it won Workshop Innovation of the Year at the Commercial Motor Awards in November 2017. The independent panel of judges was blown away by some of the customer testimonials that r2c was able to supply.

“We’ve saved more than 73 hours a month in productivity gains,” one says of the paperless method of managing workshop administration. “Our engineers are saving at least 40 minutes a day, thanks to a reduction in manual processes. This is creating extra revenue and is improving customer service,” says another. Automated email “reminders have reduced the number of ‘no shows’ and helped protect and maximise the workshops’ revenue streams”… you get the picture. The company was founded in 2003 by current MD Nick Walls (who previously worked for GE Capital and its TIP Europe division).

Standardised workflow

“We wanted to digitise the process of collecting safety inspection data at source,” Walls says of the goals of the business from the outset. Early attempts at digitising roadworthiness paperwork were fairly simple - effectively scanning paperwork so it could be shared with all parties. R2c wanted to do something different. The problem with a paper form and the person filling it in with a pen is that everyone collects the necessary data in a different way. R2c wanted to standardise that workflow, through the capture of data at source and the responses collected.

“We designed some technology to do that, and in those days there were just a few of us. We won some big customers, Iveco and DAF, and we rolled that solution out across their networks,” says Walls, as if convincing 35% of the market for commercial vehicles of a new online way of doing business is fairly routine and pretty straightforward. And the software was held back by hardware in those days, because the iPad hadn’t been invented, which meant rather more rudimentary handheld devices for technicians to use in workshops.

“Rolling it out across those networks we also got quite a lot of traction with their customers - the fleets - because they obviously have a vested interest in the data,” Walls explains. “The dealers really liked it because it improved their productivity. It also gave them a boost in terms of customer service, because they could distribute that documentation instantaneously.

“So, we decided to build a platform for the industry. You can get all your compliance data from your whole support base, from the workshop or in-house maintenance or a franchised dealer. It doesn’t matter, you can roll out the same standard processes. We’ve expanded from there.” Today r2c has six main products including the workshop and fleet management system; a driver walk-around check application; a maintenance authorisation and e-invoicing system; a best practice compliance package for fleets; and its DVSA-compliant inspect digital job management system, designed specifically for workshops. Plus a range of new innovations launching at this year’s CV Show.

As Walls explains, the customer base is working with mainly, but not exclusively, heavies. “It is trucks, it is trailers, it is fridge units, it is tail-lifts, it is cranes. We even have a boat on there! Any asset that needs maintenance planning and documentation we can put on the platform. We do have a number of very large van fleets which, while they don’t have an O-licence because they are under 3.5 tonnes, operate to the same standards.”

Walls also has a gift for understatement when it comes to the customer base: “ is one of the van fleets, which is a very big one. And their repair network use it. Our customer base is quite mixed. We have fleets, fleet management companies like ARI, ProHire, Ryder, Fraikin, Leeds Commercials. Thousands of small fleets all the way up to Wincanton. There are 20,000 fleet accounts.” One of the reasons for its success is its approach to adoption, which means r2c looking after the customer and monitoring behaviour to ensure it gets the benefits.

“Yes, we put a lot of effort into the product, but we also put a lot of effort into the service behind it,” says Walls. “You don’t get to roll out to 900 workshops without a good process behind the product.” Products in the r2c range are available on a monthly subscription basis. There is no capital outlay, so you pay either per user if you are a workshop, or per asset if you run a fleet. R2c also rolls out free updates to the platform every month, which are predominantly new features.

“New features are selected on a demand basis. So the more market demand, the more of a priority it is to go into the next update. If the majority of users derive a benefit from it, r2c will roll it back out to users.” Walls was always confident the industry was ready for such technology: “I never wondered if it was going to work, because I came from the industry. I knew it needed it - it was just a case of how long it would take to get there.

“It has definitely not been linear growth. We got good early traction but then it took a while for the industry to get hold of it. The workshops adopted it first, and the fleets came later. It is more than just a method of exchanging documentation, it is a change in the communication platform. Once you have those tools it is live management for the job. Once fleets understood that it was quite a large growth curve,” he says.

Earned recognition

DVSA initiatives such as remote enforcement and earned recognition helped r2c hit the 50,000 user milestone in February. Among its customer base are multiple earned recognition operators, including commercial waste collection firm Cawleys and construction materials specialist Cemex, both of which pointed to the r2c online platform as a reason for their participation in the pilot.

Phil Gudgeon, director of waste collection and logistics at Cawleys, says: “Using the r2c platform enables us to manage our time better, with proactive maintenance and cost control. We have also been accepted on to the earned recognition pilot, proving we are ultra-compliant and allowing us to keep our customers ahead of the curve, so we’re really happy with our results.” The names of the first operators to take part in the DVSA’s earned recognition pilot were revealed last month.

All participants will regularly share performance information with the DVSA via an approved IT system such as r2c as part of the scheme. In return, vehicles are less likely to be stopped for inspections. Meanwhile, Paul Clarke, logistics fleet engineering manager at Cemex UK, says: “We now have a real-time, effective system for all aspects of managing our fleet. Since joining r2c, our compliance has improved by 75% and there’s a lot less strain on admin resources.”

A “noticeable shift towards digital compliance” helped r2c hit the 50,000-user mark, says MD Nick Walls. “Thanks to DVSA initiatives such as remote enforcement and earned recognition, we have seen an even faster acceleration of our user-base numbers, which is very encouraging.”

About the Author


George Barrow

George has been writing about nearly anything with wheels for the past 15 years and is the UK jury member of the International Van of the Year and International Pick-Up Award.

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