Prepare For The Square
The aftermarket has a history of having a fairly insular approach to information transfer. Many of our systems are not found in any other kind of distribution.
This has been the home of the Weatherly Index, the Kalamazoo punch, the 5-hole drill, anywhere between two and three barcoding systems (at the same time), three or more pop code systems as well as a system featuring 10 different colored price sheets.
Unfortunately, most heavy-duty distributors — and OEM dealers — have yet to take advantage of the power of simple UPC barcodes.
Increased record accuracy and speed of data entry have propelled barcode use to universal status among successful distributors and retailers worldwide.
The ubiquitous stripes have saved literally trillions of dollars in processing labor and error reduction.
Now we can use it without endless calls for industry standardization, complicated registration or expensive new equipment. Every company in the heavy-duty aftermarket can find instant payback on their own terms.
The technology I refer to is QR or Quick Response. These little squares can be the cornerstone for a whole new approach to marketing, operations and even product and installation training at the point of service.
QR codes storing addresses and Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) may appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards or almost any product about which users need information.
Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader application can scan the image of the QR code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network or open a web page in the telephone’s browser.
As I look at the possibilities that can be developed today, the following pop to the top:
* Applications For Suppliers: Installation /troubleshooting on-product or on-package; batch traceability; MSDS information; multilingual instruction; core tracking; export data; returns/reverse logistics; catalog expansion/extension; multiline incentives.
* Applications For Distributors/Service Shops: Shop warranty information/tracing; group warranty; special spiff programs; MSDS information; related sales lists; core tracking; required tools for install/service; vehicle service history.
* Applications For Trade Media: Augment content in ads or on labels by providing instant, detailed product information; replace bingo cards/lit requests; extended editorial (print); multilingual; reader involvement/comment; drive traffic to websites from display ads; drive web traffic to special offers.
Clever merchandisers have jumped on this idea. Calvin Klein jeans recently replaced racy billboards with even racier photos accessed by QR codes on their signs. Better still a chef decided to print QR codes on plates (using edible calamari ink) in order to provide diners with information on food content, calorie count, etc.
QR codes even are being placed on cemetery headstones by a gravestone maker in Washington. He is the first to come up with these laser engraved QR code tags for headstones.
This technology is developing fast. (See Figure 1.) There is no reason that the heavy-duty truck parts and service industry shouldn’t move to the forefront of utilizing this superb information innovation.
Bill Wade recently has published a new book titled Aftermarket Innovation. He can be reached at www.wade-partners.com. The views expressed in the Guest Editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of Truck Parts & Service magazine.