Establishing your business as a top-tier automotive parts supplier is a tall order, especially when a company is just starting out. Water pump startup NovaPacific had everything in place to make sure it developed high-quality auto parts.
To help customers find the correct part for their application and provide ACES files to support customers and eCat providers, NovaPacific turned to Vertical Development. With the ShowMeTheParts database system, NovaPacific could get accurate information to customers while still being able to add to its growing portfolio of parts.
Read the full article from Vertical Development’s President, Jay Wright on SearchAutoParts.com Aftermarket Business World and see how Vertical Development and ShowMeTheParts helped NovaPacific get its parts information out to thousands of buyers.
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.
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?
Vertical 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.
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.
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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, brandtable.pricedex.com, 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?
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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.
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.
PAdb 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.