The Builders Merchant Federation will act as an 'infomediary' between its members and suppliers in an Internet project part-funded by the Department of Trade and Industry.
The system will allow builders merchants to enter an order at the site, and receive quotes from competing suppliers assembled by the infomediary.
Previously, builders merchants have been supplied with product lists by paper, which then had to be keyed into their own systems manually or filed, a process which could take up to two months.
Infomediaries are trusted third parties that gather information and arrange transactions between customers and suppliers, usually through a form of extranet.
The proposed extranet system allows three levels of access. The most basic level allows access to the site and use of the search engine, while at higher levels users can extract and view changes to data.
Jeremy Hawksley, director of the federation, said the building industry would benefit from having a common system for electronic commerce. 'While some of the suppliers are already able to deal electronically, most of the smaller companies are not,' he said. The aim is to allow ecommerce transactions to be conducted, but Hawksley said this function won't go live until next year.
Phonelink is supplying its ecommerce products for the system.
Analyst the GartnerGroup predict that extranets will be the platform for 40% of all business-to-business transactions after 2000.
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