Gabe Davis is the CEO of Green Team Technologies, a software company that specializes in cloud-based business management systems and enterprise resource planning tools. Green Team's Fuse5 platform was recently deployed by Bi-State Motor Parts, a distributor based in Blair, Neb.
What are the advantages of using a cloud-based solution in the aftermarket?
The biggest advantage is that it is device agnostic and operating system agnostic. It works on any type of device, and that includes tablets and smartphones. The operating system issue is obviously going to be increasingly important, as Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be a cloud operating system.
Are there particular concerns your customers have about cloud technology? How do you overcome those concerns?
The biggest concern we face on a regular basis is there is definitely a lot of confusion about the term "cloud," because all of the ERP companies use that term. People are confused about what the cloud is, and how to describe it.
What about security concerns?
With true cloud solutions, you're talking about 256-bit SSL encryption. It would take a supercomputer 50 years to hack a single page of our site, and that still wouldn't give them access to our customer data. People do have concerns, because they don't really know what a true cloud site is. Once we clarify how this works, that we are a private cloud solution hosted on Rackspace, they know we're secure.
What are the biggest inventory, forecasting or supply chain challenges your clients face?
The biggest problem they face is SKU proliferation. There are a hundred new SKUs introduced to the market weekly, and a lot of our customers have run up against capped SKU counts in their legacy systems. They can only hold so many SKUs in their systems. Obviously you can't forecast what you don't even have in your system, so SKU proliferation is a challenge.
The average product has a 10.5-year lifecycle, but their business systems only hold sales history for two years. A limited database structure means you can't store all the SKUs or sales history. You can't effectively forecast around those two limitations.
The automotive aftermarket has sometimes been characterized as technology averse, or at least change-averse when it comes to new technology. How do you overcome that tendency when you are talking to potential clients?
There's no doubt that the majority of the customers in this space are change averse. Unfortunately, a lot of companies have not had an awesome experience with their last system conversion, so that makes them hesitant to go to the next platform.
What drives them to ultimately update their platforms are two factors. One, they have to be able to leverage e-commerce platforms like eBay and Amazon. With the percentage of business going through those two channels, your system has to communicate with those platforms.
The other factor is they feel like they have to respond to companies like NAPA. NAPA has a cloud point of sale system that they continue to expand. Their salespeople go to the field with that. Other companies in the aftermarket have to compete and respond to the technology advantages of the top six chains. That's driving independents to respond with a technology solution of their own.
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