Clearwater, Fla. - When I was first assigned the responsibility of covering the 2018 Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) Technology Conference, held recently in Clearwater, Florida, I wasn't sure what to expect. My only involvement in this segment of the industry has been as a consumer of the parts and tooling many of the member companies produce. I mean, what was a guy that spent most of his adult life with a wrench in his hands going to do at an event attended by senior executives of leading aftermarket suppliers and their large parts house customers?
Looking over the sessions that were being offered, though, quickly changed that. Titles like "Current Challenges To Servicing A Modern Vehicle," featuring ZF Services' Dirk Fuchs and "Augmented Reality For Repair Shops," presented by Rika Nakazawa, VP Strategy and Partnerships with Atheer, seemed to me to be "must attend" topics for anyone involved in the service side of our industry. And there were others on the list that I made sure to highlight so I wouldn't miss them.
Usually when I attend an event it is easy to pick the one or two sessions that make an impression on me, but none of the sessions at the AASA Technology Conference fell flat. They were all interesting, enlightening and informative. Now, with the two days I spent there behind me, let me offer a few highlights.
Two Keynotes For The Price Of One
There were two speakers advertised as "keynote" sessions following the welcoming introduction by Chris Gardner, AASA Vice President. The first was presented by Paul Golata with Mouser Electronics. You may remember Mouser as the company that sponsored a project that resulted in the first car ever produced entirely from 3D modeling. Much of the presentation centered around developments since then, including the addition of onboard drones to provide a birds-eye view for the driver, should they desire. Where would that technology come in handy? How about being stuck in traffic and wondering just how bad it was up ahead?
And while many in the audience asked more about the 3D build of the car, others were quick to point out the real world applications that could be realized in the near future. That is, parts made to OEM specification, in house and on demand. Imagine owning a collision chain and being able to produce replacement parts right there in the shop!
Next was an informative presentation by FBI Special Agent Andy Sekela, who specializes in white collar crimes. Sekela shared valuable information with those attending on how to protect themselves, and their companies, from email scams. These scams are not the infamous letter from some Nigerian attorney that we've all gotten. These are planned, well executed attacks that typically net over $70,000 from their victims. The criminals first hack into your company emails and, Sekela warns, that if you are using a generic email provider for company business (Gmail, Yahoo, and the like), you are making it even easier for the bad guys to get in.
Once in, they monitor your corporate email traffic, learning your corporate "lingo" and who the top executives are. Then, mimicking your own email, they send an order or invoice requesting payment be sent to XYZ. Since the request is being sent to the person responsible for handling these transactions and is on an email that looks like yours, it is often not given a second thought and is processed along with the rest of that day's business. And that's just one method being used! Sekela shared several - and offered tips on what to do if you learn that you've been had. First, contact your bank immediately and stop the transfer. Then call your local FBI office and report the scam. Sekela shared that if the FBI is involved in the first 48 hours, they stand a good chance of recovering the money. After that, though, and it is as good as gone.