8 Questions: Mike Swift & the Future of…
- August 14, 2017
First things first: some people may read this blog post and feel it is an endorsement for what Hollander announced this past week at the 2016 Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) conference. It’s not. It’s meant to be an honest observation and opinion about something that I feel is critically important for our industry.
Also, I want to go ahead and put it out there that we were not paid or even asked to produce this content. PartCycle has been and always will be platform agnostic. We support all major systems in the automotive recycling industry and we always will.
I decided to write this blog post to provide my honest and humble thoughts about a new technology I’ve been hearing about and how it may impact the future of the industry.
Okay, that’s out of the way, let’s get started.
At ARA 2016 Hollander showed off their next generation Yard Management System, Powerlink 3, and a few new underlying technologies which will accompany it: A new version of Hollander Interchange and an all new dataset called Converge.
All three of these new products have been under development for more than three years and they bring some very important new capabilities to Hollander customers as well as the rest of the industry as a whole. I want to dive into what these technologies are, what they mean for automotive recyclers today, their impact on the industry moving forward and why everyone should be paying attention.
I don’t want to spend too much time talking specifics, you can get all of that from Hollander, but here are the basics:
Here’s the deal: these new technologies are pretty cool today but they are going to be very important in the future.
For now recyclers will see a much quicker and more streamlined way to inventory parts as well as some other nifty new functionality in Powerlink 3. Look below the sheets, however, and you can see some things that are far more important and interesting.
The true impact of what Hollander has been building over the past few years revolves around the Interchange and Converge data sets. They went back to the drawing board in order to make sure recyclers would have the ability to expand their business, sell more parts and introduce opportunity for companies, like PartCycle, to build far more sophisticated and intelligent technologies.
Okay, buckle up because we’re about to get nerdy for a minute.
The way Hollander previously wrote interchange, relying on humans to document things however they wanted, led to what we technology people call “Unstructured and not normalized data”. That’s a really bad thing.
Here’s the skinny:
Basically, companies like PartCycle were never able to leverage the interchange in any new or interesting ways because the data was all over the place.
Here’s an example of something we wanted to do for our marketplace but couldn’t: We wanted to be able to ask a customer about their vehicle and use the information to infer what part they needed, so we didn’t have to rely on their being able to read and digest the interchange. That’s not possible in “unstructured and not normalized” data world.
This means that only the people who could read and interpret the interchange could reliably find the correct part. You can imagine how much that limits the customer base, especially consumers, who can reliably purchase recycled parts.
Hollander has spent a lot of time and money to standardize how the interchange gets written. They invested in new tools and now enforce standard terminology whenever interchange is written for a particular part. In other words, it will always be “3.7L” no matter who writes it.
This new world of interchange means that, for the first time in history, companies like PartCycle can develop new technologies and new ideas for how parts get inventoried, listed or sold.
Basically, the new Hollander Interchange, has the potential to dramatically change the entire future of technology in the automotive recycling industry.
Converge is, in summary, a set of data which contains a ton of information, from many different sources, about parts and vehicles.
Hollander has been pulling in data from just about everywhere. Most interestingly it includes ACES coded data about OEM parts, aftermarket parts and vehicle configurations.
What’s important about this is simple: recyclers and folks in our industry will now be able to sell a whole lot more parts in the same ways that OE new and the aftermarket have been able to do it for so long.
Here’s an example of something we can possibly do now that we couldn’t before: we wanted to allow customers to buy and sell each and every part on a car. We have customers, all the time, who want to buy a part that recyclers couldn’t previously inventory, such as very specific sensors that don’t yet have interchange.
Converge allows those parts to be put into inventory and eventually sold over the counter or through other channels such as the PartCycle Marketplace.
There are many other exciting opportunities which are now possible because of Converge, to list a few:
When PartCycle was first being considered we looked into many different opportunities for technology to impact the automotive recycling industry. Several of our initial ideas, including the marketplace, pointed to serious shortcomings in the way this industry handled data.
We thought about trying to build a more standardized dataset but ultimately decided it was too ambitious for a startup. We are all very fortunate that Hollander saw it too and decided to spend so much time and money over the past few years to address the problems that were holding the industry back.
I’m not suggesting everyone should jump ship and go all-in with Hollander but I am saying that the things we heard about at ARA. 2016 have major implications for how this industry will work in the future.
Kudos to Hollander for being so ambitious and visionary and congratulations to the team of people who spearheaded this project! People may or may not understand it just yet but you folks have laid the groundwork for a much more interesting and bright future for our industry.
We’re excited, we’re paying attention and anyone who loves our industry should be too.
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