In today’s AMN Q&A, Bill Long, president and chief operating officer of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), and Scott Thompson, senior vice president, Automotive and Business Services, Epicor, give us the inside scoop on the AASA Channel Excellence Award. The newly created award was introduced in late November and will be presented at this year’s AASA Vision Conference.
Why was this the right time to launch such an award?
Bill Long: In our view, suppliers and customers have made great strides in developing true “partnerships” that focus on common goals and mutual benefits. Going forward, growth and success is heavily reliant on the ability to leverage individual strengths that will drive innovation and differentiation.
We now have many outstanding examples of supplier-customer collaboration success stories that are worthy of recognition, and feel that it is time to showcase these examples, which we believe will serve as a catalyst for others to follow. We sought the expertise of Epicor in developing the award, and they will join with us in presenting the inaugural award at our Vision Conference on April 3 in Dearborn, Michigan.
What was most appealing to Epicor about creating an award that recognizes channel collaboration?
Scott Thompson: We believe the industry has reached an inflection point in the long struggle to improve channel efficiency. For decades we have faced a situation where suppliers have chased the industry’s appetite for very high service levels and invested precious capital in products that are ultimately returned as unsold goods. At the same time, existing category management strategies are too often based on incomplete data, leading to “best guesses” about which parts should be deployed in a given quantity for a specific market. VIO data is simply not enough. The aftermarket is poised to solve this problem through deep, near-real-time visibility into product consumption at a local level. As the only solutions provider that “connects” every step of the industry value chain – from manufacturer to service provider – Epicor is eager to help these businesses develop and apply trust-based collaborations that can drive revenue growth and increased efficiency for all parties.
How do you hope to encourage collaboration through this award program?
Long: In most cases, suppliers are collaborating already. Channel partners tell us, a few do it well; yet most, in their opinion, do not. Our intent is to showcase and celebrate those who are breaking new ground and to recognize the creativity and innovation as a further catalyst for new ideas. In essence, we hope to bring suppliers and channel partners closer together, elevating the process to the next level so everyone wins.
What qualities are you looking for in this first round of entries and the ultimate winner?
Thompson: We’re looking for collaborative initiatives that have successfully leveraged modern practices such as data analytics, improved inventory positioning and other innovations to positively impact channel efficiency and revenue growth. These initiatives must be truly collaborative, meaning that a supplier and one or more channel partners have together developed and applied innovative strategies for mutual success. Our winners each year will be the group of participants who best execute on their shared vision to achieve increased sales, reduced costs, improved efficiency and/or increased competitiveness in a rapidly changing market. We encourage all industry participants to review the award criteria online at aftermarketsuppliers.org/channel-excellence-award.
Tell us about the award selection committee that was recently announced. How were these individuals chosen and why?
Long: The committee is comprised of trusted and highly respected industry players, each of whom bring a unique perspective and background to the process of evaluating and selecting the award recipient. Diversity and perspective were important attributes for the Committee members in ensuring submissions are well vetted. We also believe that the quality of the selection committee will help strengthen the value and relevance of this award for many years to come.
What does the award itself entail – what does the winner receive?
Thompson: In my opinion, the most valuable industry awards are those that highlight outstanding achievements backed by measurable results. They not only recognize the recipients but help benefit the entire industry by documenting and communicating best practices. When our 2019 Channel Excellence Award recipients are announced this spring, they will receive an elegant trophy and be featured in an in-depth video case study. But above all, they will be recognized as industry thought leaders and outstanding business partners.
Where can interested parties go for more information?
Long: Applications for the AASA Channel Excellence Award Presented by Epicor are available here and are due by Tuesday, Jan. 15. Programs or initiatives launched in the past 18 months are eligible for the award.
Entries must detail a collaborative effort between an aftermarket supplier and channel partner, including retailers, e-tailers, distributors, repair facilities, national service chains, etc. In addition, the program must be innovative and utilize technology, such as data analytics, robotics, artificial intelligence and/or digital business processes. The award application process is unique in that finalists will submit short videos, which will be used to select the ultimate winner. The finalists’ videos will be posted to the AASA and Epicor websites and will be played at the 2019 AASA Vision Conferencehttps://www.aftermarketsuppliers.org/events/vision-conference.