The American Supply Association is telling its wholesaler and manufacturer members to stop talking about e-commerce and "just do it."

The American Supply Association is telling its wholesaler and manufacturer members to stop talking about electronic commerce and "just do it." At an unprecedented meeting of business and technology executives representing wholesalers, manufacturers, manufacturers reps and software solution providers, the ASA took the lead by inviting speakers from all these groups to discuss the issues and problems of e-commerce at its Blue Ribbon Summit meeting May 11-12 in Chicago.

After two days of presentations by speakers from all segments of the industry, attendees broke out into brainstorming sessions to discuss specific issues relating to electronic commerce. Business executives comprised one group (which was split into four subgroups); technology executives comprised the other group (also split into four subgroups).

At the conclusion of the meeting, Jack Hester of F.W. Webb (Burlington, Mass.) said he'd be willing to go on EDI "tomorrow morning" if asked by a manufacturer.

Maintaining momentum

Immediately after the summit, the Center for Advancing Technology's Advisory Council met to develop a list of criteria for determining the most appropriate strategic partner. The council used the original five objectives that ASA hoped would come out of the meeting:

  • Build a standard EDI transaction map. Believing this to be the most crucial issue, the council approved an ASA Xpress map to be built on the standard ANSI-4010 set.

  • Provide tools to synchronize product data. ASA will review and merge two existing file layouts, ASA price disk and Source ASA+. The association will provide a virtual repository of product data on Source ASA+ and through its Web site, and build a data synchronization toolkit.

  • Provide high-value, low-cost transaction and support access. CAT will provide EDI services by aligning itself with an experienced third-party solutions provider.

  • Facilitate relationships between trading partners. CAT will pursue community building with expert marketing and technical providers.

  • Integrate electronic-commerce development with Source ASA+. ASA will share Source ASA+ experiences in database construction and building participant resources with trading-partner community builders. An effective marketing campaign will promote awareness of the Source ASA+database. In order to make Source ASA+ a true e-commerce solution, an order-entry module will be built into it; integration with industry accounting packages is also necessary.

"As a result of the research leading up to this meeting and the input from so many industry partners, we believe we now have a viable action plan to move the process along very quickly," said ASA Executive Vice President Inge Calderon two weeks after the summit. "ASA will now be realigning itself with more appropriate solutions in order to bring about true progress."

ASA has already selected a strategic partner for EDI services, Management Information Systems Group. Calderon added that preliminary mapping is expected to begin soon. A follow-up meeting is scheduled for July 22 in Chicago.