Momentum USA, Inc.
Greetings fellow Content professionals. My name is Luke Smith, and I am honored to be serving as your new ACPN Committee Chairman. Many thanks goes to Jason Riegel for his years of ACPN service and his willingness to be my mentor and guide as I take on this role.
I have spent the majority of my career (18 years) in the Information Technology end of automotive manufacturing and distribution. My time so far in our industry has been with small, entrepreneurial companies where a few key people wear many hats out of necessity. In this day-and-age, one of those hats is guaranteed to be Content (capital "C"), and it is likely to land on or near the IT department. No one else in a small company is equipped to take on what is quickly becoming an applied computer science job in service of customers' demands. Repairing automobiles is rapidly evolving towards the digital domain at the same time that the parts-buying public (DIFM and DIY) is becoming accustomed to rich Content supporting ALL products that can be previewed and ordered on a screen.
In the early 2000's the "catalog" people in my company started to realize they were in over their heads trying satisfy the demands of the large institutional data receivers and large retailing customers. The IT department (mostly just me) was called in because there was nowhere else to turn. I became the builder and maintainer of systems and tools for our application experts to plug their vehicle fitment data into and product managers to plug their part attribute data and imagery into. The IT department ended up on the hook for quality control and dissemination of this Content as the demand for faster, cleaner and more machine-readable data grew. I was experiencing the transformation of our industry on my own little island. Several thousand other islands were muddling through this transition at the same time. Big companies supplying Content navigated the transformation by training their catalog experts to become catalog-data experts or by hiring "data" people directly into their catalog departments. I did not set out at the beginning of my career to be a "catalog guy". I would guess that many of the catalog people never saw themselves having to be IT experts. Content and Information Technology are converging fast.
Fortunately, the Auto Care Association is a guiding force with the mission of benefiting the whole spectrum of players in our industry. (If this were a political ad, the music would have just switched keys from minor to major.) ACA does this on the Information Technology front by defining and continuously improving formal technology standards. This work is guided by a committee (Technology Standards Committee) of volunteer leaders from diverse ACA member companies. The product of TSC's work is a collection of “Technology Standards” that include ACES, PIES and a collection of Best-Practice advice. I see ACPN as the community where we break out of islands of isolation and learn from each other how to practically implement ACA's guidance. It is a welcoming community where we let our competitive guard down a little to share ideas about what is working and how to fix what is not working.
In hindsight, I wish I had gotten involved with NCMA (ACPN) ten years earlier than I did. I wish somebody had said "This community is for YOU - it's about Information Technology directly supporting the selling of parts.” 2013 was my first conference. The take-away for me was clear: I am not alone. There were several hundred people experiencing my struggles and ready to connect with me. I want to expand the ACPN by bringing the remaining islanders into community with us.
This year, we have a new Auto Care Association ACPN community liaison, Tom Schiavo, as well as two new ACPN committee members, Eric Lough from PartsTech and David Logan from Federal Mogul. Our ACPN Committee is already hard at work planning the next outstanding conference. We look forward to seeing everyone at the 2019 ACPN Knowledge Exchange Conference in Tampa!