From Paper to Glass
In a recent Podcast with Alex Schuessler, we were talking about technology and the changes that have taken place in the marketplace within our Industry. I have long used the example of the Steam Engine being replaced by the Electric Engine of how we resist changes. Yes, the tool was changed – the engine – but the methods and procedures did not change for a generation. Changing the tool was traumatic enough for the leadership of the day. They couldn’t handle that much change in their lives.
Fast forward to the current situation and the area of technology. The Large Computers arrived in larger businesses sold by consultants for the most part. Thus, a new tool was introduced to the market. We wrote everything on our usual forms and sent the “paper” documents to what was then called “Data Processing.” The information on the paper was punched onto cards. These cards were then processed through readers and then passed on to the computer for processing. The computer was then used to print a report of what was punched into the cards and processed that was sent back to the originator or the document in the first place. This was a lot of extra work. It was justified in the speed with which it could be processed once it was corrected.
The computers changed and the need for punched cards was eliminated when we had the arrival of “Computer Terminals.” This is the beginning of what Alex dubbed the “Paper to Glass” transition. It is a beautiful description of what has happened in dealer business systems, we have taken the older processes and procedures and methods of writing things on a piece of paper and instead of writing them down we have typed the information into a computer screen, from writing on a piece of paper to typing on a screen of glass. Rather a good precise description. This is exactly the same as changing the Steam Engine to an Electric Engine.
Typically, a generation is described as twenty years. With the dates of the 1960’s as the starting point for computers to the 2020’s we are talking about taking three generations to adapt and adjust or methods compared to one generation in the 1800’s. How smart do we appear to be now?
I have talked for years, perhaps decades about the three questions that a customer asks when they need to purchase parts from a dealer. Have you got it? How much is it? How long do I have to wait to get it? I believe that is very straight forward. These are the same questions I have when I want to purchase something. BUT. The first question someone asks when a customer calls into a dealer to order parts or walks into the business is never one of those three questions listed above. No, the first question we ask is “Who are you?” We need to know that because the first thing we have to enter on the glass is the customer number. It is very similar to writing the customer number of the order parts sales order form. Does that sound like progress? Or have we simply gone from paper to glass? Can’t we do better than that?
If we look at the service department, we have similar issues. We need to conduct an inspection, either with telematics and sensors or a physical inspection, to determine what is wrong. Then create a quotation, which in most cases is an estimate. Then determine the time line for the repair, establish a schedule, assign the work and complete the work to fix the problem. Of course, it is more complicated than simply finding what part is required to compete a repair but that sounds like a paper to glass transition to me. What about standard times and flat rate pricing? What about understanding objectively the technical skills of each technician and assigning someone to complete the job who has those skills?
I can go on and on in this vein.
Today we have a smaller number of DMS providers in the industry; CDK, DIS, EBS, e-emphasis, Infor, JD Edwards, Oracle, SAP, XAPT and others. (I am sure I missed a few) Each of them is based on the Paper to Glass process.
The real dilemma in all of this to me is that when you change your DMS it is not the cost of the hardware or even of the software that is the real expense. No, it is the retraining of all of your employees in the new methods that are being introduced. Then you go through the curtain on never wanting to go through that change again. It was so painful.
So, Alex called this “Paper to Glass” and he is in the Technology aspect of the industry. I think he is on to something very important and we will talk about this more as time passes.
The Time is Now.