Anyone in the United States, Canada, and Mexico that has any business in the manufacturing, distributing, and/or selling of automotive parts will be at least familiar with ACES and PIES. But for those of us who don’t know, these are two aftermarket data standards used in the automotive aftermarket industry. As compared to all other industries, the automotive aftermarket is unique in the way it uses and manages its data.
Those maintaining an auto parts e-commerce business will need to manage the year, make, and model fitment data of all of their products. As such, they are faced with some challenges in terms of how they use and exchange vehicle and product information, how they create and manage their websites and warehouses, and how they sell their products.
The ACES and PIES standards make it possible for these companies to conduct their business. They do so by helping these organizations to manage and exchange fitment data and part numbers between users and by offering the entire automotive aftermarket industry a universal exchange standard to communicate seamlessly.
What Is the Auto Care Association?
Before we can answer the question of what ACES and PIES are, we will also need to have a brief look at the Auto Care Association (ACA). Previously known as the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), the Auto Care Association was established in mid-1999, when both the Automotive Service Industry Association (ASIA) and Automotive Parts and Accessories Association (APAA) joined forces to create a more comprehensive organization.
The ACA is located in Bethesda, MD, and operates as a not-for-profit trade association. It’s comprised of over 3,000 members and affiliate companies and represents over 538,000 automotive aftermarket businesses across the United States, Canada, and Mexico involved in the manufacture, distribution, retail, and installation of various automotive products, tools, and services. Not only does the ACA promote and advance the interests of those businesses, but it’s also the creator and manager of the ACES and PIES data standards.
As a side note, you may encounter these two information exchange standards written as “AAIA ACES” and “AAIA PIES.”
ACES Product Data
Sometimes known as the Aftermarket Catalog Enhanced Standard, the Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard (ACES) is used for exchanging and managing automotive catalog applications data. For example, manufacturers will send and receive automotive product data by using industry-standard vehicle applications. This information includes elements such as year, make, model, part types, and other similar qualifiers. The ACES standard’s information is also configured in several databases as follows:
- The Vehicle Configuration Database (VCdb) – This particular database is comprised of around 60,000 year/make/model vehicle combinations from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The ACA updates and maintains this database about once per month, adding and eliminating various vehicle configurations as they enter or exit the market.
- The Parts Configuration Database (PCdb) – The second ACES database contains a list of all part types and categories, which include service items, replacement parts, and similar supplies found in the aftermarket industry. Manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers can use this database to compare different parts more easily. When the products, part of the catalog data, are properly classified, there will be fewer interpretation mistakes about how each of these individual automotive products should be used.
- The Qualifier database (Qdb) – Though it’s not part of the Aftermarket Catalog Exchange Standard, the Qualified database is a fully normalized and relational database used in conjunction with ACES. It helps standardize fitment terminologies (qualifiers) used in electronic cataloging and data searches and lookups. These qualifiers are needed to correctly navigate the right products. By using these coded qualifiers, trading partners can load their product content faster, increasing sales and speed to market. It also helps by finding the right products and reducing unnecessary returns.
It’s important to keep in mind that standard ACES files come in an XML format. Each of these ACES XML files will contain data about one brand, and aftermarket suppliers are advised to validate all of their aftermarket data against the ACES standard to ensure the information is reliable and correct. If there is any fitment data that is missing, it’s known in the industry as “application holes” and can lead to missed sales opportunities.
PIES Product Data
TheProduct Information Exchange Standard (PIES), somewhat similar to ACES, is used for exchanging automotive aftermarket data and product information management. However, it deals with product data, instead of application information, which focuses on automotive parts and various other accessories. PIES data contains over 20,000 product types spread into 25 categories and over 180 electronic data elements. All the data points found in this industry standard are collected from some of the largest warehouse distributors and retailers in North America, helping others in the automotive aftermarket business to conduct their operations.
The information contained in these PIES XML files can range in a wide variety of product attributes, such as product sizes, weights, prices, kits, brand ID, country of origin, UPC codes, marketing content, and more. Like ACES, PIES also makes use of the parts configuration database mentioned above. In addition, PIES data makes use of the Product Attribute database (PAdb).
- The Product Attribute database (PAdb) – This database is used in combination with PIES and contains product-specific attributes that will describe the fit, form, and function of a particular product. Among these attributes, we can include examples such as color, finish, material, outside diameter, horsepower, port quality, and more. In addition, the PAdb also standardizes this automotive product data in a coded manner. Its attributes are assigned to each product classification found in the Product Classification database (PCdb), where it can also be used by the ACES standard. This high level of standardization makes it possible for this type of data to move quickly and consistently across the entire automotive aftermarket industry.
- The Brand Table – This serves as an aftermarket brand identification database used by both the ACES and PIES data standards. It’s also used by the Internet Parts Ordering (IPO), which is also an aftermarket data standard used in the information and messages flow needed to locate products, inquire about product availability, and order products online. The brand table contains data such as brands, parent company names, and sub-brands, all of which are stored in code. By using the brand table, businesses can increase the speed to market, making it much easier to put together and display product content for an aftermarket catalog. In addition, it helps reduce too much data and category management, as well as product mapping across the industry. By using the brand table, aftermarket companies will reduce the number of errors when representing different brands.
ACES and PIES Working Together
Since ACES and PIES tackle different aspects of the automotive aftermarket industry, they are naturally created to be used together. So, for example, when an aftermarket retailer or warehouse manager wants to determine if a particular component fits a specific vehicle, they will access ACES data. If it does, they will turn to PIES data to determine if that part or accessory will be able to satisfy all of their needs.
When ACES and PIES data standards are used together, automotive eCommerce businesses and others in the aftermarket industry will be able to eliminate most of the guesswork that goes into finding and ordering the correct parts. Nevertheless, it’s of the utmost importance that the fitment and product data used in electronic cataloging are adequately added and regularly updated and maintained. Otherwise, your fitment data will spoil. To prevent this from happening, you will need to use Evokat Premier, a highly-intuitive and easy-to-use cloud-based platform, will do most of the heavy lifting on your behalf and keep you competitive on the market.