At the ASA Blue Ribbon E-commerce Summit in September, consultant Peggy Tracy discussed why Action Plan 2003 has not progressed as much as hoped in three years. She reported on the results of an informal survey involving about 24 manufacturers, wholesalers, software companies and technology experts to see where Action Plan 2003 is today.

For all but one of the manufacturers contacted, the number of wholesaler trading partners is a single digit or low double-digit number. Half the manufacturers are taking a reactive approach - "if you call, we will work with you"; half are proactive. All said they want more trading partners but admitted their resources would be strained if dozens of wholesalers called tomorrow because of the effort it takes to get wholesalers EDI-ready. Manufacturers said this process takes three hours if the wholesaler is EDI-ready but as much as 100 days if the company has no EDI experience. The typical range is from 10 to 20 hours to two to three elapsed weeks per trading partner.

Manufacturers surveyed cited three areas that have served as barriers to the growth of Action Plan 2003:

Mapping data fields. Manufacturers will help but typically push it to wholesalers. In the purchase order each data field should be the same as in the next purchase order. They are not all mapped the same.

Cross-referencing part numbers. Most manufacturers reluctantly do this for wholesalers but maintenance is an ongoing problem.

Lack of wholesaler technical resources as well as owner/purchasing agent commitment. There are lots of inquiries but few call backs by those who inquire.

On the wholesaler side, those contacted said they have two to 30-plus EDI trading partners. Half are reactive and half are proactive. EDI is integrated into their backroom software. All want more partners and use of more documents.

Wholesalers contacted also had issues with EDI, such as implementation, manufacturers' old data, pricing updates, changing data, incomplete data, inconsistent data across divisions, standards and staff to deal with manufacturers' data.

The same three goals were stated by manufacturers and wholesalers surveyed: do vendor-managed inventory to improve market share and increase inventory turns; provide price/product information updates; and put bar codes on products, Tracy said.