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"Be careful what you wish for – you may get it!" … so goes the old adage and it seems that many plastic shapes manufacturers, distributors, and fabricators were predicting that e-commerce would not be an idea whose time had come – and it didn’t. However, in killing off the fledgling industry, it appears that this, combined with soaring energy prices, triggered a full-scale recession in our industry. Despite government initiatives to call this the soft economy – the "r" word seems appropriate as we embrace the summer of 2001.

The e-commerce hype frenzy is history, but we are still in the 6th year of a 12-15 year e-commerce revolution. The fuel for yesterday’s digital economy dream is still in place – efficiency, productivity and cost savings; but the explosive growth rates will continue because of chip power, bandwidth capacity, and internet interconnectivity. We are probably still 3-5 years away or never from seeing most companies with always on, reliable, big bandwidth connections ("webtone").

At the risk of being wrong again about the adoption of the internet as a new way of doing business whose time has come (a reader recently cancelled his subscription to my Global Plastics Letter because I spent "…too much space talking about e-commerce and ignoring the old way of doing business") let’s look at what is just around the bend in the business model road in web-based applications that help traditional businesses keep doing what they are doing – but more efficiently and effectively.

  • Partner relationship management software packages for manufacturers that sell to and thru independent channel partners
  • Digital media and content management services that will repackage product information in databases for faster, easier access
  • Store and access services for business documents that allow trading partners to adopt paperless relations

(Thanks to Bruce Merrifield and Modern Distribution Management for the above application specifics)

Now for the reality of the revolution – Buyers who use reverse auction exchanges are finding that lowest prices from new suppliers are not as good a total package as the lowest total procurement cost from old suppliers. Local suppliers it turns out, have customer-tuned inventories and services that constantly evolve while providing insurance for unforeseen disruptions.

In economic downturns such as the one we’re in its Back To Basics:

  • Hiring and keeping good employees who can in turn…
  • Measure, achieve, maintain, sell, and get paid for service excellence, and
  • Measure customer profitability to maintain and grow the winners and shape up or out the losers.

Our column would not be complete without a dramatic new application for one of our bellwether products – acrylic… thus the Neutrino detector at the Sudbury, Ontario, Canada Neutrino Observatory consists of a 40 foot wide acrylic sphere containing 1000 tons of heavy water and submerged within a 10 story cavity 1¼ miles underground filled with 40,000 tons of ordinary water – not your fathers acrylic!

For more information, click on the Author Biography link at the top of this page.

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