More transparency through better data quality

Last year we launched the Data Quality Management (DQM) Initiative to bring more accuracy, standardisation, and clarity to TecDoc data. As part of the DQM initiative, we defined and implemented a significantly expanded set of rules and KPIs. To meet customer needs more closely, we organised the “TecDoc Quality Workshops” with parts manufacturers (data suppliers) and traders (data users). The findings from these meetings are being used to guide the way forward for the DQM initiative.

We spoke with Benjamin Kleiner – Team Leader Data Management /Project Manager PIM & Shop at CARAT Group – who actively participates in the” TecDoc Quality Workshops” representing the trade side. Mr Kleiner shares his views and experiences with TecDoc data quality and the DQM initiative.

Where does your expertise lie?                                                                                                                                  

Our focus is on the passenger car and commercial vehicle sectors. We concentrate on the B2B sector. However, about 20 partners also have an additional specialised retail channel (B2C). In recent years we have been transforming ourselves to provide solutions for the whole market by developing e-commerce products for our partners and their customers.

In 2022, we implemented a product information management (PIM) system that currently serves a new B2B shop for universal parts. The focus is always on the business segment, although we also want to create solutions such as “service as a product” to enable our partners to increase their share in B2C e-commerce to remain competitive.

CARAT in the IAM: your customers and your offer?

Our direct customers are our partner wholesalers. We serve workshop customers indirectly through them. Both partners and workshops can obtain central marketing support and services in a setup similar to a franchise concept. We offer physical products, marketing & sales services, we process data for use in web catalogues and recently also in online shop systems. In addition, we are in the process of setting up a workshop service platform, called DRIVE MOTIVE, which will bring car drivers and independent workshops together and will support the workshops on their path to digitisation. Our “digital transformation” is already underway, and we are opening up new markets through new business activities.

Thanks to the DQM initiative and the DQM user groups, more transparency and more detailed information are now available. We firmly believe that continuously sharing and measuring KPIs will enable mutual growth and help our partners and their customers to make the right decisions today and tomorrow.

Benjamin Kleiner – Team Leader Data Management /Project Manager PIM & Shop at CARAT Group

What are the requirements of your customers? How are they changing?

Looking back, we focused more on wholesalers. Considering the changing customer dynamics, it is now important for us to consider both sides – wholesalers and workshops – because this is the only way we can build service platforms with added value for our partners.

We know that B2B has its own complex sales structures. However, similar to companies operating in the B2C environment, we now tend to view workshops as end consumers. The workshop employees and master mechanics think and behave like end customers when they order parts. The distinction between B2B and B2C is disappearing more and more, which is a challenge for us.

Services have to be defined more broadly, because it is no longer enough to cover the old world of the three-tier distribution. Strategies have to be reconsidered.

How do you ensure competitiveness in the IAM?

Today’s IAM environment continues to require competitive purchasing terms and product availability with a reliable supply of parts. That has always been the case and these core competencies are also influenced by data or controlled by the quality of data. In addition, we focus on re-evaluating the data we will need tomorrow to find new sales opportunities, for example in e-commerce. It is the “new data” that we are talking about.

What is the key to success in e-commerce?

It is important to mention that prices are not the key to success in e-commerce, but data and services. We believe that competitive pricing brings short-term success, but excellent data and service are more important in the long term. It’s about finding and recommending products.

In the B2B environment, too, the structure and concept of online shops must be consumer-oriented. It is a special “art” to have such a high degree of flexibility, accuracy and comparability in the form of transparency in your data to always be able to react to the changing business environment.

Competing with the big e-commerce platforms – is that possible in the IAM?

This is indeed a burning question for anyone doing business in the IAM. Competition is always good for the market. The more competitors, the more flexibly we can act so that we have more freedom. However, we have to be careful with the big platforms. The technical advantages they have built up over decades must not become so large that traditional traders can only operate in niches.

I believe that our success is largely based on our profound knowledge and market expertise. We have this knowledge but less technology than the big e-commerce platforms. Therefore, we need to develop systems to optimally use and present this expertise to the market. Although competition has intensified more and more in recent years, the trade groups are working hard and making enormous progress. Those traders that have reliable data and the best systems have the best chance of surviving in the coming years.

CARAT works with TecDoc – please tell us why.

We have been a TecDoc customer since the beginning in the 1990s. TecDoc is our main data supplier for a wide range of applications that help us fulfil our customers’ and partners’ needs.

The TecDoc standard is our primary tool to set up, refine and further process data. In addition, we use the TecRMI and TecCom solutions: The TecRMI labour times help workshops make accurate quotes. And we use TecCom because we can reach a vast majority of our suppliers via a single interface where they all speak the same “language”. The standardised message quality enables us to automate and speed up the processes in our warehouse.

TecDoc has launched the Data Quality Management Initiative (DQM) to improve data quality and standardise product data. Why is this important for CARAT?

The data standard makes it easier for parts manufacturers, wholesalers and workshop customers to work together across borders. Without a uniform data standard, the rapidly expanding mass of data cannot be managed. Quality suffers considerably if “multi-optionality” is allowed to exist. Data needs to be complete, precise and up to date. Time and quality are therefore decisive factors. In addition, standardisation also supports data modelling.

As a part of the DQM initiative, certain key performance indicators (KPIs) have been introduced for parts manufacturers to improve their product data quality. Do you think these KPIs (e.g. standardisation of attributes, less free text ..) will make a difference?

Yes, we believe that these KPIs will make a difference, provided that there is harmonisation, concretisation and a better overview of the criteria. We are convinced that these measures will ensure a better quality of data from parts manufacturers.

We appreciate that parts manufacturers are working on the quality of their data and trying to achieve Premier Data Supplier certification. We follow these supplier evaluations. In the future, we will pay even more attention to this status and follow the evaluation results more closely.

At the moment, we can’t prove that the suppliers’ efforts have an impact on sales. We are optimistic that we will soon be able to see the results of measuring and analysing the correlation. If the data is correct, suppliers can sell more parts to us.

DQM: What are your expectations from this initiative?

We expect that the changes will be made and implemented in the interest of traders. We also hope that specifically the segment of universal articles will receive more attention in the future. Besides data quality and the measures already taken, I see an increased need for the optimisation of data flows/processes to trade IT systems. I see great potential, above all in the possibilities and flexibility of the TecDoc Web API.

How would you evaluate your collaboration with TecDoc on data?

We’ve seen a big change.

In the past, data quality was not particularly important in the industry. To this day, major manufacturers sometimes don’t even have EAN codes for all their products. However, awareness and willingness to question the relevance of one’s own data are increasing almost daily. I think that this can be described as a paradigm shift in our industry. Awareness of data quality must now be further developed and applied more efficiently by all players.

Now everyone knows the critical importance of data and is focused on data quality. Data errors can drag on, resulting in dissatisfaction and lost revenue. It is important that new developments not only take into account the needs of the parts industry, but also of trade. The parts manufacturers need to be interested in dialogue and support a strong trade to be able to sell their products.

Thanks to the DQM initiative and the DQM user groups, more transparency and more detailed information are now available. We firmly believe that continuously sharing and measuring KPIs will enable mutual growth and help our partners and their customers to make the right decisions today and tomorrow.

TecAlliance has shown its willingness to address the data quality issue and is committed to enabling and providing analytics. We are convinced that the new dialogue and the new concept will produce a win-win situation. As a trading group, we will articulate our interests and needs even more strongly and precisely to TecAlliance in the future.

Even if the implementation of the DQM initiative has only just begun, we are already seeing very good results from the ongoing dialogue and communication.

We believe in open exchange and reducing bureaucracy. That’s why we’re optimistic that we’re on the right track by improving data quality in the IAM!

About CARAT                                                                                                                                                              

CARAT is one of the largest German trading groups in the independent automotive aftermarket. The CARAT Group offers its partners and customers a full range of high-quality products in the areas of car parts (wear and spare parts), diagnostic equipment, tools and workshop equipment. In addition, the group offers a wide range of services. CARAT focuses on medium-sized companies in the vehicle parts wholesale and retail trade of the independent automotive aftermarket(IAM).

One of CARAT’s unique selling points is the central warehouse ad-CARGO in Castrop-Rauxel. With more than 100,000 stocked articles, including a wide range of its partners’ own brands, it ensures the supply of replacement parts just in time. At the beginning of next year, the CARAT Group will further expand its logistics network by opening the ad-CARGO Regional Warehouse South in Nuremberg.