SEMA News—December 2020

BUSINESS

Product Information Management Made Simpler

Now Product Data Is Easier to Create, Update and Share

By Douglas McColloch

PIMS
The recent acquisition of PartsHub will enable SDC-member companies to create and manage product datasets more simply and quickly to share.

Last September, the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC) announced that it had acquired PartsHub, a cloud-based product data management company that offers catalog management solutions designed to enhance a manufacturer’s ability to create and update industry-standardized product information, regardless of the manufacturer’s product data knowledge or expertise.

The acquisition of PartsHub was made to address an SDC shortcoming: the Co-op’s product information management system (PIMS). Its user interface sometimes deterred manufacturers from accessing, visualizing and managing their data independently. The PartsHub acquisition is intended to solve that problem by making product data management simpler, more accessible and more user-friendly for SDC-member companies.

Providing SDC-member companies with a more user-friendly and capable PIMS will:

  • Reduce the “first-step hurdle” by making it easier for manufacturers to get their data organized, thereby providing more data to resellers.
  • Allow manufacturers to become more self-reliant and engaged with their data and the brand image it helps to protect.
  • Facilitate data sets that can easily be exported in formats that resellers need.
  • Allow for additional SDC platform updates for the benefit of manufacturers and resellers.

We recently spoke with Gigi Ho, SDC vice president of operations, about the PartsHub acquisition in order to learn more about the benefits that the merger of PIM systems will confer on existing SDC-member companies. The following has been edited for clarity and length.

SEMA News: We’ll start this interview with the assumption that the acquisition of PartsHub helps to fill some kind of need that existed within SDC. What exactly was that need, and how did it come to be identified?

Gigi Ho: The need had been identified for quite a while in frequent feedback to us by manufacturers and suppliers—the users of our PIMS. The consistent message we kept getting was that the current SDC PIMS is too complicated. It’s not user-friendly, and it’s an impediment to accessing product data.

PIMS
The SDC data team can work one-to-one with member companies to build and manage their product information data sets, and to show how the integration of the PartsHub platform can make the process simpler and hassle-free.

SN: Explain a little bit about what PartsHub is and what it does.

GH: PartsHub is similar to SDC. It’s an online software service platform for data management. It enables manufacturer-suppliers to create industry-standardized ACES [Aftermarket Information Exchange Standard]/PIES [Product Information Exchange Standard] data sets, but it has a very user-friendly interface that is intended for non-data-expert users. It’s aimed at marketers and product managers who know what they want to express about their products and their brands but don’t know anything necessarily about ACES and PIES. They just know the part, how they want it to look, how to describe it, what attributes they want to apply to it, and what vehicles it fits on.

Many product managers and marketers are very savvy, and they’re quite intelligent about a different type of technology. They understand SEO [search-engine optimization] beyond anything I would understand, and they certainly can navigate around CAD [computer-aided design] files and whatever else, but they often don’t know industry standards, don’t know PIES and ACES and all the complexities with naming conventions for product data within the industry, and PartsHub simplifies that.

SN: How did PartsHub come to the attention of SDC?

GH: PartsHub originally reached out to Mike Spagnola [SEMA vice president of OEM and product development programs] in 2019, wondering if SDC wanted to partner with them or acquire them. PartsHub has users who are also SDC members as well, and a lot of those companies were asking Mike to take a look at PartsHub. I used to work for PartsHub and helped to develop their platform originally, so when I signed on with SDC, those big manufacturers again reached out to me saying, “Hey, you should just use PartsHub, because SDC’s PIMS is hard for us to use.”

SN: Without getting into too many granular details, how will PartsHub integrate into SDC’s existing suite of services?

GH: The SDC and PartsHub’s PIM systems already integrate with each other today because of the existing PartsHub customers that are also SDC members. The data flows from PartsHub into the SDC PIMS to go out to our reseller network, so that’s not really going to disrupt the current users of PartsHub at all. However, the reseller relationships are managed in the SDC PIMS, so to manage and approve resellers through the SDC network, manufacturers still will have to log in to SDC’s platform.

SN: What are some of the benefits of this to SDC-member manufacturers as well as to resellers?

GH: One of the shortcomings of our industry in general is that manufacturers—even 20 years into data management and product-information management—are really disconnected from the information that they are giving to their resellers. Invariably, there comes a time when a conversation comes to SDC where someone says, “Why does my product data look like this? That’s not my photo or my description.” And we have to tell them, “Yes, it is, because it’s what we got from you,” because the person who is handling the product data often is not the sales manager or the marketing manager. They delegate that to somebody else, and then we end up having a relationship with someone who is internally disconnected from that product information as well as their brand messaging.

The PartsHub platform gives them the visualization that’s available where they can actually see their product information, almost like what you would expect on a website. They can see that and they can think, “Well, maybe that’s not the description I want to use. Maybe that’s not the image I want as my primary image.” This visualization is going to connect them to their product information and therefore to how they are representing their brand out in the world, so that’s one benefit.

The other benefit for the manufacturers is obviously that the SDC has a very active and large reseller network. SEMA is seen throughout the industry as a great resource for a variety of services, and resellers are increasingly seeing it as a resource for product data as well, so it’s a channel by which to gain access to a huge pool of customers and potential customers that they can grow into.

The third benefit to the manufacturers is that we have a very strong data team, so if there’s any question about which attributes to apply or how best to map fitment information, our data team can help them through that process as well, refining and publishing their product data.

Additional PartsHub Features 

PartsHub provides a user-friendly interface that makes it easy to view and edit product data without having to be an expert in industry standards. Among the many features it makes available to SDC-member companies are:

  • Cloud-based, all-in-one solution for PIES/ACES/digital assets.
  • Inline edits and real-time validations.
  • Built-in workflows with “view only” and “edit” permissions.
  • Import and export to Excel or bulk edit in the app.
  • Receiver-specific scorecards and readiness reports.
  • One-click exports to resellers (XML, XLS, etc.).
  • A well-regarded DIY PIM system; customers score PartsHub at 9 out of 10 across criteria such as ease-of-use, responsiveness, features and functionality.

For existing PartsHub users, the integration with the SDC PIMS will make the transition for current customers simple.

  • Service will continue as is, managing product data within PartsHub.
  • No rate changes with the additional services included.
  • One-on-one training sessions for SDC with be conducted.

Additional benefits are inclusion into SDC’s robust reseller network, access to SDC’s data experts for questions and guidance, and participation in SDC’s Data Excellence Award program. For more information, visit www.semadatacoop.com.

 

SN: How about resellers and retailers? Will this help to streamline data communications between them and the manufacturers?

GH: One benefit for resellers is that they will now have access to additional brands that are PartsHub users but not necessarily SDC members. We’re also already planning on a new user interface that’s tailored for resellers to make accessing their product data a lot easier. When we finally complete a full integration of PartsHub into the SDC system, the relationship between resellers and manufacturers will be seamless and will only have one portal to log onto.

SN: How soon can we expect to see changes in the SDC website and the ability of manufacturers or resellers to access these new features?

GH: For resellers, we presented the new user interface in our SEMA Education seminar at SEMA360 and walked users through the functionalities of the new user interface. The new interface is intended to be intuitive, so even if a reseller missed the seminar, they should still be able to learn and to create their product exports without additional coaching.

SN: What about for manufacturers?

GH: For manufacturers, we are collecting those who are interested and we’re doing a slow rollout so that we can conduct the training. It’s a matter of contacting Jim Graven [SDC East Coast sales manager] or Tom Ameduri [SDC West Coast sales manager], and they’ll be put into a queue so that we can slowly roll out to them and bring them to this part time.

SN: How much training will be required for SDC members?

GH: Not much, thankfully. Most manufacturers require only one 90-minute session, and then they’re ready to jump in on their own.

The feedback that we’ve gotten since the acquisition was announced has been really positive. Manufacturers are eager to take a look and log in and find out more about it and how they can use it. It was lot of work to get here, and now we have more work going forward, but it’s all really exciting.

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