Paul Gibbs, Founder of PSG Data Services, talks PMF through his perspective on the most significant change experienced by motor factors since he began working in the industry, the computer system.
It will come as no surprise to you that our industry has moved in line with the fast paced world that we live in today. Technology, be it in the vehicles we drive or the toaster we make our breakfast with, has not only changed the way we do things, but it has affected our everyday lives.
There are plenty of people who have been in the motor factor industry for many, many years, and these people will have seen how the industry has moved forward. The basic ethos of supplying car parts to people or businesses to repair, service or enhance their vehicles has not really changed.
What has changed are the tools that we use to get these components to our customers. The main one is, of course, the computer system.
I, like many of you, come from a time when schools didn’t have a computer, let alone your local parts supplier! So, for all of those youngsters that wonder how we managed to supply an oil filter for, for example, an Austin Allegro, here it goes:
- The phone rang
- After answering the phone, you would take the order for an oil filter for a 1750cc Allegro
- You grabbed your paper catalogue and found the part number
- You then had to walk across the store to check that you had one
- Following this, you would take the filter off the shelf and take it back to the counter
- You then grabbed a carbonated invoice, wrote the part number and quantity down, and then grabbed a folder with all the sale prices in and scribbled the price on the invoice
- Finally, you separated the two parts of the invoice, put one in a tray for later, and walked over to your delivery driver and asked them to deliver it when they could
As you will see, the pace in those days was not quite the same as today’s sales driven environment.
Quite the change
So, what exactly changed? Of course, it was the introduction of the computer system. I myself cut my teeth on an EGO system.
The thought of putting a part number into a huge screen that displayed what was in stock, before printing off an invoice for your driver was once merely a thing of science fiction, but that technology had arrived eventually. At this point, online catalogues weren’t quite available yet, so you still had to look the part up in a catalogue.
All of our stock and order levels were now held on the system. Ordering was just a matter of hitting a button and then either giving it to the rep or faxing it off to the supplier. Customer accounts were all on the system, too, so once again, at the push of a button at the end of the month, the statements were run. It all sounds pretty basic now, but you can imagine how much time and effort this saved the motor factor back then.
At that time, we had a choice of systems from EGO, Tridex and MAM, with all of them trying to develop the best motor factor system available to the industry. It was quite the competition, and each motor factor had to decide which software developer to go with.
The next biggest innovation was the online catalogue. Trees all over the world breathed a sigh of relief as suppliers gradually stopped producing thousands of paper catalogues and started digitising their component listings. I, ever the sceptic, said we would never do away with the paper catalogues, but I was wrong! MAM’s Autocat is a fantastic tool and drives how parts are supplied in the industry these days.
Let’s move to the current day. The computer system is one of the most important tools in a modern motor factor’s arsenal. As previously mentioned, the industry has changed and is more of a sales driven industry. Nevertheless, service is a still as important as ever.
The computer system is like a high performance engine, and what do engines need? Fuel. The computer’s fuel is the data it runs on. Keeping this data up-to-date, accurate and user-friendly will inevitably help those who use it every day to achieve their goals.
From a humble start in the industry with a pencil behind my ear, I now spend my time dialled into motor factors’ systems making sure their data is up-to-date, accurate and useable. With my experience in the trade, I know what a busy sales office/counter needs from their computer system. It needs to have every part number, from not just its prime suppliers, but also second line suppliers, built and priced. It needs a pricing scheme that can maximise its margins whilst staying competitive. It needs order levels set and regular reprofiling done to make sure it has the right stock on the shelf.
This has been a journey from paper to pixels, yet when somebody asks me what I do, I still say “I sell oil filters”.