Trio of e-commerce pilots take off

Building houses in half the time and eliminating form-filling could be attainable dreams using the Internet.

Building houses in half the time and managing your super without filling out forms are the stuff of dreams. But dreams could become reality if predictions from a trio of electronic-commerce pilot projects are any guide.

In the next two weeks Electronic Commerce Australia (ECA) will be meeting a number of home builders, including Adelaide's Pioneer Homes and Henley Properties from Victoria, in a bid to revolutionise the bricks and mortar trade. ECA is also attracting interest from employers over a pilot aimed at taking the pain out of calculating superannuation payments.

According to ECA's chief executive Peter Blanchard, the electronic commerce-based housing project could cut in half the time it takes between signing the building contracts and moving in. Using EDI technology and wireless LANs, builders can electronically monitor the purchase of materials and the payment of wages throughout the building process to reduce overall costs and improve efficiency.

When materials are delivered to the construction site, the builder can scan each barcode and immediately compare what has been received to what the supplier delivered. Builders can also streamline wage payments by using EDI to stipulate each laborer's paycheque.

Meanwhile, the ECA's superannuation pilot has already caught the federal government's eye, and Blanchard is confident that two state governments will follow suit shortly. According to Blanchard, the pilot, which should deal its first transaction in early March next year, will focus on changing the way employers handle payroll functions such as PAYE and group certificates on a weekly, fortnightly and annual basis.

He says a few large corporates are considering using EDI to send their payroll information to the Taxation Office, while smaller organisations will be looking to Web browsers to perform the same function.

"This project is pushing the boundaries and has the potential to affect every employer in the country in the way they handle payroll information," Blanchard says.

Over the next two to three weeks, ECA will conduct a scoping study to determine the costs of developing a superannuation pilot, which according to Blanchard will be far from cheap.

"The costs of developing EDI software for different organisations could be in the vicinity of a few hundred thousand dollars," he says.

Another electronic commerce project which ECA has been running for the last 12 months has targeted the transport of goods from suppliers to customers and the role of barcoding and EDI in this process.

Blanchard says the pilot's final report will be tabled in the next few weeks and has already attracted keen interest from freight heavyweights including Mayne Nickless, TNT, Brambles and Queensland Rail, and retailers such as Woolworths, Nestle and Coles Myer.

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