How Mapping Solutions Can Help Properly Format Your Raw Data

Mapping Solutions

Whether your company manufactures parts, distributes them, or sells them to retail and fleet customers, at some point you’ll have to deal with mapping. Today, 70% of the parts sold in the aftermarket are mapped to e-Catalog systems. Despite the “e-” in the name, these catalog systems are the backbone of print, online and CD-based catalogs used throughout the industry.

What does mapping do?

It turns raw data into a standard, portable form. For retailers, it means they can request a specific format from their suppliers and transfer that information directly into their own catalog. For suppliers, it means they can update their mapped catalog and send it out to their buyers without having to make alterations for each use. With fewer steps between the manufacturer and the customer, that means fewer errors and faster turnaround.

How does it work?

Let’s use the Auto Care Association Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) and the Automotive Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES) as an example. These two standards are commonly used in catalog mapping with PIES handling part attributes and ACES handling vehicle attributes. With PIES, a part can be labeled with standard identifiers including the manufacturer, product attributes, part interchanges, dimensions and digital information including photos. ACES contains vehicle information including makes, models and equipment, as well as identifiers in the VIN number to determine a vehicle’s equipment. Put them together, and you can search for a specific vehicle, match it to compatible parts, and then compare those parts by their design attributes. This lets customers do an apples-to-apples comparison of parts across lines and manufacturers to make sure they’re buying exactly what they need. On the business side, only the necessary attributes need to be added and transmitted: information like pricing isn’t required, and once a complete catalog has been created, smaller catalogs can then be generated to cover retailer’s specific needs depending on the parts lines and types of vehicles they deal with.

How do you turn your parts data into these standard formats?

That’s where Vertical Development comes in. We don’t just design mapping software; we’ve worked with industry partners to help develop mapping standards. Our tools can turn your paper catalog data into e-Catalog data following a number of standards including ACES, PIES, and NAPA PartsPro, for delivery to Epicor, NAPA, ShowMeTheParts,WHi and other trading partners. If you still need raw information, pages can be saved in PDF format so they can be read on any computer.

If you can use office software, you can use Vertical Development’s catalog software. Our vCat system uses a simple, intuitive interface with no need to know XML or Microsoft Access, and it can run on a single server or computer. Don’t have the resources to create your own catalog? We have Do It For Me (DIFM) services to help you prepare your catalogs. Later on, if you choose to bring cataloging in house, we can help you make the switch, using the same tools used in-house for an easy transition.

Let Vertical Development’s Tools Help You Build Your Catalog

Vertical Development’s tools are built in modules that work together, so once you create a catalog in one format, it can easily be ported to another. Want to move to online catalogs? Add your information to our extensive ShowMeTheParts database, or use SMTP as the base for your own website. Managing inventory? Our Vehicles in Operation (VIO) module shows you what vehicles are on the road down to the county level and cross-references them with compatible parts to make sure you’ll always stock the parts your customers will need. Best of all, you only need to buy the modules that you need, and additional modules can be added down the line. That means your catalog can always be expanded or ported to different formats later on as the needs of your business change.

Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email to get started today!

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Building a Digital Parts Catalog is as Easy as Do It for Me (DIFM) or Do It Yourself (DIY)


How Vertical Development Helped AVM Industries Build a Self-Sustaining Digital Catalog

If you are interested in creating a catalog that meets industry standards, but you don’t have the staff or expertise to do it in-house, then we should talk! Vertical Development offers a Do It For Me (DIFM) service to organize your parts data so that it can easily be published and sent to resellers or used directly by consumers. For AVM Industries, Vertical Development’s services helped the company reach new customers by creating, hosting and updating a PIES and ACES compliant catalog.

AVM Industries is the industry leader in gas springs, and its vacuum actuators, dampers and associated hardware are used in a wide range of automobiles and industrial equipment. Chances are, if you own a GM, Honda, or Toyota, the springs supporting the hood were manufactured by AVM. Despite having such a long reach in this niche segment of automotive manufacturing, initially, AVM didn’t have the staff to support a separate catalog department. When the company went looking for a partner to help manage its parts database, Vertical Development came highly recommended by customers and data management experts.

“We took AVM’s existing parts data and mapped it to a new catalog meeting PIES and ACES standards. Once the catalog was complete, we worked together with AVM to update the catalogs each month with new application information and each quarter with new part numbers,” explained Jay Wright, president of Vertical Development. “We did more than build the catalog, we managed and hosted AVM’s catalog data, sending PIES-compliant XML files and ACES-compliant catalogs to the users of AVM’s products ranging from first party manufacturers to aftermarket retailers.”

Together, Vertical Development and AVM were able to address issues brought up by clients while making sure information was up-to-date, ensuring an easy ordering process all around.

What if you want to create a catalog yourself?

vCatalog computersVertical Development helped AVM with a Do It Yourself (DIY) solution, too. After five years of DIFM service, AVM had grown its staff enough to bring the catalog system in-house. Vertical Development helped train the new staff on the same tools that were originally used to build the company’s catalog. That means, AVM can now provide the same service to its customers going DIY as it did with DIFM – and with no noticeable transition for the end users.

Today, AVM goes beyond catalog publishing by making its information available through the publicly-accessible ShowMeTheParts database. The modular nature of the software made this new feature easy to add on by using already existing catalog information. Now customers can look up parts directly either on AVM’s website or on the ShowMeTheParts website.

“Vertical Development has been a very supportive partner and I would recommend them to others that would want to use the services they offer,” shared Rodney Morrison, director of the Aftermarket Products Division for AVM Industries.

Let Vertical Development Help You Get Started

No matter how big or small your business may be, Vertical Development can help you create a digital catalog system that is easy to manage and adheres to the industry standard formats demanded by your customers. You can use our tools to create your catalog in-house, have us convert your current data for you, or we can manage cataloging entirely with our DIFM services. And just like AVM, if you’re looking to do your own cataloging down the road, then we can get you started with our DIFM services, and help you transition to DIY management when you’re ready.

Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email to get started today!

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Vehicles in Operation (VIO) Reports Now Come with Zip Code Level Reporting

Beck/Arnley Uses VIO Reports for Sales Forecasting

car on map

Does your business have the right parts in stock? No matter where you are in the industry, inventory control is always a primary concern, from nationwide sales to local parts stores. That’s where Vehicles in Operation (VIO) reports come in. A VIO report gives you a snapshot of the vehicles on the road in your area, helping you to calculate which parts will be in demand. Vertical Development’s database tools have VIO support built in, and a new level of accuracy means even better inventory management.

How does a VIO report work?

A VIO report is created from information collected about vehicle registrations in a specified region. That data can then be linked with parts to come up with a list of parts that will be in demand for that area. By knowing the probable parts demand, your business can keep parts on hand that will sell quickly while helping customers get the parts they need without having to wait for them to be shipped in.

What information is provided in a VIO report?

While it used to be very basic, ACES mapping standards for vehicles have expanded to include over 40 fields that can serve as identifiers. That means a lot more precision is possible when doing a vehicle inventory, but it also adds a lot more complexity when trying to determine parts’ demand.

At Vertical Development, we’ve developed a system that uses VIO information from Experian Automotive’s AutoCount Vehicles in Operation database and IHS Automotive by Polk. That means we have software that combines data from a constantly updated vehicle registry database with the industry’s largest VIO database to give you the most accurate information about an area’s vehicle population.

Our software takes this information and breaks it down into vehicle make, model, year, body style and engine type. Searches can be done on demand, so you can get vehicle information when you need it and with the latest data available. This report can be exported as a stand-alone spreadsheet.

How does zip code level reporting work?

In the past, the precision of VIO reports was limited to the state level. Now with our updated tools, you can break down VIO results to the zip codes that you’re operating in. That means reports can be limited to a location’s service area for far greater accuracy.

Obviously, an urban area will have a different mix of vehicles than a rural area, which gives these new, finer reports a major advantage over a state-based report that would cover a wide range of markets from farmlands to major cities. It’s even better for locations near state borders, as it lets you focus on your region instead of using reports from multiple states that could include data from areas that may be hundreds of miles away from your location.

Beck/Arnley uses VIO reports to forecast sales

Beck/Arnley receives quarterly VIO updates from Experian. Vertical Development has made it possible to upload the VIO updates and run reports against their ACES data.

“Vertical Development set us up so we can upload the VIO Quarterly Reports for the United States and Canadian National levels, as well as U.S. State, Canadian Province, U.S. County, and U.S. Zip Code levels,” shared Ricky Robertson, Catalog Manager for Beck/Arnley. “Now when a sales associate calls and wants a VIO Report for a particular area, we can run the report against a full ACES file or a particular product group. The report gives us our part number along with the VIO counts for that part number.”

“This is a great tool and it lets our sales staff know what Beck/Arnley parts have the greatest potential in a particular area based on the VIO registrations,” he concluded.

Working with Vertical Development

Have a regional warehouse inventory to manage? Doing online or mail order sales? Reports can be scaled up to state and national levels, letting you tailor the report to your service area. No matter how big your business is or where it’s located, you can get a report that’s the right fit. You must have an active VIO subscription with Experian or Polk to get started.

If you’re ready to get a better handle on your inventory management, contact Vertical Development today to put VIO reports to work for your business. Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email

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Aftermarket Supplier Husky Spring Creatively Moves into e-Commerce with ShowMeTheParts

husky spring website

Recently, we shared a story with Aftermarket Business World’s Technology section about how Husky Spring, an aftermarket supplier of springs and suspension parts, used ShowMeTheParts to develop an online catalog and strong e-commerce presence.

It’s a fascinating story because like many companies, Husky Spring’s shift toward online access started with customer requests and the drive to fulfill those requests effectively and inexpensively. As we’ve shared in previous articles, the growth of online catalogs and sales in the Aftermarket industry has been tremendous in the last few years. However, many niche suppliers find that the wide-market tech solutions are simply cost prohibitive, which is what makes ShowMeTheParts, along with our partners at Fuse5 and Weblink, a viable option for so many.

Read the full story about how we worked with Husky Spring to create a thriving e-commerce presence.

Ready to get started on your e-commerce site? Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email

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Why the ACA’s Brand Table Matters for Your Catalog

brand ID

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The Brand Table is a recent addition to the Auto Care Association’s PIES and ACES catalog standards. This table is designed to make it easy to identify different parts brands by creating a standard coding system, working alongside their Product Classification Database (PCdb) and Product Attribute Database (PAdb) to correctly identify and categorize parts. This ACA Technology Minute video will give you a quick overview of the Brand Table.

How does the Brand Table work?

Entries in the Brand Table are labeled using a hierarchy that breaks down brands into parent companies, brand owners, brands and sub-brands, with each of these categories getting its own four digit alphabetic code. This helps avoid confusion with brands that use common names like “Professional” or “Performance.” The code for one company’s “Performance” sub-brand will be different from another company’s “Performance” sub-brand.

pies brand

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The code is used to specify and organize product brands on the back end, but the brand names will show up on the front end in the search and display. For example, if a product has the auto care market brand code “ABCD EFGH IJKL MNOP,” this will be translated to display its real brand name, which could be something like “BigPartsCo Durommax Bushing Master Performance” when the catalog is published. Of course, on the front end, users are typically more interested in the last two categories. For example, when using ShowMeTheParts’ online database, search users see the Brand Table’s brand and sub-brand labels show up under the supplier and brand categories. Using the previous example, the user would just see “Bushing Master” as the supplier and “Performance” as the brand category.

The Brand Table is already built into the standards for PIES and ACES. PIES uses auto care market brand codes to give products unique identifiers. By including the brand table code in catalog entries, problems can be avoided when two separate parts are issued using the same part number. ACES refers to these codes to identify the brands included in an electronic catalog data file. Enter the code in the part entry, and the part branding will show up automatically in the correct fields when the catalog is published.

The Auto Care Association has set up a separate website,, to manage the Brand Table. From here, new brand identifiers can be requested, current identifiers can be found using a search engine, and the whole Brand Table can be downloaded.

How do you add the Brand Table to your catalog?

pies output

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Vertical Development has been working on ACES and PIES catalog software for decades, so it should be no surprise that our tools already support this coding standard. We can help you get your products coded to meet the latest standards, whether you’re just starting to build a standard catalog or need to add new classification standards like PAdb and the Brand Table to your existing catalog.

Need to get your products labeled for the Brand Table to meet reseller catalog requirements? We can help your company get up to speed with our tools for a Do It Yourself (DIY) solution, or help you with the process with our Do It For Me (DIFM) services. Of course, like all of our products, everything is integrated, so that any changes you make to your ACES or PIES catalog can be transferred to the ShowMeTheParts public database and ShowMeTheParts-based private databases as well.

Ready to get started on your catalog? Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email

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ShowMeTheParts Helps to Simplify Your E-Commerce Strategy

Online sales of aftermarket parts for 2015 were estimated at $6 billion, 17% more than 2014.

Online sales of aftermarket parts for 2015 were estimated at $6 billion, 17% more than 2014.

At the turn of the century, everyone was excited about e-tailing. Put any sort of store on the Internet, no matter how questionable the profitability might be, and investors would throw money at the idea.

Eventually, cooler heads prevailed, and the dot com bubble burst, but the Internet didn’t go away. More people got online, software and hardware improved, and the promise of online sales have become a reality. While the first e-commerce boom was accessed via modems connected to land lines, today customers can connect to high speed Internet from computers, tablets or smartphones. Meanwhile, tools like HTML5 and JavaScript have transformed static web pages into something that can act like a stand-alone application. This combination of improved tools and accessibility has resulted in an explosion of online sales, and the aftermarket parts industry is no exception.

How important is e-commerce to aftermarket sales?

Online sales of aftermarket parts for 2015 were estimated at $6 billion, 17% more than 2014. This growth rate is expected to continue with an increase of $1 billion or more each year for the foreseeable future. This isn’t a sales channel dominated by newcomers, either: 19 of the top 50 online aftermarket parts sellers today began before the Internet, either as catalog sellers or brick and mortar parts chains. If your business isn’t online, you’ll be missing a lot of potential sales over the coming years.

How do you give your current parts business an online presence?

ShowMeTheParts ProductVertical Development was around before the Internet reached consumers, and we’ve been there every step of the way since, actively developing tools that join catalog technology with online accessibility. Our software includes a set of modules, making it easy to connect your standard paper catalog to our own ShowMeTheParts online database.

e-Tailing opens the door to providing more information than is practical with a paper catalog, but it also means customers won’t be able to see the part until it’s delivered. Our software is built to help bridge the gap, bringing customers the information they need to make purchase decisions. Our software supports the Auto Care Association’s Product Attribute Database (PAdb), providing customers with standardized information about part attributes including materials, colors and applications. Along with PAdb, the ShowMeTheParts database can also include technical documents, photos, and 360-degree views of parts, while VIN and license-based search tools help customers correctly identify their vehicle so search results will only show parts that will work with their car. That means, customers know exactly what they’re buying, and sellers don’t have to deal with as many returns.

Since there’s no publishing date on an online database, new information can be added as soon as it becomes available. With ShowMeTheParts, this data can be pushed to sellers and customers in days instead of weeks or months. If you’re a seller, chances are the parts you sell are already in our database: ShowMeTheParts already covers 4.5 million parts and 8.5 million interchanges from over 300 manufacturers, making it the largest public parts database on the market. We can help you create a ShowMeTheParts-based site that is limited to the parts that you carry while allowing you to add specific information like pricing and availability.

search-engine-friendly app

Designed to be easy to use on small touchscreens, while still offering all of our powerful search tools

The Internet is more accessible than ever thanks to smartphones, and we’ve built ShowMeTheParts to work with them, too. It offers a separate interface that’s designed to be easy to use on small touchscreens, while still offering all of our powerful search tools. We can also deliver this experience as an app for iOS and Android to cover the majority of devices, as well as a mobile-friendly web page that can be used by any device without requiring a download.

If you’ve been thinking about making the jump into e-commerce, now is the time. Sales have never been better, and Vertical Development can make the transition to online sales and cataloging easy with our pre-built tools and database.

Ready to partner with us to take your product sales online? Give us a call at 847.609.9540 or email

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Why the Product Attribute Database (PAdb) Matters for Your Business

Would you like to make it easier for your customers to compare products? The Product Attribute Database (PAdb) lets you add information about part attributes to your PIES catalogs using a standardized format. By having a single, unified system, customers can make direct comparisons between products to help them figure out what they need.

Mapping ScreensPAdb was introduced by the Auto Care Association in 2013 as an add-on to their Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) cataloging system. The PAdb project brought together industry experts from across all product types to develop the best and most complete set of product attributes in the industry. The PAdb defines parts according to style as well as attributes related to the product. These attributes are then broken down into types and values for those types. This can include information such as color, dimensions, materials and performance characteristics.

Manufacturers can propose new attributes to be added to the database, with each attribute validated by at least two suppliers and one major reseller before being added to PAdb. These attributes cannot be subjective, they can’t expose proprietary information and they must be attributes that aren’t already part of the PIES specifications. Currently, there are over 109,000 attributes covering more than 12,000 part terminologies. These numbers are constantly increasing with the Auto Care Association releasing new versions almost every month. Today, PAdb covers 96% of the products by volume that make up the aftermarket parts industry, including everything from air fresheners to exhaust manifolds.

How does the PAdb benefit customers?
Let’s say a customer is shopping for some brake pads. Using a basic catalog, the customers can find a list of pads that will fit their application. However, at most major retailers, this list may include a dozen or more options, leaving the buyer to determine which pads have the lining material they want and the added hardware they need. At best, this information is available because it was put together by the retailer, but even then, some features may be left out. This means the buyer can’t be 100% certain of what they’re ordering until it’s in their hands.

If those same brake parts have PAdb attributes as part of their PIES entries, the customer can easily narrow down their selection based on their requirements. In this case, the manufacturer can add information such as the type of friction material, its thickness, and whether shims, wear sensors or other hardware is included. Since this data is added at the manufacturer level, these attributes remain the same across the retail chain through wholesalers and retailers, keeping the information consistent. Moreover, since every manufacturer is labeling their parts the same way, it’s easy for consumers to make comparisons between product lines.

Adding attributes is more important than ever as more businesses incorporate online shops. With no counter person to help out or product example to look at, this information greatly improves the chance that they can find and order exactly what they need. Whether shopping online or using a database like ShowMeTheParts, by adding a few search terms, the buyer can limit the results to a specific pad material, and they can find out if they’ll need to buy a hardware kit or if one is already included with the pads.

Ready to add PAdb to your catalog? Vertical Development already has PAdb support built into our PIES Module. In fact, if you’re already using our PIES module, you can start adding PAdb information once you activate your PAdb subscription at Call us at (847) 609-9540 or email

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How 360-degree Images Can Help Your Auto Parts Business

360 degree image

Vertical Development strives to make our database technology as easy to use as possible so that ordering mistakes and the resulting returns can be reduced. One of our recent additions to achieve this goal is 360-degree imaging. This lets customers and salespeople get a full view of a part to ensure compatibility before they order it.

Why is it important to add these views on top of the technical data already available?

Automakers are constantly making minor changes to their vehicles, and that means subtle differences can determine whether or not a part will work. An otherwise identical part might get a different wiring connection, an extra vacuum port, or added reinforcement to improve performance or work with different equipment. Sometimes, these nearly identical parts co-exist in the same model, either because of differing option packages or mid-year updates. These problems can be encountered in every kind of vehicle: any car may receive modifications to address problems discovered in the field, while some vehicles, like light duty trucks, may be offered with millions of option combinations to fit their customers’ needs.

Even the most astute counterperson can’t memorize the look of every part, and the most experienced customers can’t intuit the design of a part from a single image. This is why a 360-degree view can help your auto parts business: it’s as close as you can get to having the actual part in your hands, allowing precise comparisons to eliminate the guesswork when shopping for parts.

Making a 360-degree view is a lot like making a cartoon: multiple images are shown in succession to create the appearance of movement. To do this, dozens of photos are taken of the part, and these photos are stitched together to create a full view of every surface. The more photos used to create this view, the smoother the animation will be.

Taking these photos is more complex than standard stock photos due to the range of views. Instead of sitting a part on a table against a blank backdrop and taking a photo, the part has to be suspended to allow the camera to move seamlessly around it, and the inside of the part has to be viewable wherever possible. That means opening throttle bodies, moving levers that obscure bolt holes, and fully extending components to show detail.

It may take more effort than a standard photo, but the result is a virtual part that the user can manipulate on screen, turning it to different angles to get a close look at every surface. With the system we’ve built into ShowMeTheParts, the user can move the part with the drag of a mouse cursor or a finger to look around, then click on the magnifier icon to see more detail.

We already offer multiple search methods including the usual make, model, trim and year combination as well as VIN number, VIN bar code and license plate searches. Adding a 360-degree view means that once a customer has narrowed down the possible parts for their vehicle, they can get final verification that what they’re ordering will fit what they’re replacing.

A standard feature of ShowMeTheParts. 360-degree images are a value-added feature available to all ShowMeTheParts clients at no added cost, you need only provide the image files. When you add 360-degree views, you’re giving customers a new tool that can help reduce returns while giving them the confidence to buy your parts.

Ready to partner with Vertical Development to integrate 360-degree images into your online catalog or sales process? Give us a call at 847.609.9540 or email

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Printed Catalogs Coming Back – and Vertical Development Can Help

printed catalogs






It’s true that the printed catalog has been on a decline, but it’s by no means out. Even as the industry as a whole moves towards online catalogs accessible via computers and smartphones, there are a lot of cases where a printed catalog still makes sense. While Vertical Development offers ShowMeTheParts, the largest online public parts database on the market, we also have decades of expertise in developing printer-ready catalogs. We can turn your data into a wide range of industry standard formats and even help you build your listings so that you can serve customers who still need a physical copy of your catalog.

Why paper? It may seem pretty obvious to say, but a paper catalog doesn’t require a computer. If there is a power outage or system outage, customers can still look up what they need in the catalog. This is especially true during natural disasters. In this case, it may be days before a shop has power after a hurricane or tornado, printed catalogs help businesses to continue as normal.

Click below to view examples:

Anyone who can read can use a printed catalog. No special equipment is needed, making printed catalogs a great choice for small shops. Sometimes it’s the preferred choice because a shop won’t need to refer to a catalog that often, and the only computer it has is the POS system. In other cases, parts are such a small part of the overall business that it doesn’t make sense to dedicate time to training on a computer-based catalog. It also makes it easy for customers to look up items for themselves: by having printed catalogs handy for fast moving items like oil and air filters, they can find what they need without waiting to talk to an employee.

Unlike a digital catalog, you can put a paper catalog in someone’s hand. That means salespeople can leave a physical reminder of what your business carries with far more information than a simple business card. It also gives customers a full view of your product line, whereas search results in an online system may only show what’s in stock locally.

No matter how good your online presence may be, having a printed catalog opens your business up to more sales opportunities. Thanks to vCatalog and ShowMeTheParts, Vertical Development is your one-stop solution to get your catalog printer-ready and on the web.

To put vCatalog software to work for your brand or company, call us at (847) 609-9540 or email

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Visit Us at ACPN Knowledge Exchange

We hope to see you at the 2016 Knowledge Exchange Conference, the largest gathering of catalog professionals and their vendors and solution partners, at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel in New Orleans, LA, May 15-18, 2016.

Stop by our booth to see the full Vertical Development catalog system that allows for real-time data manipulation, industry standard data deliveries, printed pages, buyers’ guides, and much more. Besides our industry leading Catalog Management Solutions we will be discussing and displaying the solutions offered with our new eCommerce partners and sharing details for our all-new Fleet Surveys.

Also, check out all the services and solutions offered by Vertical Development and ShowMeTheParts. We can help get your data into the ACES & PIES formats, take your data off the page and onto the web with ShowMeTheParts, or integrate our revolutionary parts’ search engine onto your website, and provide your clients a robust, customizable eCommerce solution. Click here to learn more about our solutions and services.

As always, we will be sponsoring a segment of the events and look forward to seeing everyone during the coffee break on Tuesday, May 17 after the Paper Catalog Awards. While you’re at the Knowledge Exchange, be sure to look us up, and visit our booth to see how we can help you with your catalog management, mapping, and web catalog needs. Or visit or for more information.

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