Automotive Parts Associates (APA) is deploying a number of new technologies and software updates to help members streamline the parts ordering process, increase inventory visibility, and improve their online sales capabilities.
The organization is rolling out WHI’s new SourceIT solution, and has updated its business intelligence and inventory systems.
The APA has been using a business intelligence tool and data warehouse called Data Solutions, which APA developed with WHI. from WHI. Shareholders use the system to select from more than 180 standardized reports to gain better visibility into parts demand across a variety of categories. APA is also able to use the tool to conduct product line and other analyses. The solution incorporates Experian VIO data, which is obtained quarterly.
APA also utilizes a product information and pricing portal (through a partnership with Pricedex Software) where suppliers can load pricing and product information (using the AWDA template), bulletins, marketing flyers, recalls, and other data. “We have around 125 suppliers supporting that effort, and members receive e-mails about what is loaded into the system,” says APA board member Rob Jacobs of Wichita-based Automotive Warehouse Co. “They can download all of that information in ACES and PIES format.”
APA has also launched an e-commerce B2B site built on WHI’s Nexpart tool called Ebiz.parts that shareholders can use to sell product directly to installation shops. “They can also list parts on eBay as well through that tool,” says Paul Brokaw, APA’s director of product and program development.
APA is currently in the process of rolling out the e-commerce component. “It allows APA to have supplier promotions that are directed from APA headquarters,” says Rick Caiello, director of technology management and business development at APA. “We can have supplier promotions on Ebiz, and eventually we could have marketing promotions on there as well.”
APA is also serving as a pilot site for WHI’s new SourceIT solution, which allows users to view parts, pricing and availability directly from the Nexpart Distribution Management invoicing screen. APA is the first program distribution group to adopt SourceIT.
“Shareholders will be able to combine all their Nexpart buying sources on one screen,” Caiello says. “That will eliminate the need for them to have multiple sourcing website screens on the counter person’s terminal.”
Shareholders that want to take advantage of SourceIT do not need to have Nexpart in place. “They can purchase from other shareholders from the Ebiz.parts login page,” Caiello says. “That gives our shareholders an avenue to purchase product from other Nexpart sellers.”
Distributors can set up a preferred buying order sequence in the system and compare pricing between sources. The group is currently testing SourceIT in one region, and the APA plans to have the solution ready to go live with the entire group later this year.
“The biggest benefit for our shareholders will be that hey can buy from multiple sources without having multiple tabs open on their browser,” Brokaw says. “SourceIT consolidates that and ranks them based on the way the owner wants them grouped.”
SourceIT will also help with a major initiative in APA to encourage shareholders to purchase from each other. “We can put shareholders in the market area on that list that are close to them, and they can buy from those shareholders and keep the revenue within the group.”
“At the counter you don’t know what lines all of these warehouses have,” Jacobs adds. “Now you can you enter a part and see all of the sources, all of the brands and prices, everything is there. It saves time, and it’s based on live, on-hand inventory information.”
For e-commerce orders, APA also utilizes Gcommerce’s Virtual Inventory Cloud (VIC) solution, which allows distributors and retailers to locate and order non-stocked items easily from a central interface. “Instead of having 20 different logins for online ordering, each counter person has their own login, they put in a part number, and it shows them live inventory,” Jacobs says. “They can put in their shipping options and find out how much the freight is. You can order parts from multiple vendors at the same time.”
VIC also enables virtual inventory sales from eBay – the orders can be entered into VIC along with drop-ship information, and the parts can be shipped directly to the customer.
In addition to implementing the Ebiz.parts and SourceIT solutions, APA also recently went through a major update of its Data Solutions platform, including new hardware and software.
The new update provides support for ACES data, new security enhancements, report e-mail automation, home page training videos, and a revamped user interface.
“Data Solutions gives us insight into what to stock,” Jacobs says. “There are only so many dollars to go around, and you have to turn those dollars into inventory that is going to sell. You can drill down by member sales, Nexpart sales, national or just your own region, even down to specific ZIP codes. It’s very versatile.”
Users can also establish a favorites list of frequently used reports so they don’t have to search for them. “There are training videos on the home page to provide refresher training, and the shareholder can view and see what a report actually does,” Jacobs says. “They can also see reports based on popularity.”
According to Jacobs, the Ebiz.parts and SourceIT roll outs are APA’s primary technology focus right now, and the organization is in the process of presenting the new options to shareholders at meeting and through webinars. “We let them know what the new technology is going to do for them – they will save time, they can be more accurate on price. There are so many advantages compared to the old way of doing it, it’s not really hard to sell them on it,” Jacobs says. “We’re making them an offer they