In your July 21 report on the DuPont survey of the plastics industry usage of the Internet on Page 26, the article noted with some optimism that 64 percent of the industry currently uses the Internet in their work.
My reason for writing is not because of the level of Internet usage cited. Rather, I fear that such high percentages might lull industry leaders into a false sense that they are ``keeping up,'' that they will pat themselves on the back and return to doing business as usual.
In another study, reported June 23 on Page 32, ``Processors slow to board Internet,'' and sponsored by our agency, Plastics News, AlliedSignal Plastics and the Society of the Plastics Industry and conducted by DePaul University of Chicago, overall industry usage was found to be quite low, seemingly contradicting the results of DuPont's study.
Different forms of survey methodology and how the results are reported can produce different conclusions. For example, the DuPont study (by its own acknowledgement) is not considered scientifically valid. It surveyed a small random universe of NPE show participants during the show (1,131). Over 50 percent represented a single industry segment (processors), and respondents were not classified as technical or managerial.
In contrast, the results of the USA Chicago/DePaul study are more representative of the plastics industry. The sample was based on a mailing to almost 10,000 people in the plastics industry. The 10,000 were selected on an ``nth name'' basis from those on the subscription list of Plastics News who identified themselves as suppliers, machinery manufacturers, end users or processors. The proportions of mailings to each of these groups generally reflect their representation in the plastics industry.
The response rate is extremely favorable for a mail survey, representing 12.9 percent (1,283 respondents), with a high percentage of the respondents classified as managerial.
Despite current usage levels, our study emphasized that many industry players plan to begin using the Internet and expressed optimism about its potential to enhance their business. Our survey showed that a high percentage of current industry non- or low-users intend to become Internet-savvy in the next 12 months. To me, this is much more significant than how many are currently using the Internet because it shows the industry realizes the potential of this medium.
According to our study, the two main reasons why many firms do not use the Internet today is because they have not provided easy access for their employees or because they do not see the purpose of the Internet. Access must be made easy, and employees need introductory training in why and how to use this communications tool.
Let us not be misled by statistics implying we measure up technologically and all is well. Rather, let us acknowledge that we have a long way to go to reach tomorrow's goals. Then we will be able to measure Internet usage in meaningful terms of quality of usage rather than just quantity usage.
Patrick J. Yanahan
USA Chicago Inc.