NORWALK, CALIF. - Large corporations may encourage their plastic processor suppliers to computerize, but the Internet and electronic-data-interchange systems can challenge small-business technical and financial resources. Mitchell Carson said he needs EDI access to respond to retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Kmart Corp. and Dayton Hudson Corp.'s Target unit.
``We need to get on-line,'' said Carson, managing director in the Gardena, Calif., plant of Alladin
Plastics Inc., which makes plastic housewares, painted mirrors, imprinted advertising specialties and custom-molded large parts.
``Big firms want subcontractors to do all their purchase orders via EDI,'' said Douglas Brantley, programming services facilitator at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
``Large entities are putting the squeeze on small contractors. We try to bring the job shops up to speed,'' he said.
As the Internet and EDI worlds begin to converge, Brantley said, the issue of secure transmission of business data becomes more critical. Internet protocols lack security although providers are working on new methodologies.
``A small business with limited funds may not be able to afford the machines and proprietary software to connect to a value-added network to use EDI, but the company can get on the Internet with a single PC,'' Brantley said.
``The Internet represents a new paradigm'' in dealing with subcontractors, said Gerry Blackburn, project manager with the Downey, Calif.-based space systems division of Rockwell Corp.'s aerospace group.
``Many of our suppliers are not yet computerized, and so we have to use a multilevel approach,'' Blackburn said. ``We may have EDI and Internet, but we're behind the power curve in bringing these folks up to speed.''
In an outreach program, Composites Technology Center at Cerritos College organized a daylong Internet workshop for the composites and plastics industry April 19 and will repeat the program June 16 and, in a hands-on version, Dec. 13.
In conducting the workshop, Brantley walked attendees through the exploding Internet thicket, explaining the technology and its often inhibiting jargon, demonstrating numerous on-line applications on monitors and screens and describing the myriad of services and providers.
Workshop attendees recognizethe potential.
Friends helped Bill Cook connect to the Internet on the evening before the workshop.
``Some distributors in Northern California and Oregon asked if we had the capability,'' said Cook, owner of pressure molder Spectrum Sports in La Mirada, Calif.
``I see ways to gather information about [research and development], contracts and source materials and also to make contacts within the snowboard industry,'' Cook said. The Farm, a Spectrum Sports division, makes composite snowboards using ABS, fiberglass and carbon fiber. Roy Coss seeks to make a transition from having ``minimal'' knowledge to being able to find Internet sites containing research and development information regarding composite sporting goods. Coss is project engineer in San Diego for Easton Inc.'s composites manufacturing division.
YLA Inc., a Benicia, Calif., prepregger, has no on-line service now but ``will be using the Internet as a research tool and way to communicate with customers and vendors via e-mail,'' said Raymund Serranzana, R&D engineer. ``Also, we may look at the potential for the Internet as a marketing tool'' using a home page, he said.
Workshop attendees received a notebook of presentation images and a second-edition copy of Ed Krol's ``The Whole Internet: User's Guide & Catalog,'' published by O'Reilly & Associates Inc. of Sebastopol, Calif.