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Technology: Salvation or Curse?


7/10/2007
By Brian Cruickshank

Today’s aftermarket fights a constant battle to overcome business challenges. Technology is often the cause of — and nearly always to the solution to — these challenges.
 

In a classic episode of The Simpsons, Homer Simpson once declared, “Beer is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.” Indeed.

So it is with technology. It’s everywhere in the aftermarket, and it may be our curse or our salvation. Or maybe, it’s a little bit of both.

Of course, technology is only as good as how well you use it — and to use it, you must understand it. It may appear on the surface that the aftermarket is a rather low-tech, nuts-and-bolts, or better yet, pistons-and-camshafts, sort of business. It is, but at its essence, at its core, the automotive aftermarket is really a technology business. It’s the reason we dedicate an entire issue — this month’s edition in fact — to technology. This month, you’ll find lots of information on how to better manage your store, along with some of the technology that challenges it.

Take inventory for example, perhaps the most vexing technology challenge of them all. Distributors everywhere wrestle with what inventory to stock, how much of it to have, where to have it, movement codes, cataloging — the list goes on. That’s the curse. The solution, of course, is in the proper application of technology. Look around your store or WD and you’ll see lots of parts that can be — and should be — reduced to bits and bytes. The ones and zeros of binary code are a lot easier to manage than the thousands and thousands of SKUs the industry handles. Technology allows these bits and bytes to be integrated into store management systems and e-cataloging in a way that tames the technology beast. The Internet ties them all together, connecting every level of the supply chain, from manufacturers to warehouses to stores to customers. You can read a feature story on these advanced interconnected store management systems under the "Features" section of the Web site.

Then, there’s the technology the OEs throw at you. It seems like an ever-moving target. As soon as you understand one system, they debut another. With the advent of hybrid technology, the auto parts business isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile anymore. Both you and your professional customers now require new skill sets, new vocabularies and unfortunately, whole new categories of parts to understand, manage, stock, sell and distribute. That’s the curse. But, again, technology can help you and your professional customers make sense — and profit — from new technologies such as this.

Certainly hybrids are just beginning to make an appearance in the aftermarket and so this month, we present our first-ever tech feature on hybrid technology. It’s an interesting read and reveals some insight into who is stocking parts for these vehicles. It also reveals a real lack of understanding at parts counters across the industry. Here’s your opportunity to make this technology a strong part of your business. All you have to do is embrace the technology.
Technology is both the problem and the solution. By embracing it, you not only tame the technology beast, but allow your business to be better positioned to take on the technology challenges of the future. They’re coming, I promise.















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