Accelerator™ makes its first entry into Africa.
The development team at AppSoft™ often discuss their exploits when returning from international and far away installations. After all they have had some great times in Ireland, and nearer to home in Scotland, South Wales and not to mention the darkest depths of Cornwall. Our leading developer David talks fondly of his first international tour of duty to deliver on site Accelerator™ training on the Isle of Man. So you can imagine their interest when we received an enquiry from Nigeria a little over one year ago. That is until they went onto the Foreign and Commonwealth web site and saw the dire warnings about travelling to Nigeria.
So it was down to me Graham Helliwell as their Technical and Commercial Director to draw the short straw, let's face it they said you have travelled all over the World, you are the best man for this job.
The original Internet enquiry for more information on our Accelerator™ Vehicle Maintenance system came from a gentleman called Mike Prime who is the General Manager of a company called BHL Investment & Technology Ltd. As soon as we saw it was from Nigeria we suspected a scam.
However Mike re-contacted us to arrange an online demonstration and although this was done over a very slow and flaky Internet connection, Mike was enthusiastic about the capabilities of Accelerator™ and saw a perfect match to the requirements of their company, to use it in their Commercial Vehicle Workshop and Technical Training Centre in Lagos.
Mike explained that they were currently just using a paper based system and needed to get into the 21st Century. More details emerged over the next few weeks about their role in maintaining a fleet of over 300 buses for the company that operates the Lagos Metropolitan Priority Bus Service as part of the Lagos Bus Rapid Transit system, as well as their intention to set up a bus manufacturing facility to assemble Brazilian Marcopolo Viale Eagle city buses.
As part of our due diligence we found out that Mike lived occasionally in England with his address being a Thai restaurant in London, but we could not however track down any company called BHL in Nigeria.
So when Mike confirmed our proposal and pricing for a new system and asked for our Bank details to make payment, we were naturally suspicious and went to our bank to make sure that they could not draw out any money from our account with this information. Following reassurances, we released details to Mike and were re-contacted by his Managing Director who advised us to add the costs of travelling to Nigeria to deliver one weeks training, and he would arrange payment in full. We were doubly suspicious by this time and taking bets if this was genuine.
Nonetheless a few weeks later a payment was made directly into our bank account and much to our surprise it was for real. We had sold our first system to Africa.
When we tried to make arrangements to install the system we were told that they did not yet have a server and they needed our support. Weeks passed by as we worked with their IT providers to specify new server and PC hardware and software. During this time we received visits from Mike and his IT team at our headquarters in Rawtenstall, Lancashire and gave them training to set up their network and infrastructure ready for the Accelerator™ install.
Once Accelerator™ was installed at their end, it was time for me to prepare for my visit. We were assured by Mike that Lagos would be very safe for me to travel to, and that they would make all my accommodation and travel arrangements for the week I would be there. I could even have use of their bullet proof bus during my stay.
Suitably dosed up with injections for every conceivable disease and pestilence I prepared for my trip.
Obviously a little nervous in the days before my trip, I received advice from all sorts of people about this dangerous mission. We even contemplated setting up a kidnap fund for our staff and customers to contribute to. Mike again reassured me that all would be fine. He had arranged for a meet and greet team to be at the airport at 6:00 in the morning with my bus.
I was fully reassured up to the point at which he sent me a six page briefing document containing full and precise instructions for how to transit Lagos airport without being scammed, maimed, mugged, assaulted or kidnapped.
As one of only four white people, other than the Virgin flight crew, travelling to Lagos that day, I was an obvious target and it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I got off the flight and set about passing through immigration, eventually after many checks, questions and stamps in my passport, I emerged to look for my welcoming team. As promised they were there and quickly whisked me away to my luxury hotel. And luxury it was, the Wheatbaker hotel was brand new and a genuine five star rating in every respect. It was after all going to be a very pleasant prison during my stay.
In the two weeks leading up to this visit I had been working remotely to assist their accounts project manager Sue Bunch and IT team to set up and correctly configure Accelerator™, setting up new job codes, Importing vehicle details, linking to their Sage accounts software and formatting their customised inspection and job sheet documentation ready for the training.
The first day on site was a great opportunity to get to know more about their company. Brian Watson their Workshop Manager gave me a full guided tour of their compound and facilities, and very impressive they were. Modern fully networked offices, Double power generators, a medical centre, training rooms and staff canteen.
The 10 bay workshop with two full length inspection pits, lifting equipment and ramps, bodywork shop, engine refurbishment facility, electrical and electronic workshops and secure parts stores. It was all clean and tidy and had every facility that you would require.
Outside we were shown their two MACK customised recovery vehicles that were in use every day rescuing buses from the turmoil of the Lagos traffic system as well as off site maintenance and servicing vans ready for the road.
Brian explained that in Nigeria they just run their buses until they stop or until something drops off. So they have to be ready to receive or retrieve a vehicle in any condition, it could be just a simple electrical fault, to a blown up engine, smashed gearbox, collapsed suspension, Accident write off or fire damage caused by a riot. So in terms of their repair capability they have to be able to cover all bases from changing a bulb to a full bumper to bumper refurbishment or rebuild.
Day one of the training continued with Sue Bunch their project manager in charge of discussions on new procedures and responsibilities as well as a run through of the system to acquaint the Workshop Operations Manager and his assistant, who were to be trained as Super users, with the system and how it would be used.
Days two and three were spent running jobs through the system and learning about job types, costing, timesheets, ordering and issuing stock.
Day four was time to reinforce the complete cycle of initiating and completing jobs ready for invoicing and posting sales and supplier invoices to Sage. Other members of the workshop team were introduced to the system as jobs were being processed to learn about how to carry out their own duties and tasks on the system.
The final day of training was the time for a full run through with everyone practicing their own roles and specific tasks, such as Booking in new jobs, Issuing and completing inspection sheets, assigning work tasks and technicians, purchasing parts and entering time sheets.
More advanced features and modules, such as the Recovery Desk were also covered with the recovery dispatcher.
By the end of the last Friday afternoon we had processed and completed over 50 jobs and gone through all of the new procedures. Everyone was confident that the system was easy to use and would be of great benefit to their daily duties.
Over the following weekend the system was cleaned out of all test and training data and the live parts stock loaded in preparation for a go live on Monday morning.
But it was not all work and no play. During the week my hosts took time and a good deal of trouble to entertain me on three occasions with visits to the Lagos Motor Boat club for lunch and two other evening meals at different venues. It was fascinating to hear how BHL had developed from a start up and of their plans for the future.
So after returning from a successful mission, what did I think of Nigeria and in particular Lagos? Well having travelled to many other countries and seen how the population acts and presents themselves on the street, I can honestly say that at no time did I feel at risk. I have been left with the overall impression that everyone was busy trying to make a living, be it selling goods on the market or street corner, running local taxi services on a motorbike, or setting up a tyre repair business with just a compressor at the side of the road.
The trainees at BHL were all computer literate and obviously well educated. To a man and woman they were very positive about the changes being introduced and had a can do enterprising spirit.
Nigeria No Wahalla – Nigeria no problem.
AppSoft™ is a subsidiary entity of Technopoly Ltd has been trading in the UK for over 17 years and employs 14 people in its software development and support teams. It is a privately owned company with Kathleen Helliwell, the Managing Director, and Graham Helliwell, the Technical and Commercial Manager, in charge of all operations and software development.
Accelerator™ Vehicle Maintenance Software is one of a portfolio of products that AppSoft™ supplies through out the UK and overseas. The company is solely responsible for the development, installation, training and support of its Accelerator™ product as described in the above article.
AppSoft™ can be contacted on 01706 830930
More details about Accelerator™ can be found here.
BHL Investment & Technology Ltd is managed by Mike Prime, the General Manager, and Brian Watson, the Workshop Manager.
BHL have been operational in Lagos for two years and is a leading provider of heavy vehicle services to Lagos State and to other operators in the area.
Their Lagos Workshop and Training Centre is located at:
BHL Investment & Technology Ltd
Between Blind Centre Way (FIIRO Road)& Fatai Atere Way,
Agege Motor Road,
BHL can be contacted in Lagos on +234 (0) 16284279