by Jon Owens
Publisher, aftermarketNews.com and Counterman magazine
AKRON, OH — Technology is a fact of life in business. Technology is ready for us. The question is, are we ready for it?
We’ve run the alphabet soup of acronyms by you before: PIES, HTML, DAC, XML and on and on. But don’t make light of them. They will be common jargon for you very soon.
Technology, as you can see, is on my mind, partly reinforced by a recent technology conference I attended in Chicago. At the Aftermarket eForum, I listened as each presenter explained the nuances of technology. They know that technology implementation and utilization hold great benefits to WD, store and service dealer operations. Do you?
Take for example an exercise that took place between Wix and O’Reilly Auto Parts. As these two groups sat down to “sync up” their data, it was discovered that as much as one-third of it didn’t match. Simple things like part numbers and prices, to more complex things like packing units and UPC codes were way off. And that doesn’t even account for product descriptions, which should be the same among trading partners, but still aren’t.
This is where the technological “rubber” meets the reality “road” of parts distribution. Over time, our industry has evolved in varying degrees with regard to technology. When Dana Corp’s Jerry McCabe says “it’s all about the data,” he’s right. It is all about the data, but within that short statement comes a great need for collaborative effort.
Data mapping and matching, or data “synchronization” as the techies like to call it, is where we now find ourselves in our quest to become a technologically savvy industry.
So, as this work begins in earnest across the various players in the aftermarket, let me offer this one piece of advice: Be fully prepared to adapt your company’s culture to the impending technological change. Ultimately, technology is a resource – a tool, if you will – to help you be better and more efficient at what you do. Like any tool, technology must be used by your people. Are your people mentally prepared for this? I don’t mean trained. I don’t mean having the ability to turn a computer on and off. I mean, are they ready to let go of what they know?
When Wix went searching through its corporate offices for all of the pockets of data that existed, they found many. One engineer here who loved the word “flinger,” another over there who preferred “spacer with adaptive OD.” Or, a product manager who wanted to differentiate a cover by having a rust-prohibitive coating applied to it, and a marketing manager who felt that trying to describe it was too cumbersome for the catalog. So, they left it out. Or, the more simple example of an O’Reilly system purchaser buying a program that required a “zero” to be typed before each part number that starts with the letter “O.” With these examples, it easy to see how data ends up mismatched. It also illustrates the impending culture changes that must take place as you become a technologically advanced business.
Are your people really prepared for technology? Are they really ready for the sacrifices they must make in order to allow information to synchronize and flow? Once they are, technology itself won’t be nearly as scary as the ramifications of its avoidance.
This article also appears in the August 2004 issue of Counterman magazine.
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