Industry studies indicate that significant sales are lost each year due to old, inaccurate and inconsistent data available to aftermarket resellers so three of the leading automotive aftermarket trade associations in the United States have joined to initiate a study to determine the feasibility of an industry data repository and delivery system.

The consortium, known as the Aftermarket Data Trust (ADT), includes staff and member representatives from the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) and the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). The ADT has held a series of meetings to research potential solutions to the industry's challenges of inconsistent data (catalogue and product attributes) and delivery methods.

The ADT recently selected Digiton, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based consulting firm, to conduct an industry-wide study to identify the needs of companies in the aftermarket supply chain, evaluate the feasibility/acceptability of an industry solution, develop a technical model of a solution and help guide the ADT in selecting potential vendors for building/managing the ultimate solution.

"The automotive aftermarket depends on a tremendous amount of product attribute and catalogue application data to conduct business," said Mitch Javidi, Digiton chief executive officer. "Just as important as the ability to publish and read this data electronically is the requirement for fast, accurate exchange of data between trading partners. Data about a product or application that is out of date or months behind is a liability and usually results in lost sales."

Javidi noted that several studies and editorials have tried to assign an annual cost to slow, incomplete or inaccurate information in the aftermarket value chain. "It is sufficient to say the cost of the problem is measured in the billions of dollars," he said.

A possible benefit to aftermarket parts manufacturers is the elimination of multiple methods of preparing and disseminating data to customers. Currently, each supplier spends significant dollars on creating paper catalogues, CDs and publishing data online.

Aftermarket resellers would benefit from having accurate and current data at the store counter level, which would enable counter people to direct customers to the right part for the right application and avoid losing sales to other local sources.

While virtually all players in the aftermarket agree that poor data sharing is a problem, there has been no consensus to date on how to solve this problem. Javidi added that the purpose of the study is to determine if and how a data repository and distribution system would work, the possible costs for such a system and potential vendors to execute the system. The study will include focus groups, large sample on-line and telephone studies as well as interviews of many executives and leaders from various aftermarket segments. It ultimately will provide the benefits, risks and challenges for such a system to become reality.

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