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Jul 27, 2012

Vehicle parts cataloguing software improves manufacturer efficiency

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Centurion-based electronic parts catalogue (EPC) software developer Multicat, in April, completed vehicle manufacturer Toyota South Africa Motors’ (TSAM’s) migration from a desktop- based EPC to an online catalogue.

It is also performing online EPC upgrades for truck manufacturers Powerstar and First Automobile Works (FAW).

Multicat MD Robert Hartman says, owing to limited Internet bandwidth allocation and poor Internet speed, it was a challenge to create a Web-based user interface with a functionality that is the same as, or better than, a desktop-based sytem, while maintaining similar response times.

These challenges were overcome by improving the Web-based catalogue which entailed using Internet development tool Microsoft Silverlight to enable better functionality and rolling out a desktop-based alternative in parallel.

TSAM EPC Project
Similarly, the TSAM EPC migration started as a desktop-based catalogue and progressed to the Web-based Multicat Web 2.12 catalogue.

TSAM opted for a gradual migration, with online and desktop versions running in parallel for more than a year, which allowed time for dealers to improve their Internet bandwidth allocation.

Hartman says pilot sites at TSAM started to use the online catalogue in the first quarter of 2011 and all dealerships were given access to the EPC by mid-2011, while the last few desktop-based features were phased out by April.

The online EPC guarantees that dealers always have access to the latest part prices and data on any vehicle model available.

The online catalogue integrates into the online portal at TSAM, improving efficiency and integration into dealers’ other office systems, such as internal bulletins and financial systems.

Throughout the migration process, Multicat was responsible for the supply of the Web software, as well as handling the user management and support for the system.

Powerstar and FAW EPC Project
Meanwhile, the Web-based EPC required by FAW and Powerstar was different from that of TSAM, as no previous cataloguing systems were used by either company.

Multicat is currently undertaking an EPC installation at Powerstar, which until now, has used standard office tools like email and spreadsheets to log its parts.

The EPC roll-out and imple- mentation will improve interaction among the truck manufacturer’s dealers and the parts catalogue will be accurate and accessible to all dealers, which may improve sales and workflow, says Hartman.

Dealers will be able to log into the portal on a daily basis and access bulletins, documents and other corporate communication, while customers will have access to the parts catalogue, training, warranties and most other relevant data on a single online portal.

Hartman says a similar system has been implemented at FAW.

Multicat is in the process of adding further portal functionality to FAW’s existing catalogue, which was launched in 2010.

This will add functions such as access to warranties and internal bulletins and provide a portal for dealers.

Hartman states that the Multicat EPC is the preferred computer-based electronic catalogue for a number of large corporations, mainly in the motor vehicle and equipment industries in South Africa.

The EPC allows users to perform several actions on a specific part or item, like dropping it in a basket for quotes or orders and obtaining related pricing information.

Multicat can be deployed in all industries, such as the automotive industry, the business-to-business sector and the commercial retail industry to replace paper, microfiche and static data catalogues with business and financial management software solutions, says Hartman.

In the automotive industry, in particular, it improves accuracy by supplying the right part to the end-user the first time. It also saves time by reducing the average period it takes to look up a part, as well as converting this into a quote or order.

Automotive dealers use the software to identify specific vehicle parts in complex assemblies within large catalogues. This is done by means of entering a vehicle identity number, besides other criteria, to filter the EPC to show illustrations and parts of the specific vehicle only, explains Hartman.

Users may then add parts or items to a basket, from which quotes are created, or the basket is processed through the dealer’s financial system.

The Multicat EPC improves efficiency, reduces training time, and is Internet-enabled.

It also features enhanced secur- ity, access and user monitoring on a central server, as well as improved integration capability with other financial systems, providing a lower total cost to the distributor and dealer.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
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