I led product design on a project to redesign the parts catalog and pricing platform for AAR, a publicly traded aircraft parts distribution company.
We sought to remedy several problems that existed with the status quo. Sales teams could not set part pricing the way they wanted to in the current tool. These teams were dependent on the technology team to upload new part catalogs. And finally, many potential sales were being left on the table because they could not automatically quote sales prices for many requests they received.
By building this product, we were able to create a more robust parts catalog and pricing platform, enable the business users to import and modify their catalogs and develop a tool to allow the sales team to resolve blocked quotes.
This product revolved around two types of users, the product line manager and the sales manager, each with different support sides of a distribution relationship with aircraft parts Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).
Product line managers are responsible for ensuring that the AAR catalog includes the latest pricing, lead time, and discounts for parts produced by that manufacturer. Still, their most significant issues were that they could not upload their catalogs themselves and often relied on someone from IT to do it. Sales managers are responsible for creating prices for the OEM catalog and managing the relationship between AAR and their customers. The biggest complaint of the sales manager was that they could not price parts on a margin and could not auto-quote parts when the system could not identify a registered customer to quote the part.
We quickly realized that although the existing product had been around for decades, no UI allowed a product line or sales manager to manage cost and price separately.
Instead, product line managers often managed the cost in spreadsheets, and they’d constantly calculate prices from desired margins and write them into the catalog as fixed prices. We introduced a new catalog cost and customer price UI, where we maintained two different contextual screens that allowed the product line and sales teams to have their workspace for managing AAR’s cost and sales price. This introduction of cost also allowed us to make considerable enhancements to the options the sales team would have regarding the pricing they can generate or calculate for their customers.
Once we introduced cost into the equation, we delivered a host of enhancements that made the sales manager’s life easier and more automated and provided net new methods of pricing and moving products.
We created UI to handle two types of discounts to the customer, one for bulk purchases and one for aging inventory that we want to get off our shelves. We built a UI that would allow the sales manager to set specific margins on an entire supplier by the federal supplier code (FSC), which allowed them to make sweeping price updates across thousands of parts from the same place. Finally, we implemented an alternate parts table and a customer tiers table, allowing the sales team to tell the system when alternate part numbers can quote in situations for specific customers that would accept an alternative option.
After making these modifications to the catalog, we tackled the problem that there was no user interface for uploading the new records, which the product line team would receive from each OEM on a recurring annual basis as an excel spreadsheet.
We spent a lot of time learning how Product line managers used these excel spreadsheets today and found that a lot of data formatting had to happen within the file that the equipment manufacturer provided. We addressed this by creating a spreadsheet uploader flexible, selecting individual table columns to upload for each database attribute of a part, and marking whether or not they wanted to destroy any database catalog data that did not appear in the uploaded file. After selecting all of the columns, they tried to import; we provided them with a success and error log that would allow them to parse through any issues and re-upload them as necessary.
After refactoring the catalog and making it easier for the user to enter new data, the final feature was to help some of the sales and lead generation that would occur automatically.
Our application had an existing feature that auto-generated quotes for potential customers looking for a specific part. The only problem was that thousands of these quote requests would go unanswered every day because the data we received about them, which we got through electronic data interchange (EDI), was incomplete and unable to match the request to an actual customer in our system. We created a customer exception handling tool that enables folks in the sales role to parse through a list of failed RFQs and auto-search in bulk for the correct customer so the program could automatically provide customer-specifically priced quotes moving forward.
With this product, we delivered disruptive change to how AAR manages part cost and pricing.
My goal is to create the most disruptive and humane products possible. If you have a similar mission as me or have any questions about this project, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope to talk to you soon!