The new DynamicWeb system also lets Internet shoppers make purchases using their Web browser. The requests are then automatically translated into EDI documents and sent to suppliers to ship the product.
For companies that already use EDI, a process which sends forms from computer-to-computer without human intervention, the system can speed the process of opening a Web storefront.
The first customer to use DynamicWeb's technology is a new Web-only store called ICXpress, which sells office and computer products, targeting consumers and small businesses.
"This model makes very good sense because it enables manufacturers and end customers to slipstream EDI orders together from multiple sources," said Vic Wheatman, a Gartner Group analyst who specializes in electronic commerce. "It adds another channel and can handle fulfillment on an automated basis."
In a similar announcement, Actra Business Systems, a joint venture of Netscape Communications and GE Information Services (GEIS), said that along with MasterCard and other major corporations it will pilot a business purchasing system using both EDI and Web technologies.
DynamicWeb's offering consists of its NetCat Web merchant software, its gateway between the Net and a secure private value added network (VAN), and its EDIbridgeNet service for translating EDI documents into Web pages and Web forms into EDI documents.
"We wanted to be able to seamlessly integrate with the existing pipelines [VANs] that have been erected before the Internet," said Steve Vanechanos Jr., DynamicWeb CEO and president. "I've seen nothing but a bunch of studies that say the cost of processing an EDI document, including VAN charges, is far less than doing it manually."
DynamicWeb's strategy differs from that of Premenos, whose Templar software allows companies to send EDI transactions over the Internet, essentially replacing VANs with lower-cost Internet communication.
"The real problem with EDI is not that VANs extract too much. It's that infrastructure costs are too expensive to get set up and running," said DynamicWeb's Vanechanos. "The first order of business is to expand compliance (with EDI standards), not reduce charges on the Net."
In a service that duplicates some of DynamicWeb's offering, GEIS operates GE TradeWeb, a forms-based, entry-level EDI service for small businesses that lets them exchange EDI documents with trading partners using a personal computer and Web browser. The subscription service does not generate Web storefronts based on EDI catalogs, however.
DynamicWeb's strategy is to boost use of EDI by accepting orders over the Web, then formatting them for EDI. In addition to start-up fees, year-old DynamicWeb will charge 50 cents to $1 per EDI document. A single purchase will result in at least three documents, however, one for the order, one for confirmation, and one with the ship date.
In other EDI-related news: