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Vicki Gerson
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Tool Eases Inventory Management for Car Dealer

Fifth Third Bank introduces FloorNet, to improve efficiency and accuracy in floor plan management for car dealerships.

Fifth Third Bank has introduced FloorNet, a Web-based tool to improve efficiency and accuracy in floor plan management for car dealerships.

A powerful online tool, FloorNet is automating the way Fifth Third's vehicle dealer-customers manage their floor plan accounts. The service is being offered initially to dealerships in the Chicago metropolitan area and Indiana.

Traditional dealer floor plan systems require dealerships to fax vehicle identification numbers (VINs) to their bank in order to place vehicles on or remove them from a floor plan. Bank personnel have to key VINs and flooring amounts into the bank's loan/deposit systems.

With FloorNet, data entry is shifted to the point of origin: the dealership. By using FloorNet, dealerships receive detailed account information, gain access to real-time information, and can add or remove vehicles from floor plans with the click of a button. In addition, FloorNet reduces paperwork and ensures greater accuracy through the elimination of handwritten or hard-to-read faxes.

FloorNet was developed by Fifth Third's systems group along with experienced floor plan lenders (commercial bankers) who specialize in lending to automotive dealers.

"The Windows-based program is written in Java, and our Cincinnati operations area runs the IBM-compatible software," said Kevin Point, vice president and manager of dealer financial services at Fifth Third Bank, Chicago.

FloorNet is installed by downloading the software from Cincinnati and uploading it to the dealer's system. Although the program can reside on any of a dealer's workstations, most dealers prefer-for security reasons-to have the password protected program limited to one or two workstations.

Workstations must run Windows 95/NT 4.0 and must contain a Pentium 166 or higher, a 256 color video card, 64 RAM (recommended), and sufficient hard drive space for local storage of reports. FloorNet can be downloaded from any browser.

Initial testing of FloorNet, which took almost a year to develop and write, was performed in-house. Two beta dealership sites tested the program before it was marketed.

"This is the best financial inventory management system available," Point explained, "because the bank is controlling the funds and managing the inventory for the dealership." In addition, the technology creates a value-added service for dealerships that manage floor plans.

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