Carolyn Coquillette, founder and CEO of Luscious Garage auto repair shop, knows firsthand about the burdensome process of ordering auto parts and the lack of efficient repair shop management technology. To automate her repair shop, Coquillette developed a shop management system. And to streamline parts ordering, she helped online automotive parts marketplace PartsTech.com in testing and using its new application programming interface, or API.
Now users of Coquillette’s web-based shop management system—including her own Luscious Garage personnel, and people at other repair shops that have also deployed her system—can order from millions of auto parts online as well as manage their shop operations.
Coquillette opened Luscious Garage in 2007, specializing in hybrid car repair. The shop opened about the same time Apple Inc. launched its iPhone, and San Francisco, where the shop is located, was all over both the phone and hybrid vehicles designed to reduce the use of fossil fuels, she says.
But the technology behind iPhones and hybrid cars did not extend to shop management and parts ordering. “I looked at existing systems to run a repair shop and was totally appalled,” Coquillette says. “It was not the message I wanted to send my customers. It was not the world they live in, so I decided to start my own app.”
To meet the needs and expectations if its technology-tuned customers, Coquillette built an app called Hyspace, to provide real-time access to work orders in a paperless, web-based format. The software evolved over the years to meet Luscious Garage’s needs and other shops heard about it and wanted to use it, Coquillette says.
She worked with Chip Keen, a software designer who built a shop management system called Garage Operator that linked online to such networks as NAPA Auto Parts’ Prolink shop management system. In 2013, they funneled key functions of Hyspace into a new code base, with a software-as-a-service platform to make it scalable, Coquillette says.
That led to creating a company called Shop-Ware Inc., which built an e-commerce platform using a collection of development technology and services: Ruby on Rails, a web application framework for developing web pages; Bootstrap, a framework for designing websites and web applications; Heroku, a platform for building cloud-based applications; Amazon Web Services, which provides cloud-based computing and data storage; GitHub, a web-hosting service; CircleCi, tools for developing, testing and deploying software; Code Climate, tools for managing software code; and New Relic software for monitoring and managing web technology performance.
Shop-Ware averages a new release every two weeks, she says. Its initial technology platform, called Checklist MVP, launched in August 2014, and ultimately was folded into its shop management system. The current Shop-Ware platform, Shop-Ware.com, rolled out in January 2015.
About the same time Coquillette developed her system, she learned about PartsTech and realized it was developing a parts-ordering system that would complement her shop management application. “I liked what they were doing—it turns out the same antiquated systems applied to parts ordering, and PartsTech had set out to solve that side while we set out for shop management.” PartsTech and Shop-Ware use similar technology, and that made integrating their systems easier, Coquillette says.
PartsTech launched the beta version its parts-ordering API in March 2015 and rolled out the public version earlier this month. The new service gives automotive software developers access to PartsTech’s online auto parts catalog and network of vendors and connects users to more than 20,000 parts stores and 6 million parts. The parts-ordering API enables shop owners and managers to research vehicle parts and prices, check local or national inventory, and purchase parts online, all through their own shop management systems.
PartsTech sends orders to local parts stores and distributors who handle the packaging and delivery. “It’s an alternative to calling NAPA or Auto Zone,” Coquillette says. The online service offers greater order accuracy and saves all parties time and money, she says. “It’s similar to Amazon—there are multiple places to acquire parts and then users can go beyond and into the PartsTech community if they can’t find a part locally.”
The company wants to make parts ordering more efficient, says Erik St. Pierre, co-founder and chief operating officer at PartsTech. “80% of aftermarket auto parts are ordered via phone, during office hours; that process is long overdue for an upgrade. The U.S. auto-care industry is worth $220 billion, and many shops are running decades-old software,” he says.
The PartsTech API is available to such parts networks as Auto Repair Cloud, CarServ, CAR–Complete Auto Reports, EasyRO (by Management Feedback Systems), GEM-CAR, PM Attendant, Selectline (by Motor) and Shop Boss. Approximately 10 other systems are currently in development, St. Pierre says.
The PartsTech API is free, St. Pierre says. “Participating parts stores–the sellers–pay a transaction fee when we drive a sale. There is no set-up or integration fee, no per-user fee. We only make money when we help our partners sell parts.”
That makes it easy for parts stores to get involved with very little investment up front, St. Pierre says. That also enables management systems like Shop-Ware to deliver streamlined “ordering experience to their users without having to reinvent the wheel and integrate individual parts stores and parts catalogs on their own,” he says.
Cambridge, Mass.-based PartsTech is privately held and targets repair shops, parts distributors and manufacturers that try to run their businesses more effectively and profitably through e-commerce and data innovation, the company says. Repair shops and distributors can improve parts ordering and operating efficiency, and manufacturers get speed-to-market along with market analytics, PartsTech says.
Shop-Ware has about 1,000 users interacting with the app every day, Coquillette says. Technicians, managers and shop owners can also share repair orders with customers, which adds another layer of users. That translates to about 10,000 sessions per day and there are about 1.25 million repair orders on the app, she says.
Shop-Ware customers can test the technology for 30 days without charge, and those that continue select from three service options they can purchase with a credit card. The options are a point-of-sale shop management tool for $99 per month; access to the full Shop-Ware shop management system ($225/month); and Shop-Ware Pro, a version users can integrate with their own or other shop management systems ($375/month) that includes part numbers, prices and ordering functions.
“The whole process of parts ordering and operating shops has been slow to adapt to change,” Coquillette says. “But we’re excited. We now sell to between 10 and 20 shops per month and there are tens of thousands of them out there. My intention is to capture a large portion of them. Our goal this year is to reach 500 shops and next year 1,000.”
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