"We know most of our 800 car dealership customers personally. As a result, we can offer them very individualised service, which distinguishes us from our larger competitors." For Heinrich Krawietz, co-owner and managing director of Auto-Schöttle in Stuttgart-Botnang, consistent customer care is not just another slick marketing phrase. In his dealership, word is worth just as much as a signed contract. Hard work, cost savings, trust, honesty and openness are virtues that are lived on a daily basis and never go out of style. Together with his 15 employees, the master car mechanic is continuing a tradition that was founded more than 50 years ago.
A story with long traditions
Matthäus Schöttle first opened an auto repair shop in Botnang on May 2, 1950. Just a few years later (1955), he added an Aral gas station and in 1956, the hard-working Swabian signed an agreement with the Daimler-Benz AG to act as an agent selling cars and trucks. At the beginning of the 1960s, Heinrich Krawietz joined the company and became the managing director in 1975. Over time, the company grew, making it necessary to build and rebuild. The gas station was completely modernised and a small convenience shop was added. The repair shop now has six work areas with four vehicle lifts and two working pits. And then, in 2004, DaimlerChrysler AG renewed the repair shop agreement and awarded the car dealership the title of ‘Authorised Service Partner for Mercedes Benz cars'.
A sought-after brand
Because Mercedes is a brand that arouses desires, and gas stations are considered as critical zones in terms of security, Heinrich Krawietz opted to install MOBOTIX network cameras to secure his business premises. He chose a surveillance system that leaves nothing more to be desired - and leaves no security gaps.
Once quite common, the combination of a gas station with a car dealership is something you don't see very often anymore. For Heinrich Krawietz, however, the gas station presents an opportunity to win customers for the dealership repair shop. Running a gas station, however, does involve certain security risks. After all, now that gas prices keep on climbing, gas theft has also been on the rise over the past few years. To try stop these so-called ‘gas-up-and-run' customers, two small analogue surveillance cameras, each with a miniature screen, had already been installed in 1993. "But these cameras did not have a recording function, which means we would have had to watch them all the time," reported Heinrich Krawietz.
Apparently, this type of surveillance just didn't do the job. "Another problem we had was that old tires or used oil canisters were ‘disposed of' on the gas station property in the middle of the night," said the manager. "And we wanted to know just who was using the premises as a dump site." Then, when the cashbox at the vacuum station was broken open for a mere EUR 35 in the summer of 2003, it was time to take action. The decision was made to purchase a new, more powerful camera system.
After receiving an advertising letter, Heinrich Krawietz contacted MOBOTIX. The company, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany, then asked its partner, IBC, to present potential solutions on site. IBC owner Norbert Raif presented the MOBOTIX technology, demonstrated the wide range of features and application possibilities and installed a temporary system for a trial period.
It soon became evident that the network cameras offered ideal conditions for the daily operations at the gas station. "I had a very definite idea on the functions I wanted a camera system to perform in my business," commented Heinrich Krawietz. "And the MOBOTIX solution fulfilled all my expectations."
The company manager was particularly impressed by the extensive recording functions, the precise event control and the convenient display of the camera images on the computer screen. The advantage of using event control is that sequences are not recorded unless there is movement in the previously defined areas, i.e. when something is actually happening. This saves storage space and reduces search time. These exemplary features finally prompted the company to order three cameras and to have them all installed at once.
No tapes to change
In addition to the recording function already integrated into the MOBOTIX cameras, IBC designed a closed network that uses a standard PC as the file server. The reason being, "If a camera is stolen, the owner still has access to the images," explained IBC owner Norbert Raif. "And it is now also possible to record events over a longer period of time." Currently, the camera images are stored for five days at a time. After that, the system automatically overwrites the older sequences. "That is one reason why we didn't opt for an analogue camera that records onto tape," emphasized Heinrich Krawietz. "Because in that case, we would have been had to change the tapes frequently."
Digital is optimal
Other advantages compared to analogue technology: since only actual events are recorded, there are no "empty spaces", thus saving storage capacity. And when needed, the images can quickly be found using date and time and forwarded directly to the police by e-mail in high quality. MOBOTIX cameras can be connected directly to the Internet and controlled via the browser. It would also be possible to dial up to the network via an ISDN router. Then, in the event of an alarm outside of business hours, it would be possible to simply connect to the Internet at home to get a first impression of what is happening on location.
All it takes is three cameras to monitor the entire gas station area: one camera records the gas pumps, a second one is aimed at the vacuum station and a third camera keeps an eye on what is going on inside the shop. Thanks to event control, the cameras begin recording only when there is some kind of movement detected in the pre-defined areas. And that saves storage space. "This arrangement is an advantage for us because it means that the shop does not have to be staffed all the time," explained Heinrich Krawietz. "One of the office workers can take care of the cash register because she always has a direct view into the shop on the monitor at her regular workplace."
There have not been any unpleasant events since the cameras were installed, a clear indication that the solution also has a preventative effect. And there has already been some thought given to installing a fourth camera in the dealership.
Heinrich Krawietz commented, "Lots of customer cars are parked behind the building in front of the repair shop, it would be good to give them some added protection against theft and vandalism. The most effective and economical way to do this would be to add another camera." By the way, the German Southwest Broadcasting Company has recommended the exemplary MOBOTIX solution as ideal for other companies as well: in a regional TV program in Baden-Württemberg, an extensive report on the surveillance concept at Auto-Schöttle aired in December 2003.