Experts agree: The Independent Automotive Aftermarket (IAM) is characterized by disruptive innovations in the automotive industry. These include the technology and environmental protection-driven trends of recent years, such as electrification, autonomous driving, digitalization, changing mobility needs and new suppliers in the markets. Norbert Pinkerneil, authorized signatory and the person responsible for this area of ERP at GWS Gesellschaft für Warenwirtschafts-Systeme mbH in Münster, explains in an interview how to take on these challenges with a future-oriented IT, such as the interaction of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations and the industry solution gevis ERP | AX. As an ERP-specialist and long-standing Microsoft partner, GWS Gesellschaft für Warenwirtschafts-Systeme mbH is one of the leading providers in the market and serves three leading European parts dealers: EUROPART Holding GmbH, the Swiss Automotive Group (SAG) and Alliance Automotive Germany GmbH (AAGG).
Aftermarket-update: Mr. Pinkerneil, how do the requirements of a car parts dealer concerning an ERP system differ from those of other companies in the B2B sector?
Norbert Pinkerneil: The requirements that independent automotive or commercial parts dealers place on an ERP system are basically similar to those of other trading companies. The aim is to simplify and improve internal and external processes in order to successfully face both the increasing competitive pressure and the changes in market conditions. In line with best practice processes, our ERP system based on Microsoft 365 for Finance and Operations maps these classic trading processes. The challenges of the IAM industry are met by our seamlessly integrated solution gevis ERP | AX and also by using Microsoft technology. Digitalization and automation along the entire process chain, with the customer at the center, are the main drivers in the design of the processes.
Aftermarket-update: Are there any areas in which the improvements and optimizations by the ERP system are particularly evident? Are there differences between the various parts dealers?
Norbert Pinkerneil: Availability and logistics are certainly the central business areas that determine the success of a parts dealer. Needs-based product availability must be mapped in conjunction with fast storage and delivery processes. After all, whether an order is placed or not depends on the availability of goods and delivery times displayed in the web shop in real time. Offering up-to-date information at all times is a great challenge given the well-known wide range of articles. Therefore, all processes — from assortment planning and goods procurement to warehousing and delivery — are supported digitally and paperlessly with intelligent IT in this context. This is where the improvements achieved by an ERP system are particularly evident.
In connection with the Microsoft platform, there are also comprehensive ERP integration scenarios, for example regarding “Connected Cars”. The driver is not only able to receive information on the availability of goods and logistics but also on when and where the repair of his or her vehicle can be carried out.
Aftermarket update: You have several renowned parts dealers as customers. What distinguishes your system from other suppliers on the market?
Norbert Pinkerneil: The mixture of great industry and project expertise, investment and corporate security and a motivated team is what particularly distinguishes us from others, as does our long-standing partnership with Microsoft Dynamics. Thanks to the effective and smooth interaction of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations with our industry solution gevis ERP | AX, we offer a mature ERP platform which can be used internationally and in several languages. Furthermore, special solutions, modules and interfaces in the areas of document management, logistics/warehouse management, telematics or business intelligence can also be added. Many customers use our ERP system completely or partially via the cloud and thus benefit from access to catalog, master and customer data, irrespective of location or time. And this is done device-independently and without interrupting the system, whether it be between international branches or individual departments. The ONE VERSION strategy ensures that the systems are continuously updated, so that innovations and product improvements are quickly put to use. The fact that our solution creates the prerequisites for the adaptation of new technologies such as artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things (IoT) is another point that offers our customers future security. Ultimately, these are the reasons why our customers choose GWS and our ERP system.
Aftermarket-update: What influence does an ERP software have on the process optimization or profitability of a parts dealer?
Norbert Pinkerneil: The importance of modern ERP and technology platforms has never been greater in the IAM segment than it is today. Cooperation with a strong platform supplier such as Microsoft is crucial in order to be prepared for future issues. The use of artificial intelligence, for example for predictive scenarios, will become pervasive in certain process areas. This requires corresponding platform competence.
New IT-based delivery services, such as Amazon, which can serve garages several times a day, or vehicle manufacturers who are gradually expanding their sales networks are further examples that demonstrate the importance of IT in conjunction with technology and put pressure on the independent aftermarket. As a result, the subject of ERP and IT is becoming increasingly important for successfully operating companies. In order not to be cut out of the picture by new offers from manufacturers or other market participants, companies must remove outdated IT landscapes as quickly as possible. Any business that still works with data silos, prefers manual processes or rejects centralized data provision via clouds, accepts drags on growth. And this in turn prevents these businesses from being able to hold their own as parts dealers in the increasingly demanding market in the long term.
Aftermarket update: What are the challenges of implementing a new ERP system at a parts dealer?
Norbert Pinkerneil: The implementation of a new ERP system is a task that challenges and puts particular demands on a company. All specialist areas must be analyzed and reviewed with regard to target-oriented process optimization and automation. This investment often presents a challenge for companies, especially in the areas of project management and change management. Furthermore, the implementation of a new ERP system should not be used to map existing processes in the conventional way but should incorporate changes from the market, technology and customer expectations in order to position the company for the future. This requires a solid and competent partner and an ERP system geared to the future. Furthermore, the necessary management attention on the part of the dealer is important. In my view, the decisive factor is therefore openness to what the parts dealer will be faced with, but above all the willingness to break new ground.
Aftermarket-update: How do you imagine the parts dealer of the future? Which IT and which partners are necessary to remain competitive in the future?
Norbert Pinkerneil: The parts dealer of the future will no longer act as a classic dealer, but rather as a service partner for its customers. Especially in the IAM market segment, companies must assert themselves and face the increasing customer requirements under changing market conditions holistically. Of course, it is important to provide the best possible service to customers in the merchandise business, but it is the complementary services that ultimately ensure long-term customer loyalty.
With the use of our industry solution gevis ERP | AX based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations and Microsoft’s technology platform, we offer an ERP system which supports the relevant business processes of the industry in the best and most innovative way and thus prepares the companies for the future. And the future has long since begun, so it is important to align your company with it now.
Norbert Pinkerneil is an authorized signatory and head of department in the Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations division at GWS Gesellschaft für Warenwirtschafts-Systeme mbH. The graduate computer scientist has been with the company since 1994. Here he deals with the area of consulting and manages various projects. He has been responible for ERP since 2011.