Remember when the fax machine was a techno-marvel, a strange new box that let you send a photocopy of your waving hand to a friend half-way around the world? Today, office administrators can't imagine life without one.
But in the manufacturing world, the fax machine just doesn't cut it when compared to the instantaneous nature of communicating on the Internet.
A fax machine is good at quickly moving documents such as requests for quotations and purchase orders, but the party receiving them gets caught in a web of inefficiency that automakers and suppliers want desperately to eliminate. People waste time walking to fax machines, walking back to their desks, then entering the same information in their companies' computer systems.
Toyota Motor Mfg. North America is doing something about it.
"These are necessary things that must be done, but they are not value-added," says Lisa Howick, manager of parts and components purchasing for the new WARP system at Toyota North America.
"We want to eliminate the administrative burden so Toyota can focus on the important things that do add value," Ms. Howick says.
WARP stands for Worldwide Automotive Real-Time Purchasing, a new system that Toyota was rolling out for its 350 parts and components suppliers in Canada and the U.S. in late June. It is based in Toyota's North American manufacturing headquarters in Erlanger, KY.
WARP enables the time-consuming aspects of purchasing to move online, and it creates a "living document" that starts with the customer, then is shared with the supplier. Changes are instantly communicated to all relevant parties electronically, without the paper trail or the need to enter the same information several times. Hence, the industry's zeal for purchasing over the Internet.
The WARP system sounds like the Covisint exchange being created by the Big Three. Toyota had not committed to joining Covisint as of late June, but the Japanese automaker said previously it would participate in TradeXchange, General Motors Corp.'s Internet supply chain system that gets folded in to Covisint.
WARP will be part of Toyota's internal purchasing network and will not require suppliers to install any new software. All that is needed is an Internet connection.