Frequently Asked Questions
Autology Data Management Group's electronic catalog data management processes are streamlined to provide the highest quality data to the automotive, powersports, and medium/heavy duty aftermarket.
We are always available to answer any questions about our services, and have provided the following answers to some frequently asked questions.
Mapping is the process of converting your raw source data to ACES, NAPA Parts Pro, PIES, or some other format, so that it can be easily translated by your trading partners.
ACES (AAIA Catalog Enhanced Standard) was created several years ago by AAIA. It is the industry standard format for the management and exchange of automotive catalog and vehicle data. An ACES file is delivered in XML, and is designed to be machine readable.
You can read more about ACES here: https://www.autocare.org/ProductDetail.aspx?id=288
The ACES database (which is updated monthly) consists of two main parts: the VCdb (Vehicle Configuration Database), and the PCdb (Parts Categorization Database).
The VCdb is a normalized relational database that describes all passenger cars, vans, and light trucks manufactured for sale in the US, Canada, and Mexico. It also contains vintage vehicles, as well as medium and heavy duty trucks, powersports vehicles, and othermotive. The VCdb tells us, for example, that a Pontiac G3 was manufactured from 2007-2010. The VCdb also tells us which body styles were available for each model year G3, which engine and transmission configurations, which submodels, and over 40 other attributes. Each piece of information is numerically coded, and these codes are delivered in an ACES file, along with your part numbers. Like your catalog, your ACES file tells your receivers "These parts fit these cars."
The PCdb categorizes and standardizes automotive parts nomenclature and positions. That's a fancy way of saying that there are specific numeric codes for front brake pads, for example, and those same numeric codes are used in an ACES file and understood by all ACES receivers.
In this very simple example, the supplier provides information about brake pads for a 2010 Chrysler 300. The data provided by the supplier might look like this:
|Chrysler||300||2010||Front||Brake Pads||ABC-123||AWD; OE Pad Material is Ceramic|
Once mapped to ACES, the same application will look like this:
<App action="A" id="1">
<Note>OE Pad Material is Ceramic</Note>
The make, model, part description, drive type, and position have all been assigned the appropriate ACES codes, which will be translated by the ACES receiver, so that your customers may do a vehicle lookup and arrive at your part number.
If you need an ACES file, you will need a subscription to the ACES tables from the Auto Care Association. This is required as per the ACA terms of service. Any service or software provider will require you to have that subscription. The ACES databases are a valuable and powerful research tool that you can use to create and maintain your catalog. Subscriptions can be purchased from ACA (Formerly AAIA).
The Legacy format is the predecessor to ACES. It is no longer maintained by AAIA. If you have Legacy data now, it can be converted to ACES.
PIES (Product Information Exchange Standard) is the best practice for the management and exchange of product attribute data. A PIES file will contain things like weights, measures, UPC codes, packaging and image information, interchanges, pricing, product descriptions, and much more. Whereas an ACES file contains information about which of your parts fit which vehicles, a PIES file contains only part specific information about each of your part numbers.
Your customers and receivers will be the ones to answer this question. They will tell you what kind of data they need, and where you need to send it.
For vehicle application data: You can send the same ACES file to WHI, Epicor, Amazon, and almost all other retailers and WDs. Many retailers and distributors get their data from WHI and Epicor. Others will directly accept an ACES file. A notable exception is NAPA, who has their own proprietary standard called Parts Pro, which is different from everything else. Check with your receivers to see how they want to receive data.
For part attribute data: Receivers have widely varying requirements for submitting product attribute data. Some will accept generic PIES files, some will only accept custom PIES files, and some won't take PIES files, but will take product attribute data in various forms. Check with your receivers to see what they require.
ACES is a complicated standard, and mapping is a labor intensive process that is difficult to do correctly. At minimum, you would need a subscription to ACES, a tech savvy employee with a great deal of automotive experience, a database management system, and a way to turn files into XML that follows the ACES schema.
Here at Autology, each person has at least 20 years experience in both auto parts and auto parts data services. The result is mapped data of exceptional quality and attention to detail.
We do not sell any software. Why buy a car when you only need a ride to the airport? Autology is a do-it-for-me type service. Autology may be a perfect solution if you:
- Don't want to train, dedicate, or hire someone to do data services work in-house
- Don't want to spend a big chunk of money on a software tool and ACES subscription or software subscription, and then train someone to use it
- Do have a data department/person but need some extra help or quick turnaround on a data project
Services are priced per job. There is no software to buy, no monthly fees, and no contracts to sign. You only pay for what you need.
ACES quotes are based on a number of factors. The most important of those are: the size of the raw dataset/number of applications, the complexity of the data (wiper blades are less complex than internal engine parts, for example), and the quality of the data. For more information on data quality, see "How can I lower my mapping costs?"
PIES quotes are based on the number of part numbers to be included in the file, and how many/which receivers need your PIES data.
Quotes are free, and once we've seen your source data, we can get a quote back to you the same day.
We can accept your source data in nearly any format, but an electronic format such as Excel or text is preferred. Ideally, your data will have separate columns for each of the following: make, model, year or year range, any and all pertinent comments or footnotes, part description, position (if necessary), and part number.
The source data should contain no more and no less information than is necessary to allow your customer to choose the correct part for their car.
There are a number of things you can do to keep your mapping costs as low as possible.
- When building and maintaining your catalog, use separate columns for the following: automobile makes, models, year ranges, part numbers, part descriptions, and footnotes. If your parts are engine driven, add a separate column for engine size. Keep information such as submodel, body type, and drive type out of the makes and models columns, and put it in the footnotes, or in separate columns. This reduces the amount of time we spend prepping your raw data for mapping.
- Use one row for each vehicle application. Avoid combining makes and models in one row. (Year ranges are fine.)
- Standardize footnotes, and use proper grammar and spelling. We will do this as part of the mapping process, but the more time you take to do this, the lower your costs.
- If you need regular updates, make all your changes in a master copy of your raw data that is formatted as described above. This makes it easy for us to compare your old and new files and isolate all the additions and changes. Sending bits and pieces of new data and changes in multiple files that look different from each other and from your raw source data is less efficient and more expensive to map. Well-organized data always yields better results and lower costs.
- Check your data for overlaps. An overlap is a situation where there are two or more part numbers of the same part type for a vehicle, and no way for the customer to choose the correct part. Usually, there is a footnote missing or one of the part numbers is incorrect or obsolete. If we look at your raw source data and don't see any overlaps, your mapping costs immediately drop.
- There is an economy of scale in data mapping, because certain mapping activities take the same amount of time whether your file is 100 rows or 10,000 rows. Large files will cost less per part number than small files. It is more economical and efficient to update once per quarter, for example, than twice per month.
At minimum, we will need a list of your part numbers and the vehicles they fit. You can send us data in just about any format. Text, Excel, or database files are great. PDFs and paper are the least desirable data source because they must be converted to some other format before they can be mapped. PDFs don't always convert cleanly, and there is extra work to be done before the mapping process begins.
The time to map your data depends on the size of the dataset, the complexity of your data, and the quality of your data. Mapping projects rarely take longer than 60 days from the start date, and most take fewer than 30 days.
Different receivers have different procedures for submitting files. We can walk you through those procedures, and some receivers will allow us to submit files on your behalf, which we will do at no extra charge if we have mapped your data.
Publication times vary widely among receivers. WHI and Epicor have monthly data submission deadlines. Meet a deadline, and your data will be published about 90 days later. Amazon has a much quicker publication time (about a week).
Check with your receivers for publication times. If you need to meet a critical publication time, you will want to plan ahead to be sure you leave time for both mapping and publication.
If you will need regular updates, make all your additions and changes in a master copy of your raw data that is formatted as described above in "How can I lower my mapping costs?" This makes it easy for us to electronically compare your old and new files and isolate all the additions and changes. You will not need to keep track of them. Add or delete as many rows and make as many changes as you need, but avoid adding new columns, if possible.
When you're ready for an update, just send us your master file and we'll get a quote back to you right away. The quote will be based on the size of the update.
Once your receivers have your new, mapped data files, they will assess, or review, them. Each receiver has a different process for assessing files, and each will assess them to varying degrees. Once they finish assessing your file, they will email you the results of their assessment. There might be several different smaller reports, or one large report. These must all be addressed with the receiver before they will continue to publish your file.
Assessments can be intimidating. If we map your data, we will address all assessments and reports from your receivers right away and at no extra charge. We are familiar with the assessments and reports of most receivers, and we work closely with their data people to make sure that your file glides smoothly through the publication process.