Turning Technology into Easy Advantage; E-COMMERCE: Simple and Affordable Applications Can Transform Any Commercial Operation

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 6, 2002 | Go to article overview

Turning Technology into Easy Advantage; E-COMMERCE: Simple and Affordable Applications Can Transform Any Commercial Operation


IF you think e-commerce is only about buying and selling goods, then think again - as new research published by the BT Wales sponsored eCommerce Innovation Centre (eCIC) at Cardiff University shows.

The research, recently completed as part of a two-year study into supply chain management among small and medium-sized businesses in the Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council area, has turned up some rather interesting results.

Online for business

Professor Tony Davies, head of eCIC, and Britain's first professor of e-commerce explained, "Many businesses imagine that ecommerce is all about businessto- consumer transactions, but our research shows that 92pc of online transactions take place between businesses.

"As the use of e-commerce increases I don't expect this trend to significantly change. It is often forgotten that for every product sold online to a consumer there is usually an extensive chain of companies working together to both produce and supply the product.

"So effective supply chain management is arguably the single most important and practical application of e-commerce available to firms in Wales, and best of all, effective supply chain management doesn't need to cost a bomb."

One of the main attractions of e-commerce is its affordability.

For instance, a BT Connect to Business account starts at only pounds 10 a month, and this is all that is needed to get any company with a computer online.

Once online, the business can then use simple tools like the internet, e-mail and other straightforward applications to improve business efficiency and benefit from the host of new trading opportunities that are revolutionising the way businesses market their products, communicate with and serve their customers.

Meeting demands

"In the manufacturing industry there has been a traditional view that the main differentiator between competing suppliers is product quality, " said Professor Davies.

"But as manufacturing quality approaches parity across the board, meeting specific customer demands for product delivery is the next critical opportunity for companies to win competitive advantage.

"The time when manufacturers set the pace for product manufacture and distribution has gone. Increasingly customers are calling the shots, and manufacturers find they are scrambling to meet customer demands for options, style features, quick orders, and fast delivery."

Wales still lags behind the rest of the UK in the use of e-commerce, but companies involved in the Neath Port Talbot study, such as Excel Assemblies in Port Talbot, have used available technology to improve their links with customers and suppliers.

Exchanging data

Richard Payne, marketing director of Excel Assemblies, said "Using ICT (Information and Communication Technology) we at Excel Assemblies have been able to improve our communications with both our customers and our suppliers.

"By working closely with customers and suppliers within our supply chain, we have been able to share information on production schedules, future purchasing requirements and stock levels.

Sharing information in this way has helped us to improve our efficiency and also reduced costs for all parties involved. …

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