by Amy Antenora
Managing Editor, aftermarketNews.com
CHICAGO — “Great companies use technology as an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.” —- Jim Collins, from the book “Good to Great.”
Wrenchead’s Bryan Murphy opened the final day of the 2004 Aftermarket eForum in Chicago using this quote from Collins’ popular book to drive home the point that technology is simply a tool; part of a multi-faceted system that can drive business growth. “Technology is not a strategy in and of itself. It’s a part of it,” Murphy explained.
The entire day of presentations played upon this theme, serving to diminish the confusion and intimidation that sometimes accompanies the implementation of new technological processes.
Murphy and other presenters focused on past and present strategies, trends and initiatives being used in the industry. In his presentation, Murphy reviewed 12 months of data from Wrenchead customers, in order to provide insights for the audience.
The industry is changing in its use and implementation of technology, Murphy said. The use of high speed Internet access at aftermarket businesses has increased dramatically over the last four years. In 2000, it grew by 158 percent and continued to increase. In 2004, the use of high speed Internet access increased 50 percent. In his own business, Murphy said 65 percent of Wrenchead’s service dealer customers have high speed Internet access or DSL in their shops.
Following Murphy’s presentation, Dave McCann of CarParts Technologies, picked up where he left off from his previous year’s presentation at eForum, providing an update on the original 2002 adoption life cycle model he first talked about. Reviewing his predictions from previous year as well as making new predictions, McCann said the 40 percent increase in attendance at this year’s conference is a good indicator of the industry’s increased interest in adoption of technology and e-commerce.
McCann said there has been a shift in influence over the last three years. While psychological willingness is still a factor in the adoption of technology, economic status for many in the industry has changed. “The battlefront is moving,” McCann said.
Another big shift McCann pointed out is in the relationships throughout the distribution channel. While in the past, it was all about the manufacturers, McCann said, today the focus is on the relationship between distributors and the tire and service chains. This is where the industry’s attention should be directed, he said. “Manufacturers don’t run the industry,” McCann said. “It’s really about the distributor and the trust the distributor has with the service chain.”
Still, at this level, technology has not been fully embraced. While Murphy noted that more than half of his service dealer customers have high speed Internet access or DSL, McCann pointed out that 20 percent of service outlets do not have a computer at all.
While Murphy, McCann and other speakers talked about what the aftermarket is doing and not doing, luncheon keynote speaker Larry Stolle of IBM took a slightly different tack, and talked about what the OEMs are currently doing, in terms of collaboration.
In his speech, Stolle addressed goals and objectives that have been identified and successfully implemented by the OEMs and how the aftermarket can learn from these trends. To the dealers, Stolle noted, there are two primary focus points: products and people. And the OEMs, he pointed out are embracing new ideas in order to keep their customers satisfied.
“Back to basics is dead,” Stolle emphasized. “We can no longer do business as we used to. We need to innovate.”
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