Electronic components distributor Premier Farnell is examining how to use web services to open up e-procurement capabilities to its smaller customers.
The company already uses adaptors to integrate its online catalogue with key customers' e-procurement tools, including CommerceOne, Ariba, Oracle and SAP.
Although historically the company relied almost exclusively on paper catalogues for a 'one size fits all' approach, it has now developed 178 point-to-point adaptors to link into its customers' online purchasing systems. Customers include BAe Systems, General Motors and Ford.
Charles Ewen, group ebusiness development manager at Premier Farnell, said: "About 98 per cent of our customers use our own branded websites but, for our really important customers, we need to be technology ambivalent.
"We're using suppliers' websites like you would a paper catalogue, with your prices and your products."
The company has committed £90m over three years to its e-procurement infrastructure, including a Siebel customer relationship management system to analyse customers' needs, a global database of 400,000 products and e-procurement support.
Component life cycles have halved and grown more complicated, demanding better systems to manage ordering, according to analysts.
In April, Farnell UK was awarded the Queen's Award for Enterprise for Outstanding Achievement in International Trade, for which its investments in ecommerce technology to increase channels to market played a key role.
The company is currently looking to expand its e-procurement capabilities to some of its smaller customers using web services.
"Web services will allow users to access these systems in a totally different way and make it cheaper for everyone," said Ewen.
"We are trialling web services now, including parcel-tracking web services with UPS and Royal Mail to track orders placed with us."
Farnell UK distributes over 450,000 electronic components and industrial products, and has 1.25 million customers and revenues of $1.25bn.
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