Connecting with Today’s Aftermarket
You bring your personal consumer expectations to work. It just happens: You can have an order of inconsequential goods delivered to your front door in two days for free, so why is it so difficult to get the right part to the right place to tackle the right equipment fix? That’s the question the heavy-duty aftermarket is wrestling with and the remedy begins with a solution that isn’t as sexy as a slick app or new website but is far more important: Data standards.
“In the automotive world, parts are driven by make, model and year. Any person can walk into a parts store and easily identify a part based on these attributes. The reason this is possible is data standards. All automotive suppliers adhere to a strict set of rules on part setup,” said David Durand, Great Dane’s former vice president of Aftermarket. “In the heavy-duty world, there are no data standards. Customers have to rely on the OEM to identify parts for replacement. Great Dane is leading the charge in the aftermarket to develop standards, similar to automotive.”
To help tackle the issue, Great Dane went to heavy-duty aftermarket industry specialist, Pricedex Software Inc.
“Pricedex has been working with the heavy-duty aftermarket for more than 20 years and they really know their stuff,” Durand said. “Their people have also been working with the Heavy Duty Distribution Association (HDDA) to help organize the industry and develop a set of product information standards that meet our needs.”
The goal is to work with the HDDA to help ensure that the product information standards continue in their development, and to make certain that all participants in the HD aftermarket supply chain – manufacturers, distributors and business system vendors alike – are not only aware of the standards, but also contribute their expertise to ensure that the standards properly reflect the needs of the HD aftermarket.
Clearly the initiative is important, but let’s make sure we’re on the same page.
Why Data Standards Matter
Data isn’t any good unless it can be integrated into other systems. If a fleet has its own method for inputting and classifying data and a dealer has its own system and a parts supplier has its own method, no one is speaking the same language. That’s what’s happening today. To streamline the delivery of parts – aftermarket and OEM-supplied – everyone needs to be on the same data page. The heavy-duty aftermarket is a complex network of data senders and receivers, all with their own datasets of product specs, box sizes, part numbers, and a cornucopia of other product data.
“Fleets want their products coded to VMRS standards, and with this industry-wide initiative, VMRS is being incorporated into the new product information standards developed by the HDDA, in partnership with the American Trucking Association’s Technology & Maintenance Council [TMC],” Durand said. “At the counter level, the parts person wants to know the ‘form, fit and function’ for a part, and the HDDA is working on that as well, collaborating with manufacturers to define a standardized attribute library to describe parts.”
An important part of this initiative is the industry understanding that standardizing product data does not mean giving away trade secrets. The data being collected and standardized is the same product information that is already widely available down to the nitty-gritty product specs, box sizes, part numbers, and beyond. It’s simply getting everyone talking the same language so that aftermarket support and services can be improved for you, the end user.
“The first thing manufacturers need to do, immediately, is to embrace the standards being developed, and have their own relevant subject matter experts participate in defining them.” Durand indicated. “That can be done by contacting the HDDA and volunteering to contribute their expertise.
“The second thing is to prepare to incorporate product information standards and organize product data now,” he continued. “The aftermarket selling chain is investing heavily and preparing their e-commerce initiatives now, and manufacturers need to do the same and be ready to support sales of their products. As has been said, ‘Content is King’, and rich, complete content will help us all have more of the right parts, to the right place, at the right time, for the job that is in the service bay.”