June 16, 2003, 12:00 AM

A trade group pushes a retailer-developed auto parts trading network

A b2b network platform developed by O`Reilly Auto Parts and marketed by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association is gaining subscribers from a growing number of auto parts retailers and suppliers.

When O`Reilly Auto Parts wanted to better communicate with its suppliers, it developed ePartnet.com as a platform to exchange business documents over the Internet, replacing the relatively high cost of using value-added networks. Now O`Reilly is making ePartnet.com available to all auto parts retailers and their suppliers through the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association as a software application in what`s now known as the PartnerShip Network.

"The auto parts industry has been talking about this for 12 years, and now with the Internet and new software to connect retailers and suppliers, the time has come," Mike Williams, vice president of information systems for O`Reilly, tells InternetRetailer.com. He adds that O`Reilly decided to make the ePartnet.com platform available to all retailers and suppliers in its industry so they wouldn`t have to develop multiple connections for different trading partners.

O`Reilly began using its ePartnet.com platform early this year and now uses it to connect with about 12 suppliers, including Gates Rubber Co., Dana Corp. and Federal Mogul, Williams says. The system is also being tested by retail chains CSK Auto Inc., Advance Auto Parts and Carquest Corp., while others including Auto Zone are evaluating the system, says Scott Luckett, vice president of information technology for the AAIA.

The PartnerShip Network is designed to produce a quick ROI, Luckett says. To participate, companies acquire the O`Reilly-developed Gateway software from AAIA and install it on their own web servers. The Gateway software costs $4,800 for the first year, including licensing and implementation, then $3,300 each year for licensing. Those costs are per web server installation. Luckett notes that many companies will operate with just one server installation, though some larger companies may install two or three.

Luckett notes that one supplier to O`Reilly has already said it is saving more than $80,000 per year in VAN fees for sending EDI documents, and that large retailers as well as suppliers stand to save well over $100,000 a year in VAN fees. "The ROI is literally measured in weeks," he says.

Luckett adds that the exchange of business documents over the PartnerShip Network is expected to serve as the basis for additional web-based services for participating retailers and suppliers. The first additional service, Internet Parts Ordering, expected to be available later this year, will enable retailers, distributors and shippers to get real-time updates of parts inventory and delivery schedules. This will let a clerk in a participating auto parts store, for example, quickly check a web page to let a customer know when an out-of-stock product will arrive in the store.

 

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