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The future State of Handling Aftermarket Low Volume Part Numbers

Friday, February 15, 2013 - 09:08
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Aftermarket parts suppliers and distributors understand the challenges and potential benefits of dealing with and supplying low-volume, slow-moving parts. To stand out from low-price volume suppliers and become the ‘go to’ supplier of choice, businesses need to handle the number of parts in addition to high demand components. The ability to act as a full-line supplier to wholesalers and warehouse distributors is a critical differentiation point between our business and the bulk low-cost importers.

In the past, providing full-line, low-volume coverage came with significant and potentially costly challenges. Today, with the application of technology and new methods of manufacturing, this segment of the business can be both profitable and beneficial. Full-line suppliers still face the risk of niche suppliers accessing and utilizing the same technology with greater agility, so the path to success is to adopt these new technologies and manufacturing processes with the speed and agility to maintain profitability.

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To handle low-part volume numbers effectively, cataloguing and product management should utilize technology to keep costs low while providing the detailed level of application information required. Product lifecycle management (PLM) and the ability to convert older designs into 3D computer-aided design (CAD) models with associated graphics and application information is necessary, as is a single system of design and application truth as a primary requirement. The challenge, however, is that much of this information exists in a legacy format or, in some cases, in human minds that are close to retirement. Taking steps to transfer this data into a digital format that can be distributed quickly to multiple systems is essential for success.

Once the product information is available, the next critical process is presenting the product to the market. Although low-volume parts are typically ideal candidates to sell electronically via e-commerce sites, this does not mean suppliers should disregard the current three-step model. Businesses should be prepared to support and enhance their current customer’s distribution model, while making it easier and better for them to sell. In fact, customers looking for low-volume parts could potentially know more about the product than the young employee, so suppliers should provide that employee with online information to help sell the product. Rich content, product details and application information are all critical. If executed correctly, this data should come directly from the PLM and product data management (PDM) systems.

The aftermarket industry has standardized tools like internet parts ordering (IPO) that support order fulfillment for these parts. Wholesalers and distributors will not keep low volume parts in stock, so manufacturers must supply the components, typically from slow-moving warehouses. IPO technology is ideal for supporting order fulfillment of this nature.  

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