The American Supply Association's third Electronic Commerce Blue Ribbon summit held in September during ASA's annual convention attracted 300 people, two-thirds more than expected.

The American Supply Association's third Electronic Commerce Blue Ribbon summit held in September during ASA's annual convention in San Antonio, Texas, attracted about 300 people.

"We had been expecting about 100," said Kevin Price, director of ASA's Center for Advancing Technology. "This is the third and final EC summit. We are now planning a new series of meetings for the year 2000. Details will be released later this year."

Lynx DS, a Windows-based product database synchronization tool kit developed by Shannon Systems, was introduced at the summit and demonstrated at ASA's trade show Sept. 17. Successful tests of the software have been completed with Hercules Chemical and In-Sink-Erator, Price said.

Kevin Hoyle, CEO of Shannon Systems, said that both sides have to agree to use common numbers in order to successfully participate in electronic data interchange.

"Lynx DS imports data from manufacturers and distributors, links the matching records and exports the updated file to the distributor's computer system," Hoyle said. "Either the distributor or manufacturer can be selected as the master file. It also creates a cross-reference table."

Both Jack Hester of F.W. Webb (Burlington, Mass.) and Ed Felten of First Supply (Madison, Wis.) urged manufacturers and wholesalers to get involved with Source ASA+, an electronic catalog and commerce tool that offers a flexible database plus distributors' catalogs and pricing.

"As a wholesaler, we find it is a key tool to our inside sales department," Hester said. "Right now we have the chicken-and-egg syndrome. Manufacturers tell me not many wholesalers are on the system. About 100 manufacturers are on the system now. We would like to target plumbing manufacturers first. After the plumbing module is completed, we want to go after PVF and HVAC companies. We are on the verge of something really powerful."

"Your competitors are on the Source ASA list," said Felten, addressing the manufacturers at the summit. "That makes them preferred over you. We're talking $3,000 per year for manufacturers. How many of you spend that on a golf outing?

"You'll give us a money-saving method when you join Source ASA+," Felten said. "You make it possible for us to update pricing. You'll save money on catalogs.

"Let's be leaders. From the wholesaler's standpoint, sign up. This will get us up to Home Depot in technology."

Rick Bushnell, administrator for Integrated Business Communications Alliance, told attendees about a starter kit that will assist both manufacturers and wholesalers in adding UPC numbers to their master files and producing bar-code labels that comply with ASA standards.

Positive feedback

Software suppliers, wholesalers and vendors shared information about their most recent experiences in electronic commerce at the summit.

"We do about 400 documents a day, most with our customers," F.W. Webb's Larry Mohr said. "We're just starting to approach vendors. About 70% of our customers have a proprietary interface for which we had to do specific coding."

Mohr said his company has been involved in electronic data interchange since 1987 and now can do 10 different kinds of documents.

Vendors with whom the wholesaler has set up EDI include Cerro Copper, Hercules, NIBCO, Ward and In-Sink-Erator, Mohr said.

Len Ruvolo of Hercules Chemical Co. said his company was able to establish a new trading partner relationship with F.W. Webb in four days using the new EDI Express program.

"With a small amount of additional training we can have in-house personnel set up future trading partners without hiring an outside consultant," Ruvolo said. "I expect we can establish future trade partners in no more than two days. Before EDI Express it took six to 10 days for the total process."