Even with parts attribute standards and e-commerce platforms, ordering parts in the aftermarket can be a challenge, especially for repair shops that are trying to comparison shop based on price and performance. Another problem: nearly 80 percent of auto parts orders are still placed over the phone, which is inefficient and costly for repairers, retailers, and suppliers.
Because repair shops and parts counters aren’t always working from completely accurate information, there are also high rates of returns, which adds even more cost to the supply chain.
That’s the problem Cambridge, Mass.-based PartsTech is trying to solve. The company has built an electronic catalog that is intuitive, more aligned with consumer-style shopping websites like Expedia and that includes embedded chat and voice control. Bot the repair shop and the retailer or supplier know exactly what part and what vehicles are involved in the order, which increases accuracy and efficiency.
PartsTech is an aggregation and search technology that makes it easier for repairers to locate the right part at the price that works for them. The PartsTech model is already being utilized by a number of customers, and gained further affirmation late in 2018 when NAPA announced it had partnered with PartsTech to open new e-commerce sales distribution channels. PartsTech has also partnered with Advance Auto Parts.
Single point of integration
PartsTech was founded by CEO Greg Kirber and chief marketing officer Erik St. Pierre. Kirber had worked in the parts department of a Mercedes dealership and had his own repair shop. “It didn’t’ matter what side of the counter I was on, the parts ordering process was incredibly inefficient,” Kirber says.
|Greg Kirber||Erik St. Pierre|
“Repairers have to call multiple parts counters, reciting the same information over and over, navigating catalogs over and over again,” St. Pierre says. “We thought that we could do something better with software.”
The two founders met in graduate school and received some research funding at the University of Connecticut to evaluate phone call volumes, product return rates, and other metrics like shop downtime.
“Return rates were going through the roof as more electronic sensors were integrated with parts and there was greater parts proliferation,” Kirber says. “There only varying levels of e-commerce at that point.”
The backbone of PartsTech is the company’s electronic parts order catalog. The company ingests product fitment information, schematics, diagrams, images and other data from manufacturers and suppliers. The data is validated and mapped using proprietary technology, which allows repair shops to see exactly which parts fit the vehicle they are working on.
“That’s how we can identify the right components, identify who has the product in stock, and how quickly they can get the parts,” Kirber says.
The parts ordering functionality can be integrated with the repairer’s shop management system as a catalog and ordering tool. “Parts ordering is a complicated part of the process and can take up an inordinate amount of time,” St. Pierre says. “We can provide the shop management system with a single point of integration to 22,000 pats stores. Its streamlines the integration of parts ordering.”
Right now, PartsTech has data form roughly 1,700 manufacturers and brands, including more than 7 million SKUs, and the company has connected its data to more than 22,000 parts stores across the U.S.
For retailers and distributors, PartsTech provides an easy way to connect to the dozens of shop management systems currently being used in the aftermarket. “Connectivity sells parts, and those companies want to be in the system that the customer is building the work order in,” St. Pierre says. “It’s hard for them to manage all of those integrations.”
Manufacturers can leverage PartsTech as part of their channel strategy by publishing data through the company’s catalog. “One of the problems they have is the speed at which they can get product data down to the repair shop,” St. Pierre says. “It can take months to get new SKUs down to the shop so they can find the products. Because PartsTech is cloud based, we can process new catalog data in just a few days, and the repair shop can access that at immediately.”
Kirber says that PartsTech is experiencing significant growth right now. “We’ve partnered with some new cloud-based shop management systems,” Kirber says. “There are a number of new products out there that are utilizing our suit of tools and APIs to power their procurement and estimating features, and that’s been fantastic. We also have some other partnerships in the works that we’ll be announcing this year. We’re displacing a lot of legacy infrastructure right now.”