Originally published March 1996
If electronic data interchange (EDI) is the destination of the future, U.S. device manufacturers are halfway there--sort of.
Responding to an informal straw poll of MD&DI's editorial advisory board and reader board members, exactly half of the 23 respondents indicated that some form of EDI is currently in use at their companies. But their responses also suggest that exploring the full potential of EDI may take a while to develop.
Of the seven common applications of EDI identified in MD&DI's recent article on "The Promise of Electronic Data Interchange for Device Manufacturers" (November 1995), the one most frequently in use at respondents' companies is design-manufacturing transfer (65%). Other categories making a strong showing were design and sales/customer service (both with 57%), and packaging/labeling (52%).
Commenting on the progress of device companies toward use of EDI, Larry Kupeli, marketing manager for Bio-Rad Laboratories (Hercules, CA), noted that "with increased documentation and regulations, paper is no longer a convenient medium of exchange."
But others indicated that making full use of EDI was more a dream than a reality. "Many companies (mine included) are struggling to implement the EDI systems that will make them successful," wrote Stephen Hamilton, senior engineer at the USCI Division of C. R. Bard, Inc. (Billerica, MA).
Fewer than half of the responding readers (48%) indicated that their companies are currently using EDI systems for marketing feedback. Even fewer said that their companies are using EDI as part of a manufacturing execution system (30%) or for communicating with outside vendors (26%).
But the key to expanded use of EDI by device companies may lie in its potential for "doing business with government," an area of interest identified by Gordon Hodgson, materials manager for Vident, Inc. (Brea, CA). With FDA interest in electronic submissions growing, more and more device companies may soon find that EDI is not only a business convenience, but an essential regulatory tool. And when that happens, you can be sure the future has arrived. --Steven Halasey