"I think success in a digital economy is giving customers what they want,” says Andrei Katibnikov, vice president of information technology at Vipar Heavy Duty. “And one thing they want more of is trustworthy data.”
Katibnikov believes data is the lifeblood of businesses, and “with the volume of data and the complexity of the trucking industry growing, ensuring accuracy and integrity is becoming more difficult.”
He adds, “When data cannot be trusted, nobody is going to win. Not the supplier, not the customer.” He believes digitalization will bring data together across all enterprises while at the same time making sure it is available everywhere when it is needed. “Digitalization allows data to become one single point of truth.”
In previous business models, data was kept in siloes and was not easily shared. Siloed data created duplication of records, and the integrity of the data becomes questionable. “By eliminating siloes and barriers to visibility and flow of data, a digital platform will enable data transparency, and it will deliver a data-rich experience to customers.”
He says that is why it makes sense for companies in the trucking industry to become digital businesses as fast as possible.
That was the thinking behind Partsphere, Vipar’s digital ecosystem. Originally launched in 2019, Vipar recently expanded its order management technology with the launch of Partsphere Fleet, a fleet order management system that connects parts distributors and fleets. It integrates with distributors’ systems and uses EDI capabilities to provide a scalable parts-ordering solution. Automated algorithms conduct part matching and price validation to streamline the ordering process and improve accuracy, according to Vipar.
The system allows a fleet to place a part order, and that automatically triggers a purchase order. Then the PO is converted to an invoice without any human interaction. “Statistically, when humans enter data, you have an error rate of 15%,” Katibnikov says. By eliminating the need for the data to be entered in multiple places, the error rate should be lower.
While there are many benefits to digitalization, the reality is the trucking industry has a way to go.
“I think the status is 50-50,” Katibnikov says. “A lot of distributors and fleets are still doing business manually. But the next generation coming into the industry is a bit different. They grew up with technology and want to use one click to get what they want.”
One thing that may be a stumbling block is the fact that the data in the truck parts industry is not clean. Distributors and fleets use vendor abbreviations without any standardization. The same part, built by different companies, may end up on the customers’ ERP system with different abbreviations.
“That creates an issue when you are dealing with shops and with fleets,” he explains.
To address this problem, the team working on Partsphere built an algorithm that does advanced matching, explains Jeff Paul, Vipar Heavy Duty’s vice president of marketing. “The distributor or fleet can call the part whatever they want, and the system will be able to identify it properly,” Paul says.
When it comes to data, the approach of digitalization and combining the data in one central location allows the data to be validated and ensures data integrity.
“When you do this, you will see increased efficiency and accuracy improvements,” Katibnikov says. “This is what the whole industry needs to be moving toward.”
This commentary first appeared in the October 2021 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.