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Article | April 30, 1998
How the Web 'secures' true supplier partnerships
There are a lot of interesting stories in this issue. But perhaps the most intriguing is found in our Web Plus column (p. 86), researched and written by senior editor Dave Newcorn.
By focusing on two "extranets" Dave unveils how two secure web sites can promote communications between a customer and a supplier.
Unlike "Digital" Dave as we call him I'm decidedly not a web or net techie. However in answer to many reader requests Dave has used this column this year to reveal several helpful web sites to readers. Thanks to our archival web site (packworld.com) I do some business-related and some personal surfing of a small handful of favorite locations. As well the Internet is great for e-mailing when the software works. Frankly I'm simply suspicious of any medium that doesn't prize accuracy and integrity. The Internet strikes me as being about as reliable as eavesdropping on other people's conversations.
From our readers the complaint we most often hear about web sites is that the information posted on them is too general not specific enough to really help a manufacturer troubleshoot a system or make a decision about a package. In turn suppliers are very reluctant to go beyond showing "public domain" information because it could be helpful to current or future competitors. In Web Plus this month Dave describes how this impasse can be overcome.
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The secret appears to be building in controlled access which is where "extranets" come in. That's because their limited access now offers the confidentiality that permits companies to share significant information. I wish I could say that the access guarantees confidentiality but that's probably far too strong a claim.
Still in the case of one web site Dave covers in some detail one product group inside DuPont is now willing to share inventory and production scheduling details with the very customers who can best put that information to good economical use. In fact the information it posts on the site is so substantive and helpful that even DuPont employees find it useful! (By the way this site is being reviewed as an example of a good interactive extranet not because corporate DuPont sponsors the Packaging World archival web site.)
Similarly Dave also describes another extranet that serves as an artwork archive and a production resource but only for the companies that use that art or need to understand the converters' printing schedules. Although it's more of a pure service that works as a middleman between both vendor and customer the result is that both companies benefit.
To me this whole idea of the controlled-access extranet suggests the best elements of a true packager/supplier partnership-the sharing each way of significant normally confidential company details.
I think it's ironic that a medium that is so public should become a true conduit for communications that partners rightfully regard as so private.
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