Warren Smith is a business process/strategy and automotive industry consultant, responsible for recommending and selling business ERP and Supply Chain solutions within the Infor Software Solutions portfolio. Smith spoke with Aftermarket Business World.
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WHAT ARE THE MAIN BENEFITS INFOR CAN OFFER TO AFTERMARKET PARTS DISTRIBUTORS?
We are industry-specific. We have specific functionality designed for the automotive aftermarket requirements. That might mean, for example, demand planning for advanced forecasting. We have additional data contained within the database that can meet, for example, global requirements. We offer the ability for companies to maintain design control though product lifecycle management. We offer the ability to meet industry specific requirements such as Internet parts ordering and the PIES standard for product information exchange, which are part of lifecycle management. Overall, meeting those industry-specific requirements, as well as the EDI capabilities for aftermarket.
WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS FOR UNDERSTANDING THE INDIVIDUAL NEEDS OF EACH CLIENT?
We first take the industry requirements, and we gather that from our participation in, for example, AASA and AAIA, among other industry trade groups. That is the first step, so now we understand where industry is headed. Then, we do a deep discovery with the customer. We have a value engineering process where we will meet with senior-level executives. Typically that might be two hours, or it might be a day. We meet with the executives to understand the business goals and objectives. What are they trying to accomplish big picture? Is it profitability, growth, internationalization, improving operational excellence? If it is a publically held company, that often ties very closely with their investor analysis.
We do a lot of research before we go in to talk to a customer so we really understand what their position is in the marketplace. If we can get a handle on their financials, we’ll also do financial comparisons for them as well. For example, what are inventory turns as compared to the industry. So we’ll get all that detailed information so we’re armed and ready to talk intelligently to the senior execs. Then we’ll take their lead for recommendations on who in the organization are the folks responsible for these key business areas. For sales growth, we’ll perhaps be talking to a VP or director of sales. If manufacturing oriented, we’ll talk to a VP or director of engineering. We will tie their actions, their goals and objectives, to the corporate goals. Sometimes we find that they are not quite aligned. For example, manufacturing folks aren’t quite as tied together as senior execs believe they are.
Once we do that, then we’ll start getting down into the processes. This can take a few weeks. Normally, we’ll try to go in and do this fairly quickly, and then if a customer wants to do more, we can. We’ll get into the processes, how they are designed to meet those requirements. And then the next and final step is tying the software to meet those goals and objectives. Then we’ll sit back with the senior executives and tie together what the software can do and what the value is, and it is much more than just an ROI.
ROIs are oftentimes misleading. If I take a look from the outside and say, “We can change process X and get you Y savings,” that number is not believable. What we do is we go back to the client and say, “What do you think you are going to save if you are able to achieve this process improvement?” They have to settle that internally. It is their numbers, and we help decide if it is the right place to invest. And not only is it specifically the software in which to make the investment, but where do you focus on the implementation? What are those areas of the software that need deep implementation, and what are those pieces of the software where only a minor influence is needed to meet those goals and objectives? We end up with a truly focused approach for the business.