Automotive Blog

Make or buy decision for parts distributors’ parts catalogues


Most of the parts distributors draw on parts catalogues systems developed by specialist catalogue providers who assemble the relevant parts information from data publishers.  This outsourced catalogue competency has often been advanced to make the process of the data management more efficiently for distributors. To ensure correct parts identification, a few more advanced firms supplement the database with further information from parts suppliers, additional, specialised data publishers and workflow specialists. The leading data publishers and catalogue providers have worked hard to improve their database architectures to combine such additional information sources, all aimed at improving data accuracy and parts identification process. 

Despite this steady improvement in catalogues, many parts distributors consensus that growing vehicle varieties and complexity is now starting to outstrip the ability of their databases to identify a part.  If two major parts distributors were to source their catalogue from the same supplier, how would be the catalogue parts data accuracy to be different in the eyes of the customer? This is a very critical point and raises an important question in producing a catalogue in-house and controlling its database by remaining expert on what can be called “parts data knowledge”.

Few parts distributors managers have found a way to re-consider the logic of outsourcing catalogue competency. We see now few large parts distributors, who have started or have already developed their own parts catalogue system, albeit they have some degree of IT competency in-house.

Managers of those parts distributors told us that they see the parts identification process as one of their unique selling proposition and a growing important customer touchpoint when using an e-catalogue.

Controlling “parts data knowledge” leads to many advantages and opportunities for parts distributors. Parts distributors who have their own catalogue system appreciate the own integration of their additional information from their chosen data sources and to have the possibility to increase data accuracy. Managers quoted us, their vehicle and parts identification process is often more accurate compared to that of an external catalogue provider. And ultimately with an advanced and improved catalogue system, it enables a shift of parts identification and order responsibility from parts distributors to repairers. Further parts distributors are in regular contact with data publisher and parts manufacturers to ensure continues improvement of their parts catalogue. 

For the operational business, they have the ability to implement improvement suggestions instantly, if they find data matching issues that cause a higher return rate for a specific part. “Parts data knowledge” is a detailed and specialized power to create customer tailored requirements, subsystems and specifications. It is based on detailed understandings of the linkages between user requirements and “parts data knowledge”. For a specific workshop group, some products groups or brands can be locked/unlocked in the system or even the catalogue, navigation can be tailored. This can be used if the distributor has an agreement with other repair chains who rely only on certain brands or product groups.

Make or buy decisions on parts catalogue needs to come down how managers define their unique selling proposition. “Parts data knowledge” competency requires a high investment and a continues improvement process. We see many opportunities to have the competency in house to improve the effectiveness in parts accuracy and to be flexible for further business opportunities. This creates a improved user experience to tie customer into their advanced system. 

Written by Rene Herrmann

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