You would not be guilty of overstating the case if you claimed internet usage growth to be the fastest communications change in history. The rate of change is steep and doesn't appear to be slowing.

Has internet use changed the way the industrial sector conducts business? Industrial Heating, along with 24 other trade publications, participate in an extensive research study conducted by Business News Publishing Company to determine the current trends in internet use by you and your peers. Here is what the study found:

  • 67% use the internet for work-related purposes. Of this 67%, they involved themselves with email (93%), online newsletters (45%), research conducted on the web (91%),

  • obtaining of competitive information (36%), business-related purchases (43%), random surfing (56%), and peer group chat forums (12%).

  • 71% send up to one-quarter of their external communications by email.

  • 8% of you send over three-quarters of your external correspondence by email.

  • 49% are online for 3 hours or more per week.

  • 93% say that when accessing a manufacturer's or supplier's website, the most useful aspect of the site is product information;

  • 60% say the ability to contact the company by email through the company's web site is most useful.

  • 64% say that advertisements in specialized business publications (like Industrial Heating) are the primary source for finding a company's web address.

  • Articles in trade publications comes in second at 54%.

  • Interestingly, search engines weren't even a blip on the scale.

  • 66% indicate that they download product specifications from a manufacturer's website.

  • 67% have made personal or business-related purchases over the internet (everything from books to vinyl wall coverings!)

  • 79% of those who made online purchases are concerned about security when sending credit card information through the internet

This skims the surface. The study deals with many more topics and digs more deeply into the issues mentioned above. Respondents also projected what they anticipate will be internet usage habit in the near future.

5,000 questionnaires were mailed with over 1,000 responses returned. For those of you who would like some objective data on internet usage, you would probably find this study of value. Business News Publishing is making the study available. If you would like a copy, AND assuming you are in the 67% who use the internet, please email Kristine Habun (kristine@industrialheating.com) and a copy will be sent to you. They are requesting a nominal $49.00 charge for the study.

E-COMMERCE

Many questions still remain unanswered. Most notably, will the web prove to be a money saver or maker? And, how quickly will the thermal processing industry move toward e-commerce. While manufacturers of STANDARDIZED products could realize a benefit from e-commerce, manufacturers of CUSTOMIZED products are hesitant to sell product on the web. If the thermal process industry is going to use the web for e-commerce, it will be due to consumer pull, not producer push. Case in point is a recent multi-million dollar project from a multi-national company for the purchase of several furnace systems. Pre-qualified bidders were asked to be present at a specific web address for a time-limited bidding session on a pre-established set of specifications. None of the bidders would have chosen to settle the bid over the web, but the purchaser dictated the method. Irrespective of who drives the change, it is safe to say that "times are changing" in the thermal processing industry-thanks largely to internet usage. IH