Not since the early 1900s, when model T Fords were rolling off the production line has the automotive industry faced such a transformative time with as many new regulations, technologies, and consumer preferences.

The modern automotive industry, although constrained by strict compliance and regulatory requirements has grown into a vast and intricate network of auto manufacturers, aftermarket suppliers, parts distributors, and dealerships. A typical vehicle is made up of around 30,000 parts, each with their unique attributes, requiring precise management within a complex supply chain. 

Add to the mix a rise in global automobile sales of Electric Vehicles (EVs), expanding model inventories, advancing technology, evolving consumer expectations and data management emerges as a key area of concern. 

To succeed companies must be able to manage and process the growing volumes of operational and product information, and address the increasing complexity of data. So, from car makers to aftermarket parts manufacturers, the need for a robust and efficient Master Data Management (MDM) system has become crucial.

Read more: What is Stibo STEP?

Navigating the Complexities of Maintaining Make, Model, and Year Information in Auto Parts

One of the most challenging aspects of data management in the automotive industry is the need to maintain and update make, model, and year information for auto parts, also known as application data. This requirement holds true for both the OEM and aftermarket parts manufacturers, distributors, and retailers all of whom are locating / placing replacement parts.

The challenge is twofold. Firstly, this information must be accurate and up-to-date to avoid selling incompatible or incorrect parts to customers. A slight discrepancy in this information could lead to significant costs due to the fact that most parts are not resalable once they've been attempted to be installed and are thus deemed unusable. 

Secondly, the data comes in various formats and needs to be harmonised and standardised. This is particularly true for the interchange information, which cross-references the part number for an auto part with other part numbers for hundreds of thousands of products/SKUs and vehicle configurations, as well as millions of part-to-vehicle relations and interchange records.

Oftentimes, this data is not in a uniform format, making it challenging to manage and use efficiently. Plus, aftermarket parts manufacturers must determine whether an existing part can be utilised or if they need to produce a new part.

Read more: How B2B Distributors can successfully leverage MDM

The Stibo Systems' STEP MDM solution elegantly navigates these complexities. The solution provides a unified and single source of truth for all the product data, including make, model, and year information for auto parts. This capability is vital as it allows companies to manage data from different sources, in diverse formats, and of varying quality levels. 

The STEP MDM solution also supports the adoption of automotive aftermarket data standards, ensuring that the data meets these requirements.

With Stibo's STEP platform, automotive companies can seamlessly manage and update their product attribute data and digital assets. They can validate, process, and deliver this data into the information supply chain in near real-time. This ensures accurate and timely availability of make, model, and year information for auto parts across all stakeholders.

As a result, the STEP solution not only mitigates the risks of incorrect parts installation and returns, but also boosts efficiency and productivity by ensuring all data is up-to-date, accurate, and compliant with industry standards. Therefore, navigating the complexities of maintaining make, model, and year information becomes much simpler and streamlined with Stibo Systems' STEP MDM solution.

Read more: Use Stibo STEP to accelerate digital transformation in manufacturing

.

The Need for Standardised Exchange of Product Information

Exchanging product information about car parts in the automotive supply chain is a crucial yet complex process, given the diversity in part types and characteristics.

As industry stakeholders, the consumers and businesses continue to evolve their digital behaviour when it comes to purchasing parts and managing business relationships. The implication is that product information needs therefore to seamlessly feed online product pages with product descriptions and images to ensure stakeholders have access to the correct vehicle make, model, and year data.

Therefore, the need for a standardised framework for data exchange is paramount to ensure smooth, efficient, and error-free communication across the entire supply chain. This is where ACES/PIES in the US and TecDoc in Europe come in.

The Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES) and the Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) are systems developed by the Auto Care Association in the US. ACES standardises the communication of vehicle applications (which parts fit which vehicles), while PIES standardises the communication of product attributes (sizes, colours, images, descriptions, prices, etc.). These standards are used by manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and software providers to ensure everyone "speaks the same language" when dealing with product data.

Read more: CEOs should consider MDM to help address their top concerns for the next 10 years.

On the other hand, TecDoc is a Europe-based system that offers one of the world's most comprehensive and current automotive aftermarket databases. It provides standardised data for identification and ordering of parts, supporting the seamless exchange of high-quality data within the automotive industry. It simplifies the process of data transfer between manufacturers and traders, enhancing business transactions and customer service.

Stibo Systems' STEP solution recognises the critical role of these standards in facilitating efficient data exchange within the automotive supply chain. As such, STEP fully supports ACES/PIES and TecDoc standards, helping automotive companies across the supply chain leverage these established benchmarks.

STEP creates a central repository where data is consolidated, standardised, and maintained in line with ACES/PIES and TecDoc requirements. This ensures that all the product data, including make, model, and year information for auto parts, adheres to these standards. 

By leveraging these industry standards, STEP enables automotive companies to improve the accuracy and consistency of their product information, reduce errors, streamline business processes, and enhance overall efficiency across the supply chain. 

In this way, Stibo Systems' STEP is playing an integral role in transforming data management in the automotive industry.

Read more: What is the expected financial impact of investing in your Master Data Management (MDM)?

A Single Source of Truth

The STEP MDM solution by Stibo Systems is designed to help manage all product, vehicle, and equipment information all in one place, integrating with and updating internal business systems with the latest product content. 

This approach ensures the delivery of accurate data, reducing inaccuracies that can lead to negative customer experiences and high product return rates. By consistently providing high-quality, complete content to all receivers in the required data formats, manufacturers can improve their brand value and strengthen relationships with their retailers and distributors by building trust.

And with a single view of the customer based on the data, marketing can execute digital activities with targeted, more effective messaging and product offerings.

Cost Reduction through Efficiency

Stibo's MDM solution allows for a more efficient view of procurement information and facilitates a quicker, more informed response to changes in demand and opportunities to make cost savings. 

Centralised data management also decreases costs related to IT and data administration, while leveraging data insights helps collaboration with suppliers, retailers, distributors, and trading partners - enhancing procurement efficiencies, sourcing capabilities, and overall purchasing power.

Key Business Drivers and Benefits

By adhering to industry standards, reducing operational waste and inefficiency, and engaging with customers with accurate, up to date product data, it powers the growing online world and helps provide a better overall experience for customers.

With streamlined workflows and optimised data management, automotive businesses can identify gaps and bring new products to market more quickly.  

STEP helps organisations maintain data quality, adhere to data protection regulations, and avoid potential fines or penalties associated with non-compliance.

Read more: Tips on how to internally sell Master Data Management in your organisation

Key Features

Stibo's MDM STEP solution offers a single, trusted view for the automotive industry for parts and their unique identifiers, enabling efficient data governance, automating data management processes, and reducing manual efforts. It also provides a systematic approach to share that information consistently across all traditional, retail and digital channels.

In conclusion, Stibo's MDM solution presents a comprehensive approach to data management that addresses the complexities and challenges faced by the automotive industry. It leads to improved operational efficiency, reducing costs, and enabling trusted action based on reliable data, providing the agility and single version of the truth needed to act on customer, product and supply chain information.

How Unit of Measure Empowers Businesses Through Expert STEP Implementation

Unit of Measure is a trusted partner in the implementation of Stibo Systems' STEP solution. Our team is composed of seasoned professionals with an in-depth understanding of STEP's features and capabilities and we guide businesses in leveraging this powerful tool to meet their specific needs. 

Our approach includes a comprehensive analysis of your current data management processes, followed by a customised implementation plan designed to optimise and streamline your operations.

Let us know if you are just starting out on your MDM journey and are interested in Unit of Measure performing a remote audit of your status quo. 

We also provide continuous support post-implementation to ensure that your team is proficient in utilising the STEP solution, helping your business make the most out of your investment. By working closely with your team, we facilitate a seamless transition towards a more efficient, standardised, and data-driven operation.

Are you ready to harness the power of Stibo Systems' STEP solution and overcome your data management challenges? Let Unit of Measure be your guide on this journey. Our team is ready to support your business with expert implementation services, continuous guidance, and industry-specific insights.

Transform your data management processes, enhance efficiency, and drive growth in the competitive automotive industry landscape. 

Get in touch with us today and let us demonstrate how STEP can take your business to the next level. Together, we can make your data work harder for you.

Responding to changes in customer behaviour

Looking back at 2022 it has been a year of CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies responding to the changes in how their end-consumer demand has evolved post the COVID pandemic

We have all seen the change in consumer buying behaviour, that continues to see more of us shopping online, a trend that is growing rather than slowing down.

And particularly with consumers within the grocery and the home essentials categories, we see a trend for larger “family pack” or multiple items purchased for stocking up, whether from online or physical stores.

CPGs have therefore had to adapt to a new omnichannel business model, where brands now utilise multiple channels, such as physical stores, e-commerce, and social media, to reach out and engage with their target audience.

Along with the proliferation of digital devices facilitating the increase in online shopping, the change in shopping patterns is fueling not just the usual e-commerce retailers but also segments such as the Direct to Consumer (D2C) sector.

Also, with more of a focus now on health and wellness, consumers have been more concerned about maintaining their physical and mental well-being. The CPG brands have responded with new product development, adding new packaging, sizes and healthy options.

Preparing for new product development

So, as consumers change their traditional buying habits CPG companies must be in a position to be able to respond, developing and launching new products that meet the new preferences of their customers.

The ability for companies to quickly adapt to new market conditions must be built into their organisational structure. They must be primed, ready to react before knowing what those changes may be.

A lot of moving parts go into the launch of a new product - even if it’s just a slight variation of an existing product range. The change must cascade through multiple chains in the organisation, the common denominator is the data about the new product.

So the critical question is: How quickly can an organisation:

It’s all about speed and an organisation having the agility to respond to these changes by being prepared in advance.

How a MDM system like Stibo STEP can make a real difference

Having a single source of truth for your product data available at your fingertips coupled with workflows ensures that all necessary steps in the launch of a new product are taken as fast as possible. It also automates everything that can be automated.

Read more about 7 ways To Advance Your Business with Stibo STEP Workflows.

Being tightly integrated with both back-end / upstream systems ensures that data from ERP, production planning, supply chain systems etc. flows directly to the Stibo STEP system as soon as it’s available.

And as soon as the last step in the workflow is completed, the relevant data is shared with partners, retailers, websites etc.

By streamlining the new product onboarding processes with Stibo STEP, you create a launchpad for your new products that will remove many manual tasks and time waste due to communication gaps between departments and ensure that all necessary processes and procedures are followed.

That’s the kind of agility you need to be able to respond quickly to changes.

What is Stibo STEP?

STEP (Stibo Systems Enterprise Platform) is the most comprehensive software solution for creating, consolidating, managing, and publishing accurate and consistent master data across an enterprise organisation.

It helps companies organise and manage their product, customer, and other types of data.

By enabling CPG companies to gain deeper insights into data they can make more informed decisions to optimise their operations, marketing and sales activities.

CPGs are able with STEP to take their products to market faster; be more customer focused; start earning revenue sooner; streamline processes; reduce supply costs; gain visibility into global operations, and increase profitability.

What are the typical CPG challenges?

CPGs have to manage and analyse a huge amount of product, supplier and customer data, which can be scattered across different systems and channels.

If CPGs are going to launch new products or more effectively manage their supply chain, they are at a competitive disadvantage without a single source of truth of information. STEP has the ability to manage all the data through its lifecycle from creation to publication across different formats for a CPG brand.

Plus, there are a plethora of regulations and standards that must be complied with. Especially as CPG brand owners collect more data on their customers, they need to be aware of their obligations under data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

By using an omnichannel business model, CPG companies can use data from online and offline sales to gain a better understanding of customer preferences and their likely behaviour.

Using data insights, CPGs can tailor their marketing and product offerings to better meet the needs of their customers. Additionally, an omnichannel approach can help CPG companies to reach a wider audience, as customers can purchase products through more channels.

Best practices with Stibo STEP

To unlock the value in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, we have provided below our best practices of using STEP to address many of the CPG business challenges:

Improving data quality and insights

With STEP, CPG companies can ensure that the product information they use is accurate, comprehensive and kept up-to-date by centralising and standardising the data across all the brand systems and channels.

STEP makes it easy to create, manage, publish and access the product information that is needed on a timely, accurate and consistent basis.

With greater data accuracy, it should lead to improved customer satisfaction, less product returns and increased sales if prospective customers have all the information they need to make a purchase.

Plus strategically, access to better data insights will improve decision-making, lessen the risk of errors and reduce the costs associated with fragmented data management.

Increase business efficiency and speed to market

By automating data-related tasks and processes, STEP can help CPG companies save time and reduce the likelihood of manual data input errors.

Using STEP’s flexible workflow engine, CPGs can automate repetitive tasks, make rule-based decisions and streamline business processes. It uses a centralised database as well as an extensible set of APIs that can be used to create custom interfaces for any legacy or third-party system.

Streamlining product information can also reduce the time and cost associated with launching new products, improving their time-to-market and increase the competitiveness and agility of a CPG brand owner to respond to market changes.

Enhanced customer and supplier data management

STEP can be used to more effectively manage customer and supplier data, helping CPG companies to build stronger relationships and increase efficiency in how they manage their supply chain.

Improved supplier performance can directly lead to cost savings, increased revenue and a better bottom line.

By integrating data from multiple sources, STEP can provide a more comprehensive view of customer behaviour, market trends, and product performance, helping CPGs identify new opportunities and improve their marketing and sales efforts.

Improved data governance

By providing a single source of truth and ensuring data quality, STEP can improve data governance and compliance, avoiding any financial penalties and protecting a CPG brand from any reputational damage.

Better customer experience - no matter the channel

By having accurate and updated product information across all systems and channels, CPG companies can improve the customer experience by providing the right product information to the right customer at the right time.

STEP also integrates with marketing automation tools, POS and e-commerce applications to ensure consistent messaging and product information on any sales channel on or offline.

Consumers are increasingly demanding products that are tailored to their individual preferences, and CPG brand owners need to be able to offer personalisation and customisation options in order to remain competitive.

STEP product content can be seamlessly exported into any format required for online or mobile channels as well as print catalogues or brochures.

Unit of Measure, experts in STEP

Overall STEP can help CPG companies to improve their data quality and governance, increase efficiency and revenue, and gain valuable insights for decision making.

At Unit of Measure we have more than 20 years of experience in implementing STEP for large global enterprises with complex requirements.

Read more about Unit of Measure becoming a Stibo partner.

To unlock the full value of your master data, you must first address the complexities that are inherent in your organisational setup and business model.

Typical drivers of complexity for large global enterprises are e.g.:

Stibo STEP was designed from the ground up to address all these inherent complexities and to allow organisations to gain control of their own data. At Unit of Measure we can help to realise this potential for your organisation.

Book a free consultation call with us today to learn more about how we can help.

There can be many reasons for implementing a STEP solution. 

Perhaps you're keen to achieve a single view of product, customer and other master data.

Maybe you're hoping to optimise the processes along your master data value chain, enabling feeds of structured product information to essential marketing and sales channels, such as a webstore.

Delivering on these business drivers results in a master data platform that supports your organisation's current business model. These drivers help your company execute faster, obtain better and more reliable data, spend fewer resources on mundane tasks, break down silos in the organisation, and deliver many other benefits.

But what if you could use STEP to devise an entirely new business model?

In this article, you're going to hear some past accounts of how STEP provided the catalyst for exciting new sources of revenue and bottom-line growth through business model innovation.

Product category expansion

The first example is a STEP project I led for a company that had grown quite big within a single product category. 

Over the years, they had built an impressive homegrown system that successfully supported their single category focus.

But this market dominance had become a problem.

Their market leadership created little room to grow, creating the need for expansion into other product categories.

However, this was easier said than done.

Over the years, they optimised their internal systems for the single category. When they investigated adding new categories with different data and process requirements, it simply wasn't feasible to extend the legacy system.

With the STEP solution we implemented, they got a new platform for their product data that not only supported the complex requirements of the existing product category but also enabled easy expansion into new categories. 

They now offer millions of products across more than 20 high-level categories and hundreds of subcategories.

Leverage your customer interactions to cross-sell

A few years ago, I headed a STEP project for a large construction equipment rentals company that possessed many physical locations and a rapidly growing webstore.

The core business was doing well, but they were not fully taking advantage of their customers' unique situation when they walked into a store or visited the website to rent a piece of equipment for their building projects.

Their customers required additional related items and accessories that would be consumed as part of using the equipment.

The problem was their original system couldn't suggest these additional items, leaving the customer to remember and do the relevant searches, resulting in lost sales opportunities.

By transforming the customer interaction from "taking orders" to advising the customer about the type of construction task they were involved with, it became possible to cross-sell a range of products that the customer would otherwise have gone to a competing store to collect.

Within the webstore, the related products were carefully linked as up-sell or cross-sell options to each piece of building equipment, therefore maximising the revenue opportunity for each transaction.

But we went one step further and provided a personalised customer experience with detailed guidance on how to use each type of equipment for different building projects, which furthermore increased the customer loyalty and the average order
value.

Long tail strategy

In his best-selling book, The Long Tail, author Chris Anderson describes how 'endless aisles' of webstores represent a compelling business opportunity. 

His idea is that most companies tend to focus their product assortment on offering the best-selling items in their market, which drives massive competition.

However, if a company can offer a high volume of products that only produce a sale here and there, the competition would be smaller, but the combined sales would add up to a significant amount.

The 'endless aisles' concept works on the assumption that:

  1. Onboarding the product requires minimal effort
  2. Storage and tied-up capital costs are low
  3. Customer delivery is practically free

Products that fit this description are mainly digital products delivered as downloads or streaming, but the model has even proven itself in the world of physical products.

In a previous STEP project, our challenge was to pursue a long tail strategy, thereby tackling the three points above that are inherent in selling physical products.

For a long tail strategy, the setup would need to ensure that:

  1. Physical products would be easy to onboard to the product catalogue at scale
  2. Products would remain at a supplier's warehouse (at their cost) until sold
  3. Suppliers would deliver directly to customers whenever possible

Point 1 is the most relevant to the Master Data Management (MDM) team. 

It's also the hardest nut to crack. 

For distributors and retailers, onboarding lots of products from many suppliers presents a challenge.

Each supplier has a different level of maturity and sophistication in terms of how they deliver data about their products and to what extent. Data pools and Product Data Syndication solutions can be part of the answer to this challenge, but it 'takes two to tango'. 

If you have hundreds or even thousands of suppliers, you will find that many suppliers will not necessarily dance to your tune unless you are an "800-pound gorilla" in your industry.

To embrace suppliers of different levels of sophistication, we defined a range of supplier data delivery options. Each supplier could choose to deliver data in a way that matched their particular level of sophistication. 

But of course, we incentivised for the highest level of sophistication.

The most sophisticated data delivery mechanism allowed for a fully enriched supply of all relevant content, images and supporting documents. The supplier with the best data would present the best information to potential clients, increasing their likelihood of sales.

We also relaxed the data requirement for long tail products and removed any manual checks so that as many products as possible could flow directly from the supplier's files to the webstore.

Your web shop as a marketplace

A variation of the long tail strategy is to leverage the trust and customer experience that consumers already place in your brand.

A prime example of this business model is Amazon.com. 3rd party vendors have sold on Amazon’s platform for years. The sales from these sellers now account for more than 50% of Amazon’s total revenue. On top of that, Amazon is making billions of dollars from selling advertising and warehouse services to its third party sellers.

In this situation, the challenge you face is balancing consumer trust and loyalty with the reward of increased sales of products that are cheap to onboard and administrate. Sellers must commit to meeting your high standards whilst providing the buying experience that your customers have come to expect.

In a recent project, I led the team that received the product catalogue feeds from vendors. 

Our priority was to ensure two goals:

  1. Product content supplied by the 3rd party vendors would meet the high standards of the customer's brand
  2. Product onboarding would happen without the need for intervention by internal staff

We built a sophisticated data quality 'firewall' that checked incoming data feeds for a long list of data quality issues and data completeness to achieve these goals. 

We needed a simple way to communicate issues with 3rd party vendors, so we built a detailed list of error messages and resolution instructions that got sent to each data feed owner whenever data defects were found.

This firewall system created a feedback loop that allowed 3rd party vendors to self-correct their product data without the need for more costly and time-consuming internal resources. 

The result was a scalable onboarding process with very low variable costs per onboarded product.

Want to re-imagine your business model?

There are many ways your business model can be extended or completely transformed with STEP. In this article you have learned just a sample of what is possible.

I have provided just a few examples of how you could extend your business model with e.g. cross-sell and up-sell capabilities.

I have also discussed building a long-tail product strategy, again underpinned through the STEP architecture.

You could also consider transforming your website into an Amazon-style 3rd party marketplace.

If you would like to explore in which ways your business model could be extended by leveraging the successful STEP implementations we have delivered in the past, the next step is to book a STEP Discovery call.

We are thrilled to announce that Unit of Measure is now officially a Stibo Systems partner.

The partnership will strengthen our already strong relationship with Stibo Systems and we look forward to work closely with Stibo Systems for the years to come.

We are probably one of the only Stibo Systems partners who have a sole focus on providing STEP PIM and MDM implementations, developments and support and being a partner gives us a unique opportunity to access STEP technology and resources that we can use to further develop our offerings to companies running STEP.

Click here to check out our press release about this exciting news.

We're hiring STEP profiles for our office in India

At Unit of Measure, we are right now looking for both highly experienced STEP profiles as well as upcoming STEP talents for our office in India.

Would you like to be part of a dynamic company that:

Unit of Measure was founded by ex-Stibo employee Martin Kjeldsen. He has spent most of his career working with STEP and you now have a chance to become one of the core members of his team to fulfil our vision of making Unit of Measure the leading centre of excellence for STEP competencies.

If you wish to apply for one of the open positions, or maybe just wish to learn more about this opportunity, please follow this link and answer a few questions about yourself and we will be in touch as soon as possible:
https://bit.ly/3jH5D4T