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Dealers--Changing Distribution Models

March 2000
BY ALLISON ECKEL


The Internet is the new favorite pastime of business, and for good reason. From yard sales to stock sales, modern commerce is evolving and everyone involved is re-examining their current business models with an eye for the realization of the mantra Better, Faster, Cheaper.

Commercial printers are rethinking the way they interact with print buyers through e-procurement solutions from such companies as Collabria, Impresse and Noosh. It was only a matter of time before these commercial printers turned to apply these new relationship models to their vendors—the companies in the equipment and consumables distribution channel of the graphic arts industry. As Internet technologies continue to creep into the realm of print manufacturing, the distribution channel has remained relatively quiet. But that is not to say the channel has been avoiding process improvement.

Peter Brehm, president and CEO of the North American Graphic Arts Suppliers Association (NAGASA), cites emerging technologies such as Internet-based commerce, as well as continuing issues such as industry consolidation, as topics to be discussed at the NAGASA Forum 2000 conference scheduled for early April. As dealers and distributors face these issues, some of them are running head-long into the possibility of a fundamental shift in their role in the print supply chain.

Point, Click, Done
"The advent of widespread business-to-business Internet usage and the uncertainty as far as what impact, if any, that will have on the business," is among the chief issues Brehm outlines. The current growth in e-commerce and e-procurement Websites, especially those targeted to the various niches in the graphic arts industry, is leading the charge in digitizing the business end of print.

Electronic data interchange (EDI)—a subset application technology within e-commerce—is not a new concept, yet it is finding new applications facilitating transactions between members of the print supply chain. "Time is the biggest competitor that we have today," states Fred Heinkel, vice president of sales and marketing for PrimeSource, citing the effect that tools such as e-mail and fax machines have on his company's transactions. Now accustomed to such instantaneous communication, commercial printers want quick turnaround from their distribution vendors: fast order submission, fast response, fast results. In the early 1990s, PrimeSource developed an EDI solution—Remote Management System—to keep pace with the increasing speed of its clients' businesses.

"The channel is being driven by its customers [and is] using the Internet to develop more intimacy between dealer and customer to mutually reduce costs and provide more usable information," states Robert FitzPatrick, co-editor and publisher of The Eagle, a quarterly journal for manufacturers and distributors.

 

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