The 5th anniversary of the Autocare Association ACES (Aftermarket Catalog Enhanced Standard) was celebrated at a recent industry association meeting.

Yes, industry standards for the exchange of product information have been with us for half a decade now, and the industry is finally starting to see signs of traction, with manufacturers and resellers alike announcing their adoption and use. The following article provides a quick overview of what the standards mean and how to leverage their use to reduce cost and speed time-to-market.

Industry Standards – the fast-lanes on the Aftermarket Information Highway

The automotive aftermarket industry works with two different data standards – ACES – for the conveyance of information related to fitment data for vehicles and a catalog of vehicle data. The other standard – PIES – or Product Information Exchange Standard – is for commerce-level data related to the part – specifications, images, pricing, and other commercial content. Together, the two standards form the means of communicating vast amounts of data in machine-readable XML formats.

The intent of industry standards is to provide trading partners a robust, consistent and open format which facilitates communication and simplifies the exchange and upload of information to their respective business systems – and send and receive data on the information highway. But there is also the issue of the data, and where it comes from, that has been problematic for so many for so long.

Product Information – the Freight we Haul on the Information Highway

The data that trading partners exchange using these industry standards is the mission-critical product information needed to interpret, select, and purchase the right part for the job. As mentioned, this is broken out into two categories – Fitment Data, which is used to determine which part fits which vehicle; and Commerce-Level Data, which includes the details, specifications, images, pricing and other information related specifically to the part.

The major reason that aftermarket organizations pursued the adoption of standards was to drive cost – and time – out of the supply chain. Autocare Association studies have concluded that the cost (of unsynchronized data), and thus potential savings to the aftermarket industry is 1.7% of sales through the supply chain. While standards alone don’t provide the solution, they do provide a platform for developing processes to streamline the management and conveyance of product information, or the “freight” the aftermarket hauls on the information highway.

Product Information Management (PIM) Solutions – the Engine that Powers the Freight

To complete our analogy, a PIM system could be seen as the engine which powers all aspects of gathering and organizing the freight, loading it, creating the freight manifest, and transporting the data freight along the information highway.

Simply put, a comprehensive PIM system should be able to manage and aggregate all the data required to generate files in the ACES and PIES formats. Most importantly, for the PIES file format, the system should be able to manage, aggregate and create complete trading partner files, including part data and specifications, image and other digital asset information, and pricing.

And the best of the best systems, such as the Pricedex AutoPIM Pro System, will leverage all the management of this aggregation of data, by incorporating processes to create it, track it, and even validate and synchronize it against a trading partner’s data set, providing a total solution to product information management.

Without PIM and Standards, You’re Stuck in the Slow Lane

Thus, you might say that companies without a comprehensive PIM solution and industry-standard data are stuck in traffic on the information highway — or worse, broken down on the shoulder. But those companies utilizing this technology are speeding along in the fast lane, passing their competitors like they’re standing still – and some are.

Which lane do you want to travel in?