Caught in a Time Warp
It is always amazing to come upon a technology that is so amazingly underutilized. This would be the case for service parts online databases.
We needed a door handle assembly part for a 1997 Honda Accord. First we started with eBay, which really had a pretty small inventory. We could only find the door handle assembly for a four door, not for a two door. This was a dealer only item. The trouble began when we started looking through dealer websites for the item. The experience began to get us thinking that the dealer value-add is seriously in question. Dealers are not necessary to buy cars (they could be bought online, but tested at a manufacturer sponsored center in a mall that had just a few models). The care could then be either transshipped from a different location, or simply build to order. However, instead of this we have this medieval auto dealer system that holds massive amounts of inventory so buyers will make impulse purchases “that day.”
When looking through the websites of dealers, it was absolutely maddening to try to navigate them. Most the sites are caught in a time warp and exhibit the worst of web navigation and design. Some of them ask for contact information so they can treat the desire to purchase parts as a “lead.”
San Francisco Honda, like 99% of the dealerships, seem to seriously misunderstand what the web can do, and how it can help automate transactions. Now we will be calling to the dealer, just like we would have back in 1940.
Why Has Online Parts Supply Demand Matching Been Decentralized to Dealers?
Why does Honda allow dealers, who lack the interest or size to develop competent transactional websites to sell auto-parts on-line? Why are Honda, and other major manufacturers, not managing this with a single website and a national network. It appears as if the dealer network (a way for manufacturers to sell franchises and not have to worry about retail, is interfering with the new realities and efficiencies of the web. Automobiles may have to be serviced locally, but there is no reason, with our fast shipping network, for parts to be managed at dealer locations. And especially when a customer wants to order a part, there is absolutely no reason they should have to a dealer to do so.
Its does not have to be this way. The fulfillment could be performed by dealers, but Honda could manage the front-end, much like Amazon.com.
Learning from Amazon.com
The lesson from Amazon is that the web based supply demand matching no longer needs to be performed by the same organization that performs fulfillment. See this article on Amazon.com and how they serve as a supply demand matcher.
IT and Monitoring Competence and Fourth Party Logistics Providers
The concept of multi-partner coordination enabled by monitoring tools is a concept in logistics called fourth party logistics and is covered in this post.
It’s a sad fact that there is simply not a lot of thinking going on in the management of service parts.