In terms of technology, aftermarket executives are going to hear more about two key concepts in the coming months.
In fact, many have already been hearing about them.
The first is “cloud computing.” This is a new term for what is strikingly similar in concept to something that was once the only way to obtain any significant computing power, at the dawn of the silicon age. Rather than having the computing power reside on your desk or at your offices, the actual computing power exists offsite at a purpose-built computing centre, where you can share sophisticated computing power with others without having to pay for it whole, or maintain it, or keep it up to date. In the old days you would have a hard data line to connect you with that computing power, but with the advancement of the Internet in terms of capacity, speed, and security, the World Wide Web becomes your connection to the computing power.
According to the Aberdeen Group, an aftermarket application of cloud computing focused on inventory visibility:
• Allows the supply chain from manufacturers to service providers to indicate which parts can be shared with other participants, and who can view the inventory;
• Provides real-time access to this shared inventory;
• Provides the ability to split an order across multiple participants and provide one unified quote to the customer.
The implications are interesting in that it could allow you to fulfill an order, at least partially, from a competing distribution chain, should they give their assent. On the flipside, you could end up having orders pulled from your inventory without ever having contact with the end customer, not even electronically. And you could do the same.
Pretty exciting stuff when you think about it.
The other piece from the IT world that you are going to be hearing a lot about is the “Super Spec.” In fact, this is a big part of making cloud computing work.
Authored by GCommerce, which created the Partnership Network, and donated to the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), the Super Spec is accepted as the industry best practice for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) documents within the automotive aftermarket.
The Super Spec is an open specification available to any party at no cost.
In traditional EDI, each trading relationship is set up on a one-to-one basis. Different trading partners have different data requirements and specifications, which requires the support of multiple maps and data definitions for each trading partner. In other words, there is a unique map for each buyer/seller relationship, and the work starts over with each new trading partner connection.
The Super Spec combines the requirements of multiple trading partners into one specification, and creates standardized data definitions within the data fields. With full implementation of the Super Spec, a company can do the setup work once, and re-use the map for all of their aftermarket trading partners.
“At AAIA, we believe that broad adoption of information technology and electronic business processes are essential to success in the aftermarket supply chain,” says Kathleen Schmatz, AAIA president and CEO. “The contribution and cooperation of GCommerce will surely raise all ships and lower the barriers to enter into the world of electronic document exchange.”