For the last 10 years of covering this industry, I've heard about the chicken and the egg. In most cases, "the chicken and the egg" has been the answer when wholesalers and manufacturers are asked why they can't get together on technology and product numbers that would ease bar coding, EDI and other forms of electronic business.

Typically, manufacturers have said that they are not doing more e-business with their wholesalers because not enough wholesalers are equipped with the technology to make it worth their while. On the other hand, many wholesalers have said that they don't invest the money in the technology because not enough vendors are ready for e-business. One is waiting for the other to take the initiative. And that leaves everyone wondering which comes first, the chicken or the egg.

Now, ASA has developed its Source ASA+ through its Center for Advancing Technology. In our eyes, Source ASA+ looks like the big egg many companies seem to be waiting for.

Source ASA+ is an electronic catalog database for PHCP products. It includes manufacturer-certified product information, such as UPC codes, pricing, photos and specifications. Subscribers can get the information in CD-ROM format or over the Internet. Source ASA+ can make transactions between wholesaler and manufacturer, and wholesaler and customer, more efficient. It can help squeeze out the supply channel's costs that vendors frequently complain about.

To be sure, a number of manufacturers have supported this foray into e-business. These companies have funded the development of Source ASA+, listed their products in the database or have done both.

What mystifies us is why more vendors aren't participating in Source ASA+. Only 74 manufacturers have signed on for a database that can hold 300 vendors.

We thought we might be missing something, so I recently asked a manufacturer whose company lists its products why more of his colleagues hadn't jumped on the Source ASA+ bandwagon. I asked if it might be a cost issue. He responded that the price is "chickens---” (apparently keeping with the chicken-and-egg imagery). A bigger concern of many manufacturers, he said, is that not enough wholesalers have signed on. So, we're back to the chicken and the egg.

His opinion is that our industry is much better off than it was a year ago because of Source ASA+. We agree. Our problem is that we see the potential of Source ASA+ is much greater than the current reality.

Some ASA members are trying to correct that situation through a letter-writing and phone-calling campaign to their vendors to encourage them to participate in Source ASA+. We urge manufacturers not participating in Source ASA+ to take a fresh look.

But wholesalers also have to play their part. More wholesalers subscribing to Source ASA+ would be even more persuasive to vendors than a letter-writing campaign.

Frankly, after 10 years, I'm tired of hearing about the chicken and the egg. The egg has been hatched. Let's all recognize that and move on.