Citing the pressing need to get more complete and more accurate auto parts data into the marketplace faster, a not-for-profit organization called Free-Cat announced its intention to provide an electronic parts catalog (EPC) and website for all aftermarket service dealers, free of charge.
The not-for-profit Free-Cat organization was initiated by a group of automotive parts manufacturers primarily to get their catalog data to the repair community much faster than it happens today.
“We share the frustration of counter people and technicians regarding the accuracy and timeliness of information in our industry’s current electronic catalogs. And no one is in a better position to address this problem than the manufacturers themselves. Given the availability and affordability of today’s technology, getting higher quality data into the field in a much more timely fashion is very doable,” said Ed Rammel, a vice president at Dayco Products Inc. and the chairman of Free-Cat.
Rammel explained that Free-Cat will begin to appear in the market in two ways. First through the Free-Cat.com website and later through independent service providers that will use Free-Cat as their internal parts look up utility. Free-Cat is an “open source” solution and developer kits will be available to all bona fide software developers for a nominal charge.
“We listened very hard to what technicians want from their EPCs. Many of them use too much of their valuable time surfing to different manufacturer’s websites in search of product information they need. They also buy from several sources and find it frustrating to have to jump out of one parts catalog into another to find the brands they want. They clearly would prefer to have one utility that would permit them to find the brand they want and order it from the store they want. Free-Cat.com puts the information from all the leading parts companies into a single website featuring a single, simple make, model and year lookup.” He explained that manufacturers will be able to update their information in Free-Cat as frequently as they want, even daily if necessary. That means when a tech discovers information is missing or ambiguous in their paper or electronic catalogs, they can easily check Free-Cat.com for more current data. “That’s what Free-Cat initially brings to the party.”
Going forward, Free-Cat will be working with software developers and encouraging them to use Free-Cat as the parts lookup mechanism in programs they develop. “We recognize it will take some time for software developers to integrate Free-Cat into new applications, but in the meantime, Free-Cat.com will provide a valuable service for technicians with absolutely no cost or fees of any kind…ever.”
For a limited time, Free-Cat.com is available to the public without registration. The site initially contains about 25 brands from the leading auto parts manufacturers, including Affinia, Beck/Arnley, Bosch, Cardone, Dayco, Federal Mogul, Gates, ROL Manufacturing, Standard Motor Products and Tenneco. According to Rammel, more suppliers are being adding on a daily basis.
Free-Cat is a manufacturer-led not-for-profit industry association that is dedicated to bringing the most complete and up-to-date product an application data to aftermarket resellers and service dealers, free of charge. For more information visit Free-Cat.com.