I’m not sure if there has ever been an industry more poised or ready for great change than the automotive aftermarket as it currently exists. While a great deal of technology has found its way into the everyday operations of most of the business concerns operating within the aftermarket you would be hard pressed to call any of them ‘innovative.’ The model is, if nothing else, traditional in both its construction; and, ultimately, its execution.
Business is being done largely as business has always been done for the last hundred years.
Certainly, there have been changes. Instead of looking up parts applications in a physical catalogue and then writing an order by hand… Or, accepting a motorist’s vehicle for service; writing and entering customer information on the work order by hand; looking up both labor and parts in physical books, guides, manuals and catalogues; and, then finishing the process manually: you can accomplish virtually every operational step online and by computer. But, exactly what has changed?
We are doing the same kinds of things the same kinds of ways… Perhaps, a little faster: Perhaps, more accurately: Perhaps, more clearly: Perhaps, accompanied by easier lookup, documentation and retrieval: Perhaps, with the aid of digital image here and there.
But, exactly what has changed?
There is no argument: the computer has made all of our lives easier… and, faster. But, many of the same tasks are still being accomplished much the same way as they have always been accomplished.
The question isn’t whether or not automation is a major contributor to gains in productivity. It is.
The question is, or at least should be: Is what we are doing, or the way we are doing it the most effective, most efficient way to serve the needs of our customers? Or, perhaps, more to the point: Is there another way, a better way, a different approach altogether?
After forty-four years in the business, all these enhancements look like variations on a central theme to me. These variations can be beautiful, but I can’t help but think it may be time for a new ‘musical score,’ a new piece of music altogether.
The problem as I see it is one of imagination. We can’t conceive of something new and different while continuing to embrace what is old, comfortable and familiar. Most of all, it may not be reasonable to ask the industry to reinvent itself while still invested in the current paradigm. Ultimately, both the answer and the pressure to change must to come from the motoring public. It must come from the person burdened with the care and custody of the vehicle because that’s whose wants, needs and expectations we must exceed in order to achieve any measure of success: it will have to be aligned and consistent with the vehicle owner’s life and life style choices.
We (the industry) keep offering you (the motoring public) service options that we choose based upon what we think you may want or need from us.
We keep asking ourselves: Will this work? Is it acceptable? Is it adequate? When the question should really be: What is optimum?
So, I present you with that question: What is optimum? What is it you want, need or expect from us? How would you like those products and services delivered?
If you are a vehicle owner; a member of the motoring public: What do you like about the current model? And, what would you change if you could?
If you are reading this and you are a member of the manufacturing or distribution communities, I’d like to ask you the very same questions. And, if you are a member of the service industry, what do you think about all this? Are things ‘good’ just the way they are? Is this as good as it gets? Or, could things be better?
Better for you… Better for me… Better for your clients.