SINGAPORE — Internet technology is changing some business practices but won't affect others, according to interviews with exhibitors at ASEANplas 99, held March 23-26 in Singapore.
Electronic commerce has ``a long way to go, but we have seen huge differences in the last 12 months,'' said B. Patrick Smith, vice president of marketing and sales for Maguire Products Inc. of Aston, Pa.
In late February, for example, a Japanese processor made an informed inquiry using information available on Maguire's Web site.
``We received an order yesterday'' for a $35,000 blender and auxiliary equipment, Smith said March 23. ``That was a gestation period of four weeks. Typically, it would have been probably three months.''
Maguire's site includes product demonstration videos, operating manuals and electronic literature.
``We are better able to serve distributors,'' Smith said.
Except for Singapore, ASEAN countries lack the essentials for electronic commerce, said Tan Hock Siew, managing director of Fast Heat Southeast Asia Pte. Ltd. in Singapore.
``Singapore is ready, but not my neighbor in Malaysia or Thailand,'' Tan said.
He receives less than 5 percent of orders through the Internet, sometimes as referrals from customers viewing related Fast Heat Web sites in the United States or England.
``I don't have a Web site'' but may in two to three years, Tan said.
Parent firm Fast Heat Inc. is based in Elmhurst, Ill.
Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. of Bolton, Ontario, uses the Internet ``as an initial contact tool to find the best people in our industry,'' said Jeff MacDonald, vice president of service and sales with the firm's Asia-Pacific unit in Hong Kong.
``The Internet is more of an inward search tool for us than it is an outward one,'' he said.
Once Husky makes the hires, ``we need to have those people on the ground and working with our customers'' on applications and projects.
As for electronic commerce, Husky uses the Internet ``as a commodity tool but not as a way of specifying or purchasing products.'' While an Internet posting can ``distribute generalized specification, we tend to look at specified application,'' MacDonald said.
Selling complex injection molding presses through e-commerce is unlikely.
``We all have our Internet sites, but our customers are not ready to buy on the Internet,'' said Manfred Kersten, managing director of HPM Hemscheidt GmbH in Schwerin, Germany.
``If I am doing business with someone I do not know, I am uneasy,'' said Johann Taufenegger, managing director of Battenfeld Injection Molding Technology Singapore Pte. Ltd. ``I never have received inquiries by Web.''
Parent Battenfeld Group of Meinerzhagen, Germany, maintains a Web site listing all subsidiaries.
Callum Chen, president of the Malaysian Plastic Manufacturers Association, said members of his 900-company association must get more in tune with the Internet. To that end, MPMA has begun working with a government body called Small and Medium Industry Development Corp. and with private Web developer Hitechniaga to create what Chen calls an ``electronic showcase.'' That will provide an online venue for displaying member-company Web sites.
The association also plans to start surveying members regularly about how many have e-mail and company Web sites.
``We're trying to get people over their Internet phobia,'' said Chen, who said Malaysia offers good-quality Internet access.
Internet service provider Pacific Internet Pte. Ltd. of Singapore offered Web access to ASEANplas attendees through workstations outfitted with Apple iMac computers.