E-plant engineering?

E-commerce is the wave of the future. Yes, sir. No doubt about it. The possibilities boggle the mind. It'll be a dream come true. Well, maybe.

By Richard L. Dunn , Editor May 1, 2000

E-commerce is the wave of the future. Yes, sir. No doubt about it. The possibilities boggle the mind. It’ll be a dream come true.

Well, maybe. And 30-yr ago, the prediction was that we wouldn’t need lights in plants by now, because everything would be manufactured by robots.

It’s not that I’m negative on e-commerce. It really does offer the promise of new ways of doing business. And many of the promises are becoming reality incredibly quickly. But, skeptic that I am, I’m inclined to think it’s still premature to hold services for some of the more traditional ways of doing business. Yet the potential for e-commerce is the stuff dreams are made of.

And right now, the dreamers seem to be holding sway. How else can you explain today’s stock market? But we have yet to go through the inevitable shakeout period from which the real players will emerge as viable enterprises from all of the speculative startups.

Already, we’re beginning to see signs that the old rule about the necessity of profits still applies. A number of dot.coms are dangerously low on cash and the bloom may be fading on the IPO rose. But I digress.

The reality is that e-commerce is up and running, even if it hasn’t progressed much beyond the toddler stage. Chances are, you’ve tried shopping for something on the web. Perhaps your experiences have been like mine: Some, an exciting and delightful discovery; some, a pain in the pittoot. I’d guess the same holds true for business-to-business buying.

Even so, the die is cast, as they say. E-commerce is here to stay, and the problems will be worked out.

Which brings me to my point. If you’re not already learning about e-commerce, it’s time to get started. If you’re not looking at the possibilities, step aside for someone who is.

I know, I know. We’re plant engineers, not purchasing managers. And getting those storerooms shaped up isn’t that high on the priority list. But guess what? It’s about to be moved up a few notches.

E-plant engineering may not be the right term, but we’re about to be caught up in e-something.