Success Multiplier: Technology

SEMA News—April 2012

CHRIS KERSTING

Success Multiplier: Technology

  Chris Kersting-SEMA President and CEO, Automotive Aftermarket Research, Automotive Accessories Research, Rapid Prototype 
   
Ever have the feeling as a small business that it’s tough to compete and stay ahead? That’s pretty common. And yet there are companies out there—some might be your competitors—who make it a priority to use technology to multiply their capabilities.

SEMA offers specific programs and benefits to help members access a variety of key technologies that are changing business in the automotive aftermarket.

To further our goal of making the latest technologies relevant and accessible, SEMA continues to build on our vehicle measuring sessions, our library of digital files, and expand use of our rapid prototyping service.

Measuring Sessions make it possible for SEMA member companies to size up new vehicle models, often before they go on sale. More and more, we see attendees show up with laser scanners that develop a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) file within minutes.

The SEMA Rapid Prototyping Service creates ABS plastic prototypes of member designs at a reduced members-only rate. With this tool, product validation can be accomplished sooner, without the need of a casting mold or CNC programming.

SEMA Tech Transfer provides SEMA manufacturing members with access to OEM part and specification data that can be used to design and build parts without reverse engineering. The library is growing rapidly—this week, seven new CAD files were provided by participating OEMs, including Sierra 2500, Ford F-series, Mustang and Ranger. Last week, eight new files were added.

In an effort to further enhance digital benchmarking, SEMA is developing a pilot program with a company called A2Mac1. The company is considered the leader in providing benchmarking services to the automotive industry, supporting nearly every OEM and more than 50 suppliers in their benchmarking needs. By working jointly with OEMs and suppliers, A2Mac1 has the potential to add to our vehicle technology, Tech Transfer and Measuring Session programs.

If your business isn’t yet set up to work with CAD data, you may want to learn how it could benefit your operation. SEMA’s Business Technology Committee offers a webinar that shows how OEM CAD data can help your company work faster and better, with fewer resources. The webinar is among many SEMA Education Institute (SEI) offerings available free to members by going to www.sema.org and pulling down the Education tab.

On the same site, if you’re not yet familiar with rapid prototyping and 3D printing, you should check out the webinar: “3D Design and Additive Manufacturing.” Additive manufacturing—3D printing—is moving beyond prototyping and becoming a common technology wherever small quantities of durable precision components are needed. It enables “printing” products on a small scale, or designing products without manufacturing limitations, reducing waste and cost.

Still another way to give your company a technological boost is by making sure your product information database is properly organized using industry-accepted, standard conventions. Many companies miss out on profitability by not offering customers complete and informative product information. Properly presented product data can boost a company’s image, increase sales, lower product return rates and improve product exposure.

Best practice is to adopt the Automotive Industry Catalog Enhanced Standard (ACES) and Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) as a standard for product information. By doing so, you can put your company on a path to lower supply costs and increase sales and operational efficiencies. The SEMA Data Coop, being offered to SEMA members in a beta phase at this time, offers SEMA members assistance getting their product data organized and gathered in an industry-wide data repository from which data feeds will be available to data users. The Data Coop also offers data synchronization with channel partners. You’ll find several webinars on the topic on the SEMA Education Institute website, delivered by industry experts.

Technology can be friend or foe, an obstacle or a pathway to success. Awareness is the first step. By understanding new technologies and adapting them to our business, we can multiply our chances for success.