A cheat code for aftermarket communication

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Updated Jun 8, 2016

Building standard operating procedures is a cornerstone of any good business. Best practices and lean operations help drive efficiency, productivity and business success.

In no industry is that more clear than ours, where speed and efficiency in serving customers takes precedent over everything else. When a truck is down, there’s no such thing as free time.

I’ve always been impressed by how the independent aftermarket takes that message to heart. Every distributor might build their standing operating procedures differently, but each clearly is built to accomplish the same goal.

And now, a movement is afoot to help make writing such procedures even easier.

The Auto Care Association is working on a comprehensive research project with Pricedex Software to better understand how heavy-duty parts are identified and cataloged across the industry. Working in conjunction with Heavy Duty Distribution Association (HDDA) members and the aftermarket at large, Auto Care hopes to accurately identify the level of standardization found throughout the aftermarket to determine if the industry would benefit from universal product classification and sales process standards, and if so, attempt to build them.

“The strength of the heavy-duty marketplace lies in the knowledge of the counterperson to make hundreds of part recommendations each day. We aim to make that process more efficient by giving them the data they need in a format they are familiar with,” says Bill Hanvey, Auto Care president and CEO.

I think this is a great idea, and applaud Auto Care on its ambition.

Building a one-size-fits-all glossary for the aftermarket could be a truly tremendous asset for distributors, service providers and manufacturers alike. A universal language would not only eliminate confusion in dialogue between members of the supply chain, it also would provide the industry with simple and implementable best practices and enhance data transfer across software platforms.

It would connect the industry in a way we’ve never seen. But it won’t happen overnight. Auto Care says its development plan is to work in stages — and Phase 1 is gaining input from you.

The Association plans to spend the summer months conducting interviews and measuring industry interest in potential standardization. If the aftermarket is comfortable with business as usual and sees no reason to change, Auto Care won’t push an industry overhaul.

But early responses from suppliers have been very positive, and if reception remains positive in conversations with more suppliers and distributors Auto Care says it will move forward.

“We want to know about anything that will help streamline [aftermarket] processes,” says Jonathan Larsen, Auto Care reference data architect and quality manager. “It’s not going to be a situation where anyone dictates what we’re going to do. Everyone is going to come together and bring their own thoughts on what would help them do more business and make more money.”

I think all distributors should help with this study. Especially at this stage. All Auto Care wants today is your input. Where are your pain points? What is most commonly lost in translation during communication with suppliers? How could parts and sales process standardization benefit your business?

I’m sure you answered those questions the instant you read them. You know exactly what works in your business and what doesn’t. So why not take advantage of this opportunity and try to fix things?

“We want the industry to tell us exactly where they need efficiencies, and how each would need to be formulated,” says Sheila Andrews, manager, government affairs at Auto Care. “The end game for us is still unknown. We want the industry to direct us to what the end game should be.”

For more information and to assist Auto Care, please go to www.autocare.org.

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