DALLAS, TX — A public session was held at the ASHRAE Winter 2000 Meeting to discuss the impact of “e-commerce” on everyone’s lives. ASHRAE described the topic this way:

“The hvacr industry is undergoing a silent revolution. E-commerce — marketing, selling and delivering products and services electronically through the Internet — is dramatically changing how engineers and practitioners interact with their customers.

“Computerized CAD drawings have replaced giant drafting tables and massive blueprints. No longer is a client presented with a large set of drawings. Instead, he receives an e-mail file with all of his designs. Marketing goods and services requires more than print advertisements and brochures.

“Companies now find developing Web pages a necessity to attract customers who purchase items solely from the Web.”

E-commerce is too important to ignore any longer, agreed speakers at the forum. With a capacity crowd in attendance, panel members from the hvacr trade and related industries discussed business-to-business interaction over the Internet, often nicknamed “B2B.”

B2B: a new business necessity

Jim Hess from Texas Utilities quoted Jack Welch, ceo of General Electric, who said, “If you can’t do business with us over the Internet, we won’t do business with you.”

B2B interaction is multiplying at a geometric pace, from its current figure of $300 billion to an estimated $1.5 trillion in 2003, said Paul Pocialik from Noblestar Systems Corp.

“It’s the biggest change we are going to see in our business careers,” said Hess.

He also said the look of the new competition for business over the Internet is not a multistoried, glass office building staffed by a lot of engineers.

“A couple of guys in a garage with a server might put me out of business,” he said. “There is somebody out there right now trying to figure out a way to put you out of business.”

Pocialik added, “You have to ‘out Amazon’ your competition.”

E-commerce is also trimming back the need for human resources. Hess cited one company that turned over 80% of its business to the Internet. The other 20% is being handled by 1,000 people.

The proliferation of B2B Web sites is due to the fact that the speed and privacy of the Internet make it impossible to start a business plan without e-commerce connections. Instead of a waiting period for information to pass from one source to another, transmittal of vital business documents and communication is instantaneous.

Hess made some key points about the e-commerce market:

  • Everyone and everything will be connected.
  • The customer will be in charge and demand that you do business on the Internet.
  • Time is the scarcest resource.
  • All businesses will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Barriers for entry into this market are very low.

Paul Cope of DataQuad, Inc., offered attendees a final suggestion.

“Don’t try to do everything at once” when establishing a Web presence, he said. “Don’t try to do it all at the beginning; keep it simple.”