Viewpoint, Someone is Mining Your Data

Viewpoint, Someone is Mining Your Data

Your repair orders are being used to create a new tool What if you had a tool that could predict within 1,000 miles the failure of an oxygen sensor, EGR valve or bearing? What if I told you that some shops are helping to build this tool and they do not even know it? I am not talking about an MRI for cars, but a virtual tool that will reside in your shop’s management software.

The future is “mining” data from repair orders to build a warehouse of information on failure rates of vehicle systems and parts as they relate to a specific vehicle. Still confused? Here is a simple example. Let’s say that a major grocery store chain looks at their sales of diapers and other items that were purchased at the same time. As they are performing their analysis, they see that beer is the number one item. They can use this information to place the beer next to the diapers and hopefully increase the sales of both. It may seem farfetched, but some major retailers are doing this.

In our industry, the information that shops are entering into their shop management software could be mined to find out when certain parts on a specific vehicle platform are replaced. As shops complete repair orders, the information pertaining to the vehicle and the repair will be uploaded to a central database.

A computer program will mine the data and harvest statistics like the average life of an oxygen sensor in a 1999 Jeep Wrangler is around 92,345 miles.

This is not a pipe dream or science fiction. By my own estimate, there are currently three shop management software suites that have the potential to mine or harvest data. Don’t believe me? Have you noticed lately that more and more of these programs are requiring high-speed internet access? Have you noticed that more and more software suites open in a web browser window? These are indicators that your data might be mined or harvested. Relax, this is a good thing.

The final product hopefully will not turn techs into “installers,” using the tool in place of diagnostic fundamentals. Instead, the information will have its greatest impact in the inspection and selling process.

Privacy and Ownership Issues
Mining or harvesting data may seem like an invasion of privacy, but in the aftermarket’s case, it is not. What they will be mining is the VIN, mileage and the repair event for a vehicle. They will not be looking at the last six numbers of the VIN that are unique to an individual vehicle.

In my opinion, the companies that will be data mining have their reputations at stake, and they hopefully will make sure that your data stays secure. But, there are some lingering questions. Who owns the data? Is it the shop’s data? Or, did the shop commit to sharing the information once they clicked the “I agree” on the privacy policy window? These are tough questions that may make you actually read the privacy policy.

To build this tool, it will take time and cooperation of the entire aftermarket. How well this tool works depends on how uniform the data is coming from the shop level. If you write, “rep alt + belt,” and the guy down the street writes, “install alternator and serp belt,” the data will not match up when it is mined and processed. This is why the software engineers are creating more prewritten descriptions of procedures and symptoms in scrollable menus or “auto-fill” boxes.

The next quandary is if software companies will the share data. If they share the data between systems, the tool will be more accurate. But, it is conceivable that in the short term each software company will have their own tool.

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