Bringing standardization to the way parts are described was the goal of HDDA: Heavy Duty, a community of the Auto Care Association. Now that goal has been realized with manufacturers and suppliers subscribing to the Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) that was developed for heavy-duty parts and components.
“The original goal of developing a data standard for the heavy-duty aftermarket was to bring a level of efficiency into the supply chain,” explains Sheila Andrews, director of heavy-duty programs at the Auto Care Association. Andrews adds that the standards are designed to simplify and increase the amount of product information that is available, “so suppliers can communicate their product information in a more robust manner, and ultimately, distributors and retailers have more product information to pass on to their end-user customers.”
The intended result is to allow fleets to make more informed product choices, because product attribute information will be standardized, taking the guesswork out of product descriptions.
A product attribute database was defined for each of 20 heavy-duty product categories. Auto Care did a feasibility study before embarking on the project and found that 20 categories are responsible for 85% of the products sold in the heavy-duty aftermarket.
Once the product categories were determined, Auto Care assembled a group of more than 200 people from more than 175 different companies to agree on the attributes needed in order to properly describe a particular part.
“It goes down to things like units of measurement,” Andrews explains. “Do you need to describe [the part attribute] in inches, or do you need to use centimeters? Do you need to describe it in pounds, or do you need to describe it in kilograms? And how many decimal places do you need?”
Currently, the heavy-duty PIES covers more than 9,000 components in the 20 categories and more than 63,000 attributes.
All of this is done “to make sure the end user is truly able to purchase the absolute appropriate part for whatever the equipment and the job is,” Andrews says. “Fleets should feel more confident that they are ordering the right part, and that they are getting it at the right quoted price, because price files are actually included in the standards.”
Andrews says a similar effort on the light-duty side has shown a reduction in parts returns. She expects that will translate over to the heavy-duty aftermarket, “creating additional efficiencies and cost savings and increasing uptime.”
The more suppliers that subscribe to the database and fill in the attribute information about their parts, the better it will be for fleets.
“This will give fleets access to the most information on the largest array of products, and that opens up their ability to choose either direct replacements for the parts that they are currently using, or they can look at an expanded product offering from their distributors and suppliers.”
If fleets want to reap the benefits of the standards, she suggests they ask their suppliers to become compliant with the PIES data standards by becoming subscribers.