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Point of View: Growing Old Gracefully

There are certainly advantages and disadvantages that come with age. I won’t dwell on the disadvantages too much because, to be perfectly honest, I can’t really recall what they are. But I can talk about some of the advantages because the information that sails past this desk – each day, week after week, month after month, year after year – helps remind me constantly of how much things have changed. In this industry, changes have been dramatic.

Not that many years ago, this industry was wrestling with the challenge put forth by one of its major retailers: the retailer would only pay upon sale of an item, and suppliers would be required to ramp up their data management systems to facilitate such a payment for goods supplied. With the clout such a large customer could exercise, many suppliers were forced to apply advanced technology to their data management systems, something this industry seemed to be resistant to for some time, lagging behind most other industries in this country for many years.

Just a few decades ago, this industry was just beginning to see parts catalogs transitioning from massive print ledgers to electronic lookups. For too long, the data was incomplete at best and rarely as timely as it should be, while lacking illustrations and photos that would make parts searches more exact. Since then, we have seen that turn around to a point where parts lookups are rarely done with a print catalog, and DIYers and professionals alike can find every part they might need, with digitally provided installation information included along with related parts noted during the search process.

And all these types of systems used to be stand-alones, operating only within their own narrow processes, never integrated with point-of-sales systems or combined with any sales or marketing data that could improve the distributors inventory management challenges or customer-centric needs.

Now, our aftermarket world, though much more complex in many ways, has become an industry that has integrated its data management systems in ways that could make one’s head spin. We are now able to match the local vehicle population data with the parts ordering system, working in sequence with parts lookups, invoicing and pricing services. A plethora of industry analytics can be applied to inventory data and transactional information from both up and down he channel, making suppliers, distributors and end users more effective and efficient in an industry built on a nearly impossible challenge of fixing technically-complex vehicles within hours and at a very reasonable price.

From the product engineer all the way down to the technician in the bay, the connection is solid and producing efficiencies only dreamt of just a decade ago. All this makes all channel partners more effective and more reliant upon each other, with an ability to make everyone more successful.

There are a number of economic factors that have put this industry in a good position over the last few years, but what has made us all more profitable, more efficient, more effective, has been an adoption of technology that has been well worth the work and the cost – and a commitment from almost all levels of this dynamic industry.

As I said, there are advantages and disadvantages that come with age. In just a few short years, I’d say this industry has matured very gracefully.

Gary A. Molinaro

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