New Tools Are on the Rise
As we monitor, measure and guide our progress here at SEMA, we have developed data points that help us understand how well our member-benefit programs are working. Many times, those signals can vary, but data points can align and crystallize on occasion, making what was cloudy suddenly obvious.
Two such information sources recently crossed my desk that, taken together, point to a trend which all SEMA members should know about.
The first element comes from tracking activity in the SEMA Tech Transfer program. It was not long ago that some member companies considered Tech Transfer their secret weapon, a resource that allowed them to develop new products and reduce time to market. By using Tech Transfer to access vehicle CAD files, these member companies were gaining data that helped them develop products for the newest cars and trucks in comparatively short order.
Conspicuously, Tech Transfer has caught fire in the last two years, morphing into a broadly used production tool. We see that the numbers for CAD file requests, downloads and files processed are larger than ever—and increasing at an accelerated rate. This tells us that CAD design is now becoming a standard tool among specialty-equipment manufacturers.
The trend this data indicates is supported by rapidly growing demand for custom scanning and 3D printing services among Tech Transfer members; indeed, those services are now operating at capacity. In short, those kinds of rapid prototyping technologies, once used by only our larger member companies, have become must-have processes in the manufacturing community.
At the SEMA Garage, we are working to accommodate this accelerating demand by expanding our library of scans and adding a web-based Scan Module to our digital library so that members can view the full array of available digital information.
Another interesting data point comes from the SEMA Data Co-op activity report. We see that the number of live SKUs from manufacturers in the system is exploding, and the data repository had exceeded 57 million vehicle applications as of March. We are also seeing that the trend toward rich data—that is, images, videos and other enhanced marketing materials—is moving forward ahead of schedule. High-volume exports to receivers (distributors and retailers) have become routine, and manufacturers are beginning to feel the pull-through.
Overlay these two trends and it becomes clear: The industry is making the transition to digital processes at an accelerating rate. This is not a statistical blip. We’re not saying that the way manufacturers produce their products—and market their products—is going to evolve. We’re saying a transition has occurred, and we can see it.
Certainly, there are still businesses in our industry that have not yet adopted these technologies, and depending on the niche they occupy, the requirement may be less compelling. But the data we’re looking at tells us that many more SEMA members have taken to building businesses that succeed as the world changes, embracing new tools and riding waves of new developments. It’s how leading companies are getting their products to market sooner and in ways that allow consumers to easily find and compare them and make an informed purchase. And that’s something to think about for those remaining companies if they intend to stay competitive in an evolving business world.