Interview pt.II: Markus Deichsel from AIC Germany
AIC Germany offers a comprehensive range of automotive spare parts based on the value of the vehicle. In this way, the company ensures that even vehicles for which a repair with original parts would often not make sense for cost reasons remain operational. Jürgen Liebisch founded the company more than forty years ago, in 1975, and today it has grown from a small business with two employees to a medium-sized, globally active company. Since 2004, car parts have been sold under the company’s own label, AIC. The product range is constantly being expanded. The company now stocks more than 13,000 articles in over 100 product groups.
We met Markus Deichsel from product management to talk about the development and importance of data quality.
TecAlliance: Today we are at AIC Germany in Glinde. To be precise, we are in the company’s state-of-the-art warehouse talking to Mr Deichsel. Mr Deichsel would you like to introduce yourself?
Markus Deichsel: With pleasure! I’ve been working at AIC Germany for 17 years and I’m responsible for product management – for data, to be precise.
TecAlliance: AIC Germany has been a TecDoc data supplier since last year. What prompted the company to make this decision?
Markus Deichsel: It’s about visibility, especially with our foreign customers. We want our data to be available and our customers to be able to find our articles.
TecAlliance: What particular advantage do you see in being listed in the TecDoc Catalogue?
Markus Deichsel: Being listed in the TecDoc Catalogue makes it easier for our international customers to transfer our data into their catalogues and we have a faster listing with the customers, which is the main advantage.
TecAlliance: What has changed since then? Have you noticed any significant changes for your business? Has anything improved or developed in a different direction? What is noticeable for you since then?
Markus Deichsel: Well, it is the case that it has already led to a movement among our foreign customers to include more articles. You are listed more quickly there. In this respect, that alone is a very good positive aspect.
TecAlliance: Would you say that being a TecDoc data supplier has a certain signal effect on the market? In other words, that it is associated with a quality standard that is then also perceived accordingly?
Markus Deichsel: Yes, I think so. I believe that when customers see the company in question in the TecDoc Catalogue with competitors such as Bosch, Hella and other large players, that this already has the signal effect that we also deliver quality.
TecAlliance: Behind us is the sample lift in AIC Germany’s warehouse in Glinde. Mr Deichsel, what is it, what can it do and what do you use it for?
Markus Deichsel: This is a state-of-the-art lift where we can generate a very large area on a small footprint. The samples are sorted on trays and the lift then automatically sorts the trays into a register – exactly according to the height that is needed. So I have a huge volume at a height of twelve metres and can store about 2,000 articles in such a lift.
TecAlliance: Of course, you pre-test the quality of the products in the samples. The issue of data quality also plays a role here. How important is data quality for AIC Germany?
Markus Deichsel: Data quality is of course very important because our customers rely on our data. They look in the catalogue, select the article and then they have to be sure that this article is also the right article for their vehicle. If a customer were to buy an item from us and then discover that it doesn’t fit the car at all, that would of course cause uncertainty and, in case of doubt, would also lead to our data not being trusted and the customer then refraining from buying our items.
TecAlliance: Like many companies in the industry, you started with a paper catalogue, but now everything is digital. How has the issue of data quality developed during this time from your point of view?
Markus Deichsel: With the paper catalogue it was of course not possible to go into such detail for the individual vehicle. It was not possible to enter an engine code or a year of manufacture for each individual vehicle, so in principle it was only a guide for our customers as to which articles they might need in their portfolio. Nowadays, the electronic catalogue gives us the opportunity to go into depth and enter all the relevant data, so that the customer can precisely reference whether this article is useful for him or not.
TecAlliance: The issue of “updating” is then very advanced nowadays in a digital catalogue. You can update the data much more often and always provide the customer with the latest data at the point of sale.
Markus Deichsel: We used to enter data into the catalogue once a quarter, then it went on to once a month. In the meantime, we are updating our data on a weekly basis, so that if an error is discovered – which also happens sometimes – we can correct it very quickly.
TecAlliance: Do you notice that this requirement comes from the market – from the customer – that the customer really demands weekly updates and that there is pressure to always have the latest data at the point of sale?
Markus Deichsel: Because we update the data weekly, our data is also available very quickly. Last year, we added 1,700 new articles by September. If we offer a customer a new article and it is available in the catalogue, he can already list it. This speed with which we have our data on the market is a great advantage.
TecAlliance: When you think about the change in your customers’ requirements, what are the biggest developments that have taken place? How do your customers’ data quality requirements differ from what they might have been 10 years ago?
Markus Deichsel: Our customers want more and more detailed information. Sometimes the requirements are not necessary. If I have a tailgate lock, it doesn’t really make sense to specify the installation location at the rear, as this is already defined via the article designation, but our customers want this and of course we are guided by our customers and also feed in this information accordingly.
TecAlliance: Now every company that operates in the automotive aftermarket is very concerned about providing good data quality. What advantages does good data quality have from your point of view?
Markus Deichsel: Good data quality naturally means that our customers can be sure that they are buying the right article from us that they can install in the vehicle. Customer loyalty is then correspondingly strong.
TecAlliance: If we now look at the other side of the coin and think about poor data quality – it can always happen that an error creeps in somewhere. What do you see as the risks and dangers?
Markus Deichsel: Faulty data leads to complaints, and that is of course unintentional. If our customers have complaints because of incorrect data, this weakens their trust in our brand. This is often projected onto other articles, even though it may only affect one article.
TecAlliance: Data quality has come a long way. Where do you see this topic in the future?
Markus Deichsel: We are expanding in the area of product management and hiring additional staff. We have now hired a photographer to ensure better pictures. In the future, we will also offer more 360° images so that the customer can take a closer look at the article and, by increasing the number of staff, we will of course also be in a better position to revise the existing data base more frequently in order to be able to guarantee a higher data quality for the old data as well.
TecAlliance: As a TecDoc data supplier, TecAlliance also comes into play: how do we support you in maintaining a certain data standard?
Markus Deichsel: TecAlliance has revised the criteria for the articles and this naturally has the advantage that the articles become more comparable. In the past, if I take brake discs as an example, one customer would only take the diameter as a criterion, the next would take the outside diameter and the next but one would take the brake disc diameter. If the customer then set a filter, which filter should he take? The fact that these specifications are now tighter and that certain criteria have to be selected and you no longer have a free choice, naturally leads to the fact that the filters that are set mean that you have a quicker overview and comparability of the articles in the catalogue.
TecAlliance: That means that you very much welcome the data quality offensive that was launched last year?
Markus Deichsel: Yes, that is so. I would have liked it even earlier. That way we wouldn’t have had to update all the old data. That’s a lot of work, because you have to revise the whole old database. The data wasn’t bad, for example we specified the outer diameter as a criterion for the brake disc, but now every article has to be revised so that the new criteria are met.
TecAlliance: The new data quality offensive is also accompanied by new KPIs. How do you implement this in-house in order to fulfil these KPIs?
Markus Deichsel: With manpower. It’s very time-consuming and it can only be done gradually. It’s not a switch that is flipped and all of a sudden you have it. We have a lot of work to do. Of course, we have started and are implementing it step by step. But it takes time.
TecAlliance: With this new offensive, a new quality standard has also been introduced. In addition to the Certified Data Supplier, we also have the Premier Data Supplier. How important is it for you to achieve this certification?
Markus Deichsel: It is very important to us. We also want to lead the way and show our customers that we deliver appropriate data quality in order to strengthen customer confidence.
TecAlliance: So the Premier Data Supplier as a certification also has a certain signalling effect on the market for you and would function like a kind of quality award for you?
Markus Deichsel: Yes, I see it that way.
TecAlliance: Thank you very much for the interview!