Evolution of the Electronic Parts Catalogue
Back in the early 1990’s creating and publishing a parts catalogue was a tedious and time consuming process. A team of Analysts would sift through the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) Bills of Material (BoMs) and process the parts that were deemed ‘service-able’.
These parts were added to file using a card system which involved an archive of thousands of cards kept over many years. Cards were filled in by the Analyst and copies sent to various departments including the typing pool where the information was keyed directly onto the mainframe computer system. This meant that the information was open to mistakes both when making out the cards and when transferring from card to electronic system.
Drawings too were kept on microfiche (circa 800,000) and the catalogue itself was compiled by a pool of personnel whose job it was to ‘compose’ pages individually and then send the finished article to the appropriate analyst for checking and approval or rejection. The analyst could not see the page until it was finished and any mistakes had to be rectified until the page was ‘passed’ for publication.
Parts catalogues were provided for both trucks and vans (in other words predominantly automotive) and were published mainly in hard copy or microfiche. This method involved lots of personnel and storage space, the van catalogues alone in six languages running to 120 volumes of hard copy.
When the DAF ownership came to an end in 1993 and each section was sold off ‘Multipart’ became an independent parts distributor and carried on producing parts catalogues for its main customers, these being the same automotive customers (e.g. Leyland Trucks, DAF trucks & LDV vans) that it had previously served.
In 1996 Multipart was approached by LDV to produce a CD-ROM of all its spare parts by model and so after 12 months of intensive re-writing the data was made ready for publishing in CD-ROM format and thus ‘VANfit’ was born. CD-ROM’s were rapidly becoming the ‘norm’ in replacing hard copy and the 120 volumes were now reduced to a single CD. The CD was only published 4 times a year, therefore the data was effectively out of date the day after publication.
Around the same time Multipart made a commitment to change the way parts were added and catalogues structured by using an electronic data management programme. SHERPA was chosen as the provider and after many months of shadowing analysts and documenting every aspect of the operation the SHERPA team came up with a working version which was adopted and used in March 1997. This system remained in place until 2013.
In 2001, one of Multipart’s new clients (Dennis Eagle) requested a web-based Electronic Parts Catalogue (EPC) and after months of development and testing the on-line EPC went live. The advantages can be seen on our ITS website but include such things as live updates, stock checking and electronic ordering. Another advantage to using the electronic system was that the Analysts could now add parts directly into the Product Data Management (PDM) system which in turn was integrated with the Electronic Parts Catalogue (EPC) and the Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP) which by this time had replaced the mainframe system. The Analyst could now add parts and compile the catalogue page in one operation – negating the need for separate page compilation and drastically reducing the potential for errors.
Since the EPC was launched in 2001 the company has gone through many phases of ownership and name changes – up to the present day where it is now part of the Indian owned TVS Group. Throughout this the EPC has remained stable and has itself been developed into a sophisticated package capable of supporting a multitude of clients including beverage clients such as Molson Coors, Diageo and Greene King. Data is managed using an ‘in-house’ developed PDM system which ‘feeds’ both the EPC and the company’s ERP system with data which means clients can be confident of total control and traceability of their products.
The advent of new systems, backed by a team of dedicated professionals in the Business Technology Department, means TVS ITS is today one of the global leaders in offering sophisticated on-line cataloguing solutions to a multitude of clients.
For more information on the EPC please click here