I thought of giving this blog post the title, “Yeah, what he said!” That’s how strongly I feel about the comments made by Scott Luckett at the 2008 Aftermarket eForum. Mr. Luckett is the vice president of Technology Standards and Solutions at the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, so he is probably well qualified to speak on the topic of electronic data and the automotive aftermarket. His premise is that the lack of accurate electronic data is increasing the cost of doing business. I agree.
The problem is that Mr. Luckett oversimplifies a number of issues. He wants all aftermarket automotive data to be electronic. But what does that mean, what format should it be in? Should it be PDF, XML, Word? He talks as if getting the data into an electronic format and following certain standards is the answer. It’s not that simple. For example, the aerospace industry has strict data standards but that has not helped them achieve the electronic nirvana that Mr. Luckett envisions. Even though every aerospace manufacturer adheres to the same standards, the data still doesn’t integrate well. The problem of data interoperability is even worse in the automotive industry where there are more OEMs, more suppliers and fewer standards. The vast number of brands and trim packages ensures that agreement on standards, and how to interpret them, is a long way off.
The key to interoperability is not the data, but the software that uses that data. Mr. Luckett properly points out that Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) is the key technology for reliable interoperability. This is especially true for electronic parts catalogs (EPC), the starting point for most parts and service activity. Because of the difficulty in establishing usable data standards, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) should spend its’ time advocating that OEMs move to electronic data using SOA. This would help OEMs realize the benefits that modern technology brings to the aftermarket, without waiting for standards to be finalized. Such a strategy would simplify the deployment of innovative solutions that improve part selection and increase first time fix rates (FTFR), which benefits the customer, the OEM and the dealer. Furthermore, such a strategy helps preserve one of the OEMs’ chief worries—protecting intellectual property.
It was great to come across this recent press release from the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association: “AAIA Recognizes World Class Technicians.”
The annual contest, sponsored by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), recognized 38 individual service technicians. “The AAIA World Class Technician Award is for automotive diagnostic and repair professionals what the Super Bowl is for professional football players,” said Kathleen Schmatz, AAIA president and CEO. “Just imagine the knowledge and skills needed by a technician to pass 22 ASE tests.”
I don’t know that I exactly agree with the Super Bowl analogy (there probably aren’t any pools betting which service technician athletes will take home the honor and be inscribed in the Dearborn, Michigan Automotive Hall of Fame), but when one considers that there are over 850,000 service technicians in the United States, and thousands of competitors, it’s a big accomplishment.
With all the constant changes in automotive technology and diagnostic equipment, the job of a service technician isn’t easy. Dealerships that employ one of these winners surely possess a great advantage by having such experts in the service bay not only performing repairs but also mentoring fellow technicians.
This award announcement reminded me that Enigma’s technology helps technicians—whether they are expert or novice—perform like one of these winners. By quickly and automatically delivering parts and service information that is relevant to a specific vehicle and problem, Enigma technology allows thousands of service technicians and parts managers around the world to make repairs faster and easier. In fact, several of this year’s winners undoubtedly use Enigma electronic parts catalogs in their daily work.
Kudos to the winners!