Goldwagen: journeying towards digital transformation

Goldwagen: journeying towards digital transformation

Goldwagen is a South African-based, globally-recognised automotive parts distributor and franchise group. Supported by a state-of-the-art distribution warehouse located in Centurion, Goldwagen operates across Southern Africa through over 100 franchised outlets, supplying cost-effective, high-quality automotive parts to the aftermarket spares industry.

Chief Information Officer (CIO) Shayne Turley has been with Goldwagen for more than half its history. During his 14 years with the company, he has witnessed its astonishing growth first-hand. “The IT department has completely transformed since the company was founded in 1992. From a very small team, there are now seven technicians manning the IT help desk and five developers designing and maintaining our internal systems,” says Turley. 

Scaling the IT department has been critical as Goldwagen has grown from originally supplying quality aftermarket parts for only Volkswagen and Audi to offering parts for 17 different vehicle brands.

“Another milestone is that most of the systems we currently have in place have been developed in-house, from the operating system all the way through to the point-of-sale (POS) system to stock management at stores.”

The deployment of these systems has been key in addressing several business-critical issues. “Previously, different stores were using different versions of the mandated software. By centralising our systems and processes, we can now see what version of the software our franchisees are working on and automatically update it where necessary. By controlling which version of the software is being used, we are also able to quickly and easily identify and resolve any problems. We are further able to send out a fix to all our franchisees if necessary,” Turley explains.

The ordering of parts by franchisees was one of the first components of the business to be digitised. “We’ve since substantially expanded the digital footprint across our franchise network, with stores now able to order and track orders online. We’re also moving away from paper-based invoicing, with store owners able to invoice online, as well as track and download them if necessary.”

The company has likewise started looking into suitable cloud-based solutions, albeit cautiously given costly and occasionally unstable internet access in South Africa. It is, however, already reaping the benefits of the software being trialed.

It is also in the early stages of a partnership to expand its data storage capabilities, since most franchisee data is currently being centralised, meaning that the amount of data being captured and handled has increased substantially. “We are working with suppliers to find a solution that can scale vertically as we grow. However, we will maintain responsibility for the data, which we know is secure because it's onsite.”

Goldwagen has reaped the rewards of this IT transformation at an operational level, but it is looking at further improving customer experience through e-commerce. “We started about two years ago with the goal of being one of the leading companies operating in this space to have an e-commerce platform in South Africa,” says Turley. 

The project gained more momentum given the recent entry of nontraditional competitors such as the likes of Amazon into the automotive parts market.

The changes he has overseen has led Turley to reflect on the function of a CIO. “I definitely see the role of the CIO, or at least my role, as evolving to be much more strategic. The CIO is responsible for understanding the organisational vision and objective goals, deciding how to help achieve these at an IT level, and then filtering this down to his or her teams and letting the teams deal with implementation, as opposed to trying to micromanage everything oneself. Of course, it does mean making business-critical decisions and meeting with potential suppliers and such.”

Turley believes the increased level of trust is gained through ongoing education and teams having the necessary expertise. “Standard business practice theory is becoming less relevant, and that’s where short courses are becoming more important, particularly online learning. We encourage our people to continually learn about new technology, stay abreast of the latest trends and understand what we can apply within Goldwagen.”

As for the future, the next major project is to upgrade Goldwagen’s warehouse systems. “Our goal is to implement a more suitable warehouse management system so that we become even more efficient, thus ensuring continued excellent customer service. Because of our phenomenal growth, at the moment we are under extreme pressure to get the products out the door fast enough. That’s a great place to be in, but it means our systems have to be world-class to ensure we maintain our competitive edge and that our brand is synonymous with affordability, quality and world-class service.”

Shayne Turley