Let’s Talk Data: An ARMO Task Force Update
ARMO’s data task force is exploring opportunities to supply restoration product data to members.
For more than a year, the select committee of the Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO) has been discussing how to best address council members’ need for data access and organization. Quite a bit of vehicle data from the ’80s and ’90s is unavailable—information that manufacturers could use for product research.
“A lot of the information seems to have disappeared in the transition from print to digital media,” Chair Dennis Roberts explained.
In the beginning stages of the conversation about this issue, the select committee considered developing a data repository to make it easy for members to find the information. As the project developed, a new plan took shape.
“The one thing we realized was that the information is likely still available through some channels that the OEMs use, so instead of us building a repository, maybe our focus should be on the ability to access that information through licensing or other means,” Roberts said.
A data task force was formed to guide the evolving project, and Brian Rowland was appointed in December to lead the initiative. Rowland is the vice president of merchandising at U.S. Auto Parts, where he oversees data, pricing, merchandising and assortment selection. For the past three years, he has also been responsible for profit and loss for the performance and accessories line of business. He has also been a member of the Auto Care Association’s National Catalog Manager’s Association board of directors for four years, working with members to adopt data standards. With his extensive data-management experience and in-depth understanding of the Aftermarket Catalog Enhanced Standard (ACES) and the Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES), Rowland was a natural fit for the position. He has already brought more definition to the project and is beginning to chart the course for the next few years.
Long term, Rowland said that the group would still love to create a data repository for members. For now, the task force is focused on exploring options and a few in-between steps.
“By the end of this year, we hope to have identified two or three data sources that we feel are going to be the best ones out there for the marketplace, and ideally, we’ve negotiated free access for the membership,” he said. “I don’t know if we’re going to get it free or not, but at least we hope to negotiate some sort of very economical access to that information for everyone.”
Along with this research, there are quite a few opportunities for council collaboration with the SEMA Data Co-op in organizing vehicle and product data according to aftermarket industry standards. While Rowland acknowledged that using the SDC takes a big commitment up front in the way of time and energy, he has seen it pay off in the end. Ultimately, manufacturers benefit because they have to maintain data in only one place and can control which retailers access it. Roberts said that this control is a very important feature for manufacturers.
“Retailers often miss the best selling features, or the data somehow or another gets disorganized,” he said. “The manufacturers, if they’re entering and controlling their own data, have the ability to make sure that the most important features are included.”
Rowland hopes ARMO can become a resource for member companies that need to organize or access data, but he recognizes a unique set of challenges for the restoration market.
ACES, Rowland explained, is information about fitment—which products can be used with which models. One challenge is that some of the vehicle configuration data prior to 1985 can become problematic. While this presents one area for the task force to begin working, Rowland and Roberts hope that members will reach out with their own perspectives and ideas.
“We don’t want to presume anything,” Rowland said. “We want to understand what’s keeping our membership up at night and how we can make their day-to-day lives and jobs easier. I want to rely on canvassing the population a little bit more to really make sure that we’re focused on the right areas. We don’t have a whole lot of direct answers right now. We have a whole lot of ideas, but we want to make sure this is providing the most value to the membership.”
He encouraged council members to participate.
“Don’t suffer in silence; don’t be shy,” he said. “Let us know what challenges you are facing, because that’s really what we want to focus on.”
Members can reach out to ARMO Council Director Jim Skelly with questions or feedback. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 909-978-6690.