How to interchange data in tyres market

In the context of tires business in which we have been participating for more than 10 years, our role lies in the provision of mainly B2B tools allowing companies or users such as garages or dealers to supply themselves online efficiently and cost-effectively in relatively small quantities, without having to go through wholesale purchase.

This status of technical intermediary brings up the question of data exchange between
the different actors.

What kind of data ?

Different types of data are needed to accomplish this task.

As customer data is provided to us by our partners, we act here via import systems.
At this level the question of security and confidentiality is important, and we will go into details with in dedicated articles.

The products stocks as well as the associated prices can also be provided by our partners.
But the rhythm of imports generally provides us only an almost static view which does not allow to adapt to real market movements as one might hope. This was thus something we needed to improve.

Finally, orders placed by our users must be sent to suppliers.

First generation

The first generation of data exchanges is handled mainly with simple structured data.

Data imports are thus generally based on CSV (Comma-separated values) type files, that is to say tabular text files where the columns are represented by commas. This easy-to-read format allows all types of users to easily understand and create data files.

These are transmitted to our services via FTP access (File Transport Protocol) or via custom import forms.

In the context of B2B tires business, these are customer data files, stock files and price files.

Data exports, generally already sent to automated systems, require less a syntax readable by the human eye, but better structured from a machine point of view.

We therefore opt here initially for XML (Extensible Markup Language) type files, still via FTP, to send orders directly to supplier applications.

But these asynchronous techniques, even if safe and efficient, cannot be enough on a long term compared to the evolution of technologies and the growing imperative of real-time interaction.

Evolution of technologies and emergence of standards in data exchange

The old systems are in some contexts and for some customers largely sufficient.

However, with the evolution of technologies and the increasingly necessary demand for real-time interactions, new solutions have been provided in order to :

  • Increase the speed of interactions in order to respond to real-time necessity
  • Offer best opportunities that meet the immediate needs of customers
  • Stick to the realities of the market and reflect the offers available in the different sources
  • Improve the general speed of data processing

The diversity of our clientele has therefore led us to work with different types of technologies and web services, sometimes proprietary as for the Spanish NEX, but more and more often based on more generic technologies.

Historically, one of the first protocols used was EDIFACT, acronym for Electronic Data Interchange For Administration, Commerce And Transport. It is a technical standard for the exchange of data used in different industrial sectors such as banking, agriculture, aviation and, of course, automotive.

An EDI data exchange system was thus implemented by United Networks for the CDISCOUNT tire sales website in a first time.

More widely known technologies then appeared such as SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) for Swedish AMRING and of course REST API in JSON for, forexample, RENAULT web services.

Also aware of the challenges ahead, major tire figures such as BridgestoneGoodyear / Dunlop, Michelin and Pirelli have come together to set up a standard in data exchange: Ediwheel. Based as for EDIFACT on the idea of industrial standards, Ediwheel is oriented to use the generic standards of XML.

Very quickly Ediwheel became a standard widely used in many platforms. Today and thanks to these important players, the Ediwheel standard is used in 95% of our platforms in tires business, even if the door has not been closed to older or personalized technologies.

This generalization has made possible to meet interesting challenges leading to various advances in tires business.

A specific article will be published on this specific matter !