If you’ve not heard of OptiCat, you will soon.
of the most challenging aspects of electronic parts lookup for some
time has been the need to refer to different sources. So far, to my
knowledge, there hasn’t been an e-cat that’s a one-size-fits-all, i.e.
a source where a counterpro can find absolutely anything and everything he or she needs.
early 2009, a new entity called Free-Cat emerged and was intended to be
that one-stop source. It was backed by a group of at least 26
automotive aftermarket parts suppliers. The goal was to get catalog
info out there faster, more accurately and more efficiently. The more
suppliers involved, the lesser the chance a parts pro would have to
refer to more than one e-cat to get the information needed. One of the
companies behind the technology side of that operation, U.S.-based
MindQuest, will play the same role in the newly formed OptiCat. The
other is Europe’s TecDoc Information Systems.
OptiCat is intended to
essentially be the upstream provider of catalog information that will
feed resellers of that info. Now, the Motor & Equipment
Manufacturers Association (MEMA), and its Automotive Aftermarket
Suppliers Association (AASA) segment, have become a major shareholder
in OptiCat LLC. It’s believed to be the automotive aftermarket’s first
supplier-owned electronic parts catalog data aggregator, reports Amy
Antenora, editor of aftermarketNews.com, Counterman‘s sister
publication and e-newsletter.
Brad Duncan, general manager of
OptiCat, describes OptiCat as a move from a “many-to-many” process to a
better “one-to-many” system.
“We have this ‘many-to-many’
distribution problem,” Duncan told aftermarketNews.com. “Everybody is
going for the same data but they are all going for it independently. So
the suppliers have all gotten together and said ‘Why don’t we just
accumulate it at the supplier level?’ Distributors and retailers can
then get it from one spot instead of going to 300 different places. So
it cuts down thaose companies’ costs significantly for data acquisition
and it coordinates the effort at the manufacturer level so it’s not
this ‘many-to-many’ approach, but more of a ‘one-to-many’ approach.”
is quickly becoming a hot topic. The merits of a supplier-driven
catalog model were to be debated during a panel discussion at the
Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) Vision Conference
2010 just outside Chicago on March 17. (That conference will likely be
over before this issue gets in your hands, but we’ll have a wrapup in
the April issue.) Speakers were to be representatives of OptiCat,
Federal-Mogul, Dayco, Affinia and TecDoc.
There’s an enormous amount
of momentum around OptiCat. Having a central repository of information
from suppliers, in the way it’s been explained, could only makes the
lives of counter professional easier. With OptiCat aiming to be the
upstream data supplier, the end user would continue to use the catalog
to which he or she is accustomed.
The difference is the
information coming out of the pipe is expected to be broader in scope,
more accurate and the process less time-consuming.