AKRON—Don't let the ``dot com'' frenzy fool you. There's plenty going on behind the scenes of the Internet besides online shopping, and it's not always Silicon Valley start-ups leading the way.
Take Goodyear, for example. The 101-year-old Akron-based tire manufacturer is typical of an old-line company moving fast to make the transition to electronic-commerce-based business operations.
In the next six months, the company plans to move all of its transactions with 3,200 Goodyear tire dealers to a private, Internet-based system called ``XPLOR,'' where dealers can order products, track shipments and get timely tire and promotional information.
Historically, Goodyear dealers have used an older, DOS-based electronic-data-interchange computer system to place orders. When they weren't using that system, they phoned Goodyear's customer call center for help.
The XPLOR extranet system allows dealers to browse electronic catalogs, check prices and availability of products, place orders and, in real time, follow the progress of their orders right up to delivery.
Dealers also can get new-product and marketing information immediately rather than waiting up to four days to receive it via U.S. mail.
``That is real e-commerce on the Internet,'' said Gary Hargreaves, manager of e-commerce for Goodyear's North American Tire business unit. ``The business-to-business is growing much faster than the Internet retail area.''
Indeed, the market growth for business-to-business transactions over the Internet is expected to outpace that of sales to consumers.
International Data Corp., a Framingham, Mass.-based technology research firm, expects business-to-business sales on the Internet to reach $300 billion in 2003, dwarfing expected online consumer sales of $75 billion by that year.
Goodyear started looking for ways to catch that e-business wave in 1997—two years after it had its consumer- and investor-oriented Internet site—www. goodyear.com—up and running. The tire maker hired IBM Corp. to help design and implement the XPLOR system and launched the extranet site last year.
About 1,800 Goodyear dealers and company-owned retail outlets already are using XPLOR. The remaining 1,400 independent dealers must move over to the Internet-based system by Jan. 1, when Goodyear will throw out its older electronic computer system and stop using traditional ``snail mail''—that is, the U.S. Postal Service—to send marketing and promotional updates.
Goodyear said it is looking to expand the e-business model to its suppliers and to smaller original equipment customers.
The e-business setup will cut costs for the tire maker, Mr. Hargreaves said, and the savings will be ``significant,'' though he didn't provide specific figures. The changes also will free up more time for Goodyear's 50-person customer call center, which recently has been stretched thin as the company offers customer support for more brands of tires.
Goodyear isn't the only tire company to drive the e-commerce road, however. Its competitors, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and Michelin North America Inc., also have similar Internet-based systems for dealers to order tires.
``Our dealers are essentially committed to Goodyear, but they also use other brands,'' Mr. Hargreaves said. ``If we can make it easier to buy Goodyear products, then they'll buy less of the other products.''