What is it?
Why should it matter to you?
iShop is an open standard, supported by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (www.aftermarket.org), that makes it easy for one computer program to talk to another.
Using programs that are iShop compliant increases efficiency, reduces frustration, improves customer service, and opens up new market opportunities.
iShop and its precursors are nothing new. If you follow such things, you’ll know (though Lord help you if you’re anyone other than one of my editors) that my obsession with iShop started many years ago. Import Service published my first article on proposed “enterprise computing” standards in 1997, then published three more over the next two years. Still driven to know more, I joined the standards development committee in 2001, and remain an active participant to this day. My company, Garage Operator, Inc., developed the first shop management program to comply with the iShop version 3.0 standards.
iShop enables shop equipment and management systems to work like a single program.
It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. The WinAlign® iShop version 3.0 client offers a current example:
• The tech selects a repair order.
• The management system passes the vehicle information back to WinAlign®, which is then set to start taking measurements.
• When the alignment’s completed, a copy of the results is stored in the management system for future reference.
This 1-2-3 simplicity has been the goal of iShop since its inception in the mid-1990s. The first versions of the iShop standard worked well once the network particulars they needed to run on were set up, but the complexity of setting up the network particulars proved too big a hurdle. These early versions failed to achieve the hoped-for adoption rates.
Now, iShop version 3.0 changes that completely. If your computers are connected on a Windows network, iShop set-up is a cinch. All it takes is clicking a few buttons to set up the shop management program and the back shop equipment as iShop Server and Client.
How iShop Works
Once the iShop Server and Client are installed, they’re ready to rock. Watch this video, then imagine how much more smoothly your business would run if every electronic tool in your shop worked as efficiently:
Although the video shows the iShop integration between Hunter WinAlign® and Garage Operator, the most important point to remember is this: iShop brings plug-and-play to the automotive work environment – it works essentially the same way regardless of which management system or particular piece of shop equipment is used, so long as both are iShop compliant.
What’s more, even though the video doesn’t show it, the same iShop standards also enable shop management programs to seamlessly integrate with parts, labor, and repair information providers such as ALLDATA; and with e-commerce providers such as WHI/nexpart, IAP, and Worldpac.
The iShop standards are flexible and extensible. If you’re reading this before the 2010 AAPEX show in Las Vegas during the first week in November (www.aapexshow.com), you have the opportunity to see proof of this. The Shop Of Tomorrow (booth 2866) will be running live demonstrations of iShop Telematics.
The new iShop Telematics standard, which enabled disparate pieces of software developed by ALLDATA, CARMA Systems, and Garage Operator to be integrated with one another within weeks instead of months or years, will revolutionize your ability to diagnose driveability problems and communicate with your customers.
The Shop Of Tomorrow will be demonstrating how a car on the road in New York City can instantly notify a service advisor running a shop management system in Las Vegas that it has a problem. The vehicle passes the DTCs, the time, and its location. The shop management system notifies the service advisor, who can pop up the vehicle’s location on Google Maps, analyze the causes of the DTCs and their likely causes in ALLDATA, then interact with the vehicle’s CAN or J1850 bus via ALLDATA’s Internet-based scan tool.
All of that’s exciting news, but here’s this article’s most important takeaway: iShop is an open standard, not a piece of software. The software that you use in your shop today can become iShop compliant. All it takes is you asking your software provider to make it compliant, and your software provider complying with your request. If that happens often enough, iShop will change automotive repair the way the Internet has changed the communications industry, making you a full partner in 21st century business practices.