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Electronic transfer of information
A FASCINATING taste of things to come in the world of everyday transactions which are now carried out on paper was given by Griff Griffith, manager, business strategy and services, Tradelink Electronic Document Services Limited. The speaker explained in very down-to-earth terms what EDI is all about. To those of us who are still struggling with the terminology used in the hand books for personal computers this was relatively easy to grasp.
EDI is the electronic transfer of business information from one independent computer application to another independent computer application, using agreed standards to structure the data. This is a simple concept with enormous potential benefits in terms of reduced paperwork, quicker transactions, cost reductions in terms of labour, error reduction, lower stocks, shorter cycle times, better tracking and greater reliability-all matters dear to the hearts of those who operate ships and ports and have the responsibility for regulating them. The payoff also comes for the customers in terms of improved service, increased service, increased speed of delivery and direct contact.
But, like all things seemingly simple, not so easy when it comes to implementation. The speaker said one of the main obstacles to its introduction in Hong Kong was the huge number of small enterprises, many of which are unable to afford the substantial long-term capital investment needed for the system. This was being overcome by creating an opportunity for smaller traders to subscribe to external EDI facilities.
Standards are the key to success he emphasised, they are the key to vendor independence, essential for interworking, mandatory for international trade and would place Hong Kong at the leading edge of trade competition.
He then went on to explain that Tradelink was a non-profit organisation set up to co-ordinate the development of EDI for the benefit of the whole Hong Kong community. Originally conceived under the auspices of the Trade Facilitation Council it now includes in its shareholders the Hong Kong Government, major shipping companies, banks, air and sea freight companies and a telecommunications company. Tradelink's milestones, since its set up in late 1988, make this one to watch as EDI takes off in Hong Kong.
Contributed by J.S. Lambourn, MNI
Seaways July 1993