J&P Cycles Motors Through Indexes

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Sure, motorcycle enthusiasts like the feel of the open air as they speed along the road and the independence that comes with being a biker. However, according to motorcycle aftermarket cataloger J&P Cycles, quality is also top of mind.

In contrast to the traditional image of the rebellious "greaser," more than half of today's cycle owners are college graduates, 64.5 percent have annual income exceeding $50,000 and quality is the No. 1 attribute they seek when buying accessories, J&P Cycles said. With this in mind, the Anamosa, IA, company recently turned its sights toward improving the index in its catalogs.

J&P Cycles produces three books: The 1,000-page-plus Harley-Davidson Parts and Accessories Catalog, which reaches 2 million subscribers and is updated twice yearly; the 600-page-plus Metric Cruiser Parts and Accessories Catalog, which is an annual geared toward owners of foreign bikes such as Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki; and the 300-page-plus Vintage and Restoration Catalog, a biannual publication for owners of Harley-Davidson bikes dating back to 1929. Together, the three catalogs offer about 55,000 parts and accessories.

Organizing page elements and ensuring accuracy are important for any cataloger and are clearly a major undertaking at J&P Cycles. The index is an especially difficult part of the process, said John Kriho, president of Meadows Publishing Solutions, Schaumburg, IL. In January, Meadows launched Index Builder, a software program that automates the creation of catalog indexes, which J&P Cycles now uses.

"Everybody hates having to do the index," Mr. Kriho said. "You know you are going to be doing it for days, hoping that you are going to get it right."

But the index is critical in larger catalogs, he said.

"[The index is] all about accessibility to the information, but just trying to organize and make the information accessible to buyers is a challenge," he said.

Accuracy is also vital, because an incorrectly indexed product means not only a lost sale but potentially a customer who is gone forever.

Since J&P Cycles began using Index Builder, it has reduced the time required to create the index for its largest catalog from 8 hours to less than 30 minutes. Even more important is that Index Builder can assign index terms as the product groups are built but before a page number or section has been designated. This eliminates the need to review 1,000 pages of index tags in the big catalog - which used to take a week - and ensures products and page numbers are accurately matched up in the index.

In the past, indexing was very much a manual process and prone to errors, Mr. Kriho said. For example, someone had to physically flip through the catalog, note which page an item appeared on and then manually type in where it was located. If the page number happened to change at a later date, the entire index would be thrown off.

Index Builder was designed to automate the process by letting catalogers create as many product information blocks as needed. Once completed, Index Builder scans them and automatically creates an index.

The time-saving aspect of the technology is so important for catalogers because the index is usually the last step in the creation of a catalog and often occurs once the rest of the book has gone to press, Mr. Kriho said.

"The index has got to be done and accurate if the printer is waiting to go," he said.

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