Let’s Adopt a New Adage

Monday, March 11, 2019

By Chris Gardner, senior vice president, Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA)

“Technology is a disrupter.” I bet you never heard that one before.

We all know this. We all probably have said this. Instead of always associating disruption with technology, however, the aftermarket should consider the ways technology enables our industry. Therefore, I proffer that the aftermarket adopt a new adage – “Technology is an enabler.”

Certainly, technology will continue to disrupt companies, individuals and supply chain models that do not innovate or re-engineer themselves. However, I see too many examples of new business processes, enhanced vehicle parts, connected platforms, digital marketing and digitized data to dread technology’s encroachment on the aftermarket industry.

Working for an industry trade association affords us the opportunity to engage with many types of companies and organizations and provides us with insights into technology innovations and trends. I am amazed at the number of examples of how traditional aftermarket companies and those new to the industry are developing new applications or adapting to new vehicle technologies. Some of the examples include:

  • An increasing number of passive advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) products are available for retrofitting vehicles on the road, which will certainly lead to fewer accidents.
  • Innovative companies are developing shop support and training solutions based on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies.
  • Online and advanced learning management system (LMS) applications are simplifying training for technicians.
  • Robotics and VR tools are making inroads into efficiencies and accuracy in distribution centers.
  • A small, but growing, number of repair shops are investing in controlled areas, targets and training to service ADAS-equipped vehicles.
  • Several suppliers have developed new applications for applying sensors to parts and systems that will collect and communicate data that will indicate the performance, health and life of the parts/systems.
  • Significant progress has been made in developing a concept retrofit Secure Vehicle Interface (SVI) application.
  • Mobile service models are being field tested with plans for rapid expansion.
  • Startups have developed applications that range from the use of monitoring vibrations, frequency, resonance and decibels undercar to identify part wear and predict failure to the creation of simulated connected vehicle environments by enabling smart phones in each vehicle to monitor the position, speed, etc. of nearby phones thereby knowing the position, speed, etc. of nearby vehicles to customer-relationship management (CRM) applications that use telematics, data analytics and the cloud to help repair shops manage all their customers’ vehicles as a fleet.
  • New applications abound to help repair shops better service customers’ vehicles, including apps that identify part wear and predict failure; create simulated connected vehicle environments through customers’ smart phones; or CRMs that use telematics, data analytics and the cloud to manage customers’ vehicles as a fleet.

Why is it so important to shift our thinking from “disrupter” to “enabler?” The reasons are many, but three come to mind:

  1. The perception of a technology-centric industry will go far to help attract engineers, technicians, analysts, supply chain professionals and other talent to the industry.
  2. This will help communicate to the broader automotive industry, government agencies and other critical stakeholders that the aftermarket is a high-tech, innovative industry, and will service and maintain future vehicles properly and safely.
  3. A high-tech image will attract even more interest from emerging technology suppliers and the investment community.

It is exciting to be associated with the industry’s largest and best trade show, AAPEX, which intentionally is creating forums and platforms for education, demonstrations and displays that highlight aftermarket technology advancements. Over the past several years and again this year, attendees will be able to experience AR, VR, ADAS calibration, telematics, predictive analytics, advanced repair shop diagnostics, autonomous driving applications, Big Data and automated warehouse tools.

Do not miss AAPEX 2019 and the many opportunities it will offer to learn how you can use technology to enable business growth, talent acquisition and overall success. 

Technology IS an enabler, but so is AAPEX … however, you have to be there to experience it. Online attendee registration for AAPEX 2019 will open in April. To be notified when it’s open, sign up on the AAPEX website, aapexshow.com.