In 2016 we have taken the opportunity to review our Key Performance Indicators to better align them to our Ignite strategy.
Activities in this strategic workstream focused on three key areas. First, in a major piece of customer research across multiple brands and countries, we aimed to understand better what people really want from us at every stage of the journey - from buying a New or Used Vehicle to an ongoing servicing relationship or simply living with their car. This enabled us to look at how, when and where customers interacted with us, and at what the opportunities to improve were across three key areas of the journey: the digital, showroom and ownership experiences. Its findings are already enabling teams across the world to make the customer experience more pleasurable, consistent and personalised.
We have launched two major pilot schemes, the first of which, in partnership with Google, tested new marketing and communications technologies and processes that will enable us to give customers the right information and support at the moment they need it. In the second pilot, we explored new ways of serving customers in our retail centres to ensure that our customer care practices are in line with their and our brand partners' expectations.
We have also begun to work much more closely with our OEM partners so that together we can identify specific opportunities to collaborate on further improving the customer journey.
During 2017, our focus is on rolling out successful solutions into our other markets, as well as trialling further new ways of addressing specific areas for improvement covering the decision, purchase and ownership phases of the customer journey.
We are also seeking to elevate the ways in which we measure customer satisfaction, making them properly fit for the digital age. We will then further evolve the ways in which we feed the resulting insights back into the business, so improving our processes, training activities and customer service standards, and making the Inchcape customer experience easy, effective and enjoyable.
We will build and strengthen our working relationships with our OEM partners by investing time in understanding their needs, seeking greater opportunities for collaboration and sharing our insight into customer and industry trends. We will collaborate on bringing new innovations to market and exceeding their expectations to deliver long-term mutual value creation both for Inchcape and our OEM partners.
Over 2016 we have taken some substantial early steps in delivering against this strategic objective. First, we've worked hard to establish closer relationships between our brand teams where we represent a manufacturer in more than one country. As a result, we're doing better at sharing best practice, bringing innovative new solutions to market more efficiently, and collaborating across borders to improve our service levels.
We've also trialled a set of strategic best-practice tools for account management, helping us to work more effectively with OEM partners in areas including relationship and brand strategy development as well as communication and collaboration. This includes understanding our OEM partners' own KPIs and addressing them directly with our operational teams to ensure that our own measures are consistent with theirs.
An early success of this workstream has been the establishment of Partner Development Teams, our own take on 'business to business' account management. In 2016, we created new teams to manage our OEM relationships with Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover.
Additionally, significant progress has been made in improving the relationships with OEM partners at a global level through Executive meetings to ensure that our high level objectives are aligned wherever possible.
These initiatives have proved successful, not only in strengthening existing relationships and emerging opportunities for collaboration, but also in our growing pipeline of potential business-development projects. Such successes clearly confirm the importance of investing in our partner relationships, supporting the development of our ambitious plans for further investment and engagement throughout 2017.
We're expanding brand-team collaboration across more OEM partners, and rolling out other successful trials into new markets. In addition, we will proactively continue to seek further opportunities for OEM collaboration to benefit them, ourselves and our shared customers.
We will increase our management focus on our Used Vehicles and Aftersales activities at all levels of the organisation, enhancing their perceived status within the business and further deepening reporting and analysis.
Projects relating to this workstream have included a thorough diagnosis of our Aftersales business, through which we've identified unexplored opportunities for better asset utilisation, customer retention and upselling. With three trials underway and four more in planning, we have already seen some significant positive impacts that are improving workshop capacity and efficiency. These include an increase of between 8-10% in the retail labour hours sold in one franchise in our UK Retail business - the result of a straightforward decision to centralise loading of the workshop diary.
We have also created a new blueprint for developing our Used Car operating model, which is being trialled in the UK and Australia during early 2017. If successful, this will be rolled out during the year to other retail markets, such as Russia and China. Other initiatives planned for 2017 include the trial of a wider set of solutions for global implementation and the roll-out of our new Aftersales diagnosis tool-kit, which will help us better identify the right sales 'levers' to pull from market to market.
The scope of this workstream is considerable and as a result of identifying the opportunity to create substantial additional value, we have subdivided it into three distinct initiatives: Used Cars, Finance & Insurance and Aftersales. Each of these has a dedicated stream lead and resource to further maximise the opportunities afforded us through our considerable expertise in these areas.
We will allocate more resources to innovation, sharing and benefiting even more effectively from the proven ideas generated throughout the global organisation.
In 2016 we have successfully delivered a number of initiatives under this workstream. These include the establishment of a global procurement function, which for the first time gives all our operations shared processes and a common vision of the supply chain. With some of the clearest early successes of the Ignite strategy so far, the new Procurement function delivered £4m savings in 2016, through market activities that have been rolled out over the past year.
We also launched an energy-saving programme that is already helping us to reduce our energy footprint and drive down costs. And we introduced centralised electronic lead-management for one of our OEM brands in the UK, which is already delivering the double benefits of cost savings alongside increased revenue. We are introducing this to other brands in the UK during 2017 as well as into other markets.
The Contact Centre implementation playbook is the first to have been fully prepared in the Ignite programme. The purpose of the project is to centralise non face-to-face contacts (email, phone and 'live-chat'), using specialist contact handlers, and consequently allowing our retail and service centres to focus on their own areas of expertise: dealing with our customers in person.
Further initiatives during the year include the launch of our new global intranet, which is now underway, with the aim of reaching each and every employee in the Company, and enabling much better knowledge sharing across the business. And we will focus rigorously on sales planning and stock management to enable better customer service and reduce the impact on the business of aged stock.
This has been a year of significant progress in our growth. Not only did we successfully obtain the Jaguar Land Rover contract in Thailand - the world's 20th largest automotive market, we also significantly expanded our operations in the fast-growing markets of South America with the acquisition of a major Subaru and Hino Distribution network in Chile, Peru, Colombia and Argentina.
This was the biggest Distribution acquisition for Inchcape in over 20 years, increasing our global footprint from 27 to 29 country markets, on-boarding 1,400 new employees and adding over 60 retail centres to our South American business.
Our OEM relationships were a key enabler for this transaction and we are becoming even more focused on the quality of our partnerships to ensure we can provide organic leadership/support and access other M&A opportunities.
We are now focusing on the integration of the new business to accelerate the Company's growth in the region. Alongside these landmark developments, we continued to make significant capex investments in our existing facilities to better meet the needs of our OEM partners and customers. And we successfully improved our project pipeline of potential new business development opportunities.