The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) is moving ahead aggressively to develop an industry standard for computer communications that will greatly simplify the way dealers communicate with their business partners.
The problem facing our industry is the same one facing many other industries: how can a retailer communicate simply, efficiently and economically on a regular basis with all of the companies it works with?
The goal here is to let dealers communicate electronically — using one basic procedure — with all OEMs, distributors and other suppliers while operating within a single dealer management system.
Today, dealers communicate by phone, FAX, mail and computer with OEMs, distributors, aftermarket companies and others, such as lenders and insurers. Computer communications are the fastest and most economical, but they can’t be broadly used without an industry-wide standard accepted by everyone.
MIC began studying the possibility of developing such industry computer communications standards more than a year ago.
And last month, MIC staff and its board of directors decided to join an industry-wide automotive group — STAR — which is developing similar standards for that industry. At the same time, it decided to fund a so-called “proof of concept” project to test the actual feasibility of developing one communications procedure for powersports dealers to use with all their suppliers.
The STAR organization
The automobile industry’s program to consolidate communications has taken the form of an organization dubbed STAR, which stands for Standards for Technology in Automotive Retail. STAR includes OEMs, dealers, and providers of systems and financial services.
In a report published this year, entitled, Making the Case for IT Standards in Retail Automotive, STAR notes that the payoff of a standardized system for retailers “will be huge.” The report’s authors write that benefits will include reduced costs, simpler and faster handling of transactions such as parts ordering and credit applications, and flexibility in using computer programs.
STAR’s Web site also says that an open standard would allow multi-line dealers the freedom to operate only one dealer management system.
“That group has been working for a long time developing document and file formats,” says MIC’s Pat Murphy. “We hope to parallel some of those efforts and go down that same track for the powersports industry.”
Meanwhile, the MIC’s standards group has begun a testing project that is expected to be completed by the middle of June.
The project is designed to prove the viability of the concept that one procedure will work for the entire powersports industry.
Murphy declined to identify the participating OEMs, but did say that several major manufacturers are involved.
“We want to find out if we can do this, if it’s achievable,” says Murphy. “A couple of ways will emerge that have merit; the dealer won’t care which one we end up using because he will end up having only one way to communicate.”
The MIC also is working with several distributors to get their input for the project.
MIC adds Technology chief
In addition to stepping up its efforts toward industry standardization, the MIC also beefed up its own information technology expertise when it hired Frank Wagenseller to manage its technology operations.
Wagenseller, who joined MIC in April, previously had been vice president in charge of information technology at Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company in Gilroy, Calif., for four years. He has more than a dozen years of experience working in supply chain management, information systems management and e-commerce applications.
In a related move, Pat Murphy will focus her efforts on standards and technology.
Copyright 2003 Powersports Business