Roger Moyers is the president of Blue Sage Software, which provides ERP and other software solutions to the automotive aftermarket. We spoke to Moyers about technology advancements in the aftermarket and common inventory challenges.
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How is the automotive aftermarket unique in its inventory management requirements?
I think one of the biggest nuances or attributes of the aftermarket, especially as it relates to inventory, is how many different SKUs that a typical aftermarket distributor has to deal with
They carry parts for many years, for many makes of vehicles, and many models and sub-models within that range.
How can software help suppliers and customers do a better job of forecasting inventory?
We work with various buying groups, and they do two things: They provide economy of scale for improved purchasing power for the warehouse, and they provide provide information about what the group is doing as a whole, so you can see what is going on your region and what kind of parts are selling and which are not. That’s information that they can use to better populate their warehouse.
Are more companies using barcoding technology in the warehouse and going paperless?
Clearly we’re not seeing as much of that as we’d like to. I think one aspect that’s really becoming clear is it is becoming less and less expensive for customers to deploy that type of technology.
One of the biggest challenges of deploying that technology is retraining. If you have had a system in place for 20 years, which many customers have, in to take advantage of newer technology you need to upgrade software or switch to newer platform. That requires retraining on the part of your employees, and that’s one of the biggest hurdles to making the switch to newer technologies, even though it’s less expensive than current technology.
What technologies do you think will have a big impact on logistics operations moving forward?
There are a lot of technologies that have the potential to change things. 3D printing, for example, could have a big impact on the way warehouses carry inventory. They could manufacture parts on the spot. We’re starting to see that for small parts, and that could have a big impact some day.
On the buying side, our customers need the ability for greater inventory visibility, and have an online presence where customers can find your parts in stock in your warehouse, and purchase them 24/7. That’s a must. From our side, we an online storefront that can provide that capability. It’s a different way of accepting orders, and you have to put technology in place to make that work. It is important that understand there is a return on investment from doing that.