In today’s highly competitive automotive aftermarket industry, those who tend to thrive are usually the companies that have a streamlined data publication process that’s able to satisfy their needs and the needs of their customers. Failure to do so will almost always result in delays when it comes to delivering the product to the market. Given the fact that today’s margins can’t easily absorb too many missed sales opportunities and the possible fines leveled against the manufacturer by the largest sellers, companies with the best operational efficiency are more than ready to snatch up customers from their less-agile counterparts. Only those brands that have an established and efficient data automation process can expect to protect their business and their most important relationships, both with customers and trading partners.
To do that, they will need to be proficient in ACES and PIES product fitment data and proper product information management. But before we go into that, we will need to take a closer look at what ACES and PIES are, as well as the Auto Care Association (ACA). To put it simply, the Auto Care Association, formerly known as the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), is in charge of both the ACES and PIES data standards. It’s also a not-for-profit association with around 3,000 members and affiliate companies. It represents over 538,000 automotive aftermarket companies across the United States that are involved in the manufacture, distribution, and installation of vehicle parts, accessories, tools, supplies, and services. Aside from promoting and furthering the interests of these businesses, the Auto Care Association is also responsible for the creation of the ACES, PIES exchange standards.
Below there is a short description of these two industry standards and how they can be used to increase sales.
The ACES Standard
The Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES) is used in the automotive aftermarket industry as a means of managing and exchanging automotive catalog application data. Manufacturers and retailers will be able to send and receive any automotive product data by using industry standard vehicle applications. These will include such qualifiers as the year, make, and model of the vehicle, among others. Broadly speaking, the ACES data standard also includes product information in the form of part type, part number, and brand, along with other fitment data that can define which vehicles and which vehicle attributes those parts will fit. Therefore, fitment data will cover elements such as the make, model, year, transmission, submodel, engine, and more.
The ACES data standard also includes two relational databases. The Vehicle Configuration Database (VCdb) contains about 60,000 combinations of vehicles from North America. The Auto Care Association updates and maintains this vehicle configuration database about once a month, adding, removing, or reconfiguring vehicle configurations as they enter or exit the market. It is, nevertheless, important to keep in mind that any universal parts that do not have specific product fitment information will also not have any ACES data. The ACES standard is a sort of bridge between a specific vehicle and a part number, found in the vehicle configuration database.
The second of the two relational databases that are part of the ACES exchange standard is the Parts Configuration Database (PCdb). As its name would suggest, the PCdb contains a list of all automotive product data types and categories. This includes everything from service items, replacement components, and other similar supplies and accessories sold in the automotive aftermarket industry. By using this database, all stakeholders in the aftermarket supply chain can put together their auto parts eCommerce catalog. Vehicle owners, on the other hand, can also use the PCdb relational database to compare different components for their vehicles. When the product classification is properly mapped and listed in an automotive eCommerce catalog, there will be far fewer interpretation mistakes in terms of how those components can and should be used. This will help increase sales and improve the overall customer experience.
ACES data comes in the form of XML files and is available through a paid subscription from the Auto Care Association. Each data file will contain information about one brand. Aftermarket suppliers should validate all of their fitment data against the ACES industry standard to make sure that their information is correct. If there is any vehicle fitment data that is missing, the catalog will have “application holes.” This means that, whenever a potential customer will try and look up a particular part or accessory, they will not be able to find it.
The PIES Standard
The Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) is used by those in the automotive aftermarket industry to manage and exchange part number data between all members of the supply chain. The PIES standard holds over 20,000 different product types, in 25 different categories, and more than 180 electronic data elements. Like ACES, PIES is maintained and regularly updated by the Auto Care Association. But unlike ACES, PIES does not require a paid subscription to access and use. There are, however, additional databases that use PIES data and will only be available via subscription.
All information and data points found in the product information exchange standard is collected from the largest retailers and warehouse distribution centers across North America. Among the PIES XML files, there is a wide variety of product information, such as product sizes, weights, kits, prices, UPC codes, brand ID, countries of origin, marketing, and digital assets, and more.
While ACES and PIES address different types of information used in the aftermarket industry, it’s by using them together that businesses can truly streamline their data application processes. So, for example, if a web shop manager wishes to determine whether a particular auto part will fit a certain vehicle, they will reference the ACES data standard. Once this is confirmed, they move on to the PIES product data and find out if that component is able to satisfy all of their needs. By using ACES and PIES together, those in the auto parts eCommerce business can eliminate much of the guesswork that goes into online ordering. But this will only work properly if product information management is also working properly.
Spoiling Fitment Data
When looking at ACES data and fitment information, it’s important to remember that all of this product information is compared to a specific point-in-time vehicle configuration. As new parts, components, accessories, and vehicles are introduced onto the North American market, the Auto Care Association will update its vehicle configurations to include the new changes. As such, a catalog’s product classification also needs to take this into account and will need to be updated on a regular basis, before fitment data begins to “spoil.” These frequent changes in the ACA’s databases means that your own fitment data will only have a period of time before it develops “holes.” Any data mapped to these holes will become invalid, and anyone trying to look up that information will not be able to find it. To prevent these holes from appearing will require ongoing product information management and monthly updates. After all, any aftermarket business’ fitment data is a critical digital asset and should always be complete, accurate, and up-to-date.
It’s also for this reason that ACES PIES consulting is advisable. Illumaware has a seasoned team of automotive aftermarket data professionals ready to help all those in the automotive industry to analyze, establish, and improve their data management process. This team can help both on-site and remotely, depending on your needs. They can help you by:
- Analyzing your current data application processes.
- Exposing any weaknesses and inefficiencies that slow down the time to market.
- Establishing accountability within your organization.
- Implementing data automation best practices.
- Conforming to the changing ACES and PIES industry standards.
- Choosing the best automotive aftermarket technology that will further your effectiveness in the automotive industry.
Illumawware’s team has extensive knowledge and experience in all related data management systems, industry practices, and data automation analysis. If you want to learn more about what we can do for your organization, contact us at your earliest convenience.