The much-anticipated Aftermarket eForum opened Wednesday in Chicago. The focus of the forum is "Answers to the Aftermarket’s Technology Challenges Today and Tomorrow." Piggybacking onto the 2013 GAAS gathering, the forum was attended by a full house of technology-focused industry professionals.
Scott Luckett, Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) chief information officer, kicked the conference off with a rundown of the technology enhancements being used by this year’s forum. A dedicated website has replaced the typical paper agenda and evaluation forms. Extensive use of text- and web-based information exchanges between presenters and participants also are being used.
Lúcia Veiga Moretti, president, Delphi Product & Service Solutions, set the tone for the rest of the day with her presentation on connecting the global aftermarket.
"We must be open to a business model evolution that helps to develop a more efficient aftermarket for the long term," she said. "How we efficiently connect to customers will be up to us."
She cited collaboration, connectivity and technology as ways to achieve efficiencies. An obvious technological tool is telematics, she added.
"Telematics from helping shop owners get an alert for a repair needed by a customer, to obtaining data from that vehicle, to accurately diagnosing the problem, to finding the right part and ordering it online," she said. "It also provides for greater shop management by ‘predicting’ what repairs are coming, allowing shop managers to schedule the right technician for the right job at the right time.
"And from the driver’s point-of-view, it makes the transaction simple and convenient. They get smart reminders and customized alerts, as well as educational tips about preventative maintenancemaking it as easy as possible for them to schedule appointments, and keep their vehicle in top shape and on the road."
Moretti cited companies outside the aftermarket that have achieved efficiencies through technology. One of them is Netflix. The company that began as a DVD-by-mail rental service now accounts for almost a third of all Internet traffic entering North American homes through its streaming movies and TV shows, she said.
Moretti said Netflix is "using its lessons learned, innovation and connectivity to create a more efficient, unique entertainment experience for consumers. And…they are doing it outside of their traditional comfort zone. By rethinking their business model, they are now efficiently connecting to customers and transitioning from an Internet content provider to an Internet content builder."
As a result, the company is experiencing double-digit revenue growth from the previous year and has been named the best-performing stock of the year.
"How did they do it? They invested in their vision: cloud technology vs. static servers, original series programs, similar to HBO, Showtime vs. only movie rentals," she said. "And more importantly, they recognized they had to change in order to keep up with industry trends."
The aftermarket must prepare for changes and be sure to support efforts to ensure that new data remain available for everyone’s use, Moretti added.
The day continued on with presentations by Fred Blumer of Vehcon. Blumer founded Vehcon Inc., a connected vehicle services company based in Atlanta, Ga., in 2012, according to the company’s website. Blumer most recently was a co-founder of Hughes Telematics Inc., a leading provider of telematics services to the automotive industry, which was sold to Verizon in 2012, according to Vehcon. Blumer believes the aftermarket can successfully confront the connected car and remain relevant despite the growth of OE-embedded communications found in most new vehicles today.
Charlie Covert, VP customer solutions at UPS, spoke to "Revving Up Your Supply Chain," and shared ways UPS has helped businesses achieve process improvements, better manage inventory and turn their supply chain into a competitive advantage.
The day concluded with a presentation by Bryan Murphy, head of eBay Motors. Murphy’s presentation, "Succeeding in Today’s Changing Parts Distribution Environment," discussed how the lines between online and offline distribution are blurring, and how parts sellers can capitalize on today’s changing online (and mobile) world.