Orion Park - Classic and modern Bentley parts logistics
Bentley Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. A customer with a 1965 S3 has contacted the dealer. The car has a smashed rear window. A cyclist wasn't paying attention and didn't see the car brake suddenly when a pedestrian appeared to step into the road without warning.
No lasting harm done to the cyclist, who was wearing a helmet, and evidence of the incident on the Bentley's bodywork is minimal: minor scratches on the boot lid with no metal damage, but that smashed rear window. Just three days later the Bentley driver is contacted with news that the car is ready to collect after a genuine rear screen was fitted. How? A state-of-the-art parts warehouse and dispatch process in Crewe exists purely to solve such problems.
A typical out-of-town industrial estate at Orion Park, in Crewe, houses a 150,000 sq ft warehouse that contains around six million spare components for Rolls-Royce and Bentley models produced in Crewe since 1955. Meticulously labelled, and much of it stacked in crates on shelves up to 10m high, the treasure trove of collective Rolls-Royce and Bentley heritage is presided over by Steve Rhodes, Bentley Motors logistics operations manager - aftersales.
The most recent boxes show the Bentley logo and another that reads 'Crewe Genuine Parts' - the latter a nod to the fact that pre-BMW Rolls-Royce models are also catered for.
It's a pretty slick operation, and usually able to satisfy requests for spares. But one of the first stops on a tour of the warehouse is a secure area, with a number of machines - some with keyboards and monitors - and sets of drawers, some of which looked impossibly ancient for this modern warehouse.
The area is for replacement keys, some of which need coding to the exact car for the most recent models. The area is locked and restricted to ensure absolute security for car owners. Work began on the site in 2008. Before it was built the vast hoard of spares was stored at the factory, but when a new production line was needed for the latest Mulsanne in 2010, the inventory had to be transferred to a purpose-built facility.
Steve says the warehouse is arranged so the most requested components are stored on low shelves and near the dispatch area. And he knows what's available and where to find it. On a tour of the warehouse there were tell-tale signs of how Bentley has evolved over the years.
The most recent boxes show the Bentley logo and another that reads 'Crewe Genuine Parts' - the latter a nod to the fact that pre-BMW Rolls-Royce models are also catered for. Older boxes are printed with 'Rolls-Royce Motor Cars', and items from further back in time have 'Rolls-Royce Cars Division' to distinguish the company from its then sister arm that produce aero engines. 'The dust is genuine - we haven't applied it for your benefit,' said Steve.
Although there are spares covering most models, not everything can be covered. For example, when the Queen's Rolls-Royce Phantom VI was attacked carrying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2010 by student fees protestors the smashed window was replaced. But there wasn't a pane in stock and the 1977 Phantom's glass had imperial measurements rather than metric. The replacement metric glass did not sit snugly so the seals also had to be replaced with metric equivalents.
Wander a little farther from the dispatch area and you'll also find some more obscure components, large and small. There were a number of V8 engine blocks waiting in a pre-machined state. The reason they’re unfinished: they can be machined to the requirements of the exact model when needed - an advantage of many Rolls-Royces and Bentleys using the same basic engine design for more than 50 years.
Recognise the car parts? Yes, it's a Bentley Turbo R in component form.
Cherry pickers are manoeuvred along the aisles. They follow magnetic tracks in the floor for precision and can be moved forward and back at any height. Staff set off around the warehouse with a shopping list of components and a route that takes them the shortest possible distance to collect all the spares.
But this isn't the only warehouse for Rolls-Royce and Bentley components. A satellite warehouse can be found in Kentucky, USA. It's about a fifth of the size of the one in Crewe, and, given that North America would have a large Rolls-Royce and Bentley car parc, it makes sense to hold some components in the same continent. If the part can't be found in the USA inventory, then the Orion Park warehouse comes to the rescue.
Back to our hypothetical scenario of a replacement rear window that needs to be dispatched to Australia. Steve says the warehouse shifts are set up to ensure it can meet timescales for transport to UK destinations, or airports for cargo flights around the world, meaning that parts arrive at a Bentley dealer within 36 hours of it being ordered.
So Bentley and Rolls-Royce owners all over the world can be reassured that if genuine parts are required, the correct component could be less than two days away.
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