Chris Aiello Chris Aiello

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I recently attended MODEX 2024, and this year’s show was highly anticipated by professionals across our industry.  Automation, robotics, software solutions, artificial intelligence, and more were all on display providing a glimpse into the future of our industry.  With connected smart automation solutions aimed at streaming supply chain operations it made me think of different areas where a lift truck dealership could streamline their operations to gain efficiencies and improve their customer experience.

This led me to the topic of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) integrations.  ERP is your business system software where business activities such as procurement, work orders, accounting, operations, etc. are performed.  There is a numerous amount of ERP providers that provide their version of a dealer management platform.  Additionally, there are many legacy systems out there, however, these days, many dealers are migrating to a modern dealer management platform that allows for integrations.

By definition, an ERP integration allows your operation to streamline business processes, improve efficiency, and facilitate seamless communication and data exchange between different systems, ultimately leading to enhanced decision-making and the ability to adapt to external and internal changes.  In last month’s edition, I wrote about the importance of ‘data-driven decision making’ where I noted that in our ever-changing industry, the ability to make informed decisions swiftly and accurately can be the difference maker in running a successful dealership and remaining competitive in the market.  A modern ERP system that allows for integrations will assist your management team in decision-making about productivity and profitability.

Non-integrated systems result in manual data updates, meaning that information isn’t promptly integrated into the ERP system as it arises in ‘real-time.’ Consequently, you will have to have someone within your company dedicate time to manual data transfer and uploads, resulting in wasted time.  As labor resources are at a premium these days, that wasted time could be better spent on sales growth activities.

There are various methods to achieve ERP integration between your platform and other systems.  One of these methods is an API, or Application Programming Interface, which is a set of rules, protocols, and tools that allows different software applications to communicate with each other.  In addition to API, other methods include middleware, file transfer, web services, and EDI, or Electronic Data Interchange.  While this is not a programming and technical monthly column, you should be aware of these methods of integration and discuss them with your current and/or prospective ERP providers.  You will also want to make sure your ERP system can integrate with your various business systems (such as CRM software) and your various suppliers.

Let’s explore the benefits of ERP integrations as they relate to your parts and service departments.

Parts Department

Does your current platform allow for direct communication between your suppliers and your ERP system?  Having the ability to connect to integrate with your suppliers will help streamline your order and procurement process with real-time, instantaneous feedback on product, pricing, and availability.

Other benefits for your parts department operation include:

  • Eliminating pricing and stock count discrepancies
  • No need to request or manually upload new price files, tapes, etc.
  • Ability to work on one system (your ERP system) and not have to go back and forth to the supplier portal to check product information, price, availability, etc.

The ability to provide end-to-end visibility into the supply chain, from suppliers to customers, is key to your parts department being competitive in your market.  Your parts department managers can track the movement of parts, monitor lead times, and identify bottlenecks or breakdowns in the supply chain.  They can then proactively address any issues because they will have better visibility of supply chain performance.

Another great benefit of having your ERP system integrated with your suppliers is the ability to sell products online.  If you currently have an e-commerce platform or are thinking about creating an e-commerce platform to sell your products online and grow your parts counter sales, this integration will be vital to the success of setting up or updating your e-commerce site.

Service Department

ERP integrations can equip your service managers with real-time data that allows them to manage service technician productivity and profitability more effectively.  It will also allow you to streamline processes and enable data-driven decision-making.

Other benefits for your service department operation include:

  • Many modern ERP systems offer mobile applications that allow technicians to access work orders, customer information, and inventory data from their phones or tablets while in the field. If your ERP system does not have built-in mobile applications, there are mobile applications that can integrate with many legacy ERP systems as well. Mobile accessibility will empower technicians to work more efficiently, without needing to return to the office for information or updates.
  • Integrations can also provide your technicians with access to detailed information about customer history, equipment specifications or manuals, and equipment service history. This allows your technicians to diagnose issues more accurately, order the right parts, and complete repairs right the first time, reducing rework.
  • If your sales department and/or other departments operate on a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform, an ERP integration with the CRM can lead to enhanced communications with your customers. This facilitates more personalized and effective communication, which leads to improved customer relationships and loyalty because each customer experience touchpoint that your customer has with your business is uniform.

Integrating your ERP systems with other software solutions and your supplier’s systems, will eliminate data silos, reduce manual data entry and errors, streamline processes, enhance visibility into your business operations, and ultimately improve productivity for all departments within your business.  You will also foster collaboration amongst your various departments, which is crucial because it promotes cross-functional communication, teamwork, and employee engagement.

About the Author:

Chris Aiello is the Business Development Manager at TVH Parts Co.  He has been in the equipment business for 17-plus years as a service manager, quality assurance manager, and business development manager. Chris now manages a national outside sales team selling replacement parts and accessories in various equipment markets such as material handling, equipment rental, and construction/earthmoving dealerships.

Author: Chris Aiello

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