Starting next week, an additional 50 new users will begin joining the 65 pilot testers who have been ordering supplies from their computers using ECAT, MIT's electronic catalog. The number of users is expected to grow steadily.
The initial rollout of ECAT allows the purchase of laboratory supplies from VWR Scientific and office supplies from Office Depot. ECAT gives users access to these suppliers' on-line catalogs and lets them place orders directly with the vendors' order entry systems. The plan is to add other preferred partner suppliers to ECAT in the future.
ECAT is used in conjunction with the MIT Procard, a corporate purchasing charge account issued to MIT by American Express. The combination of electronic ordering and the Procard significantly reduces paperwork because there are no requisitions, purchase orders or invoices to approve. Ordering is faster, and most orders are delivered within 24 hours.
The Purchasing Office is still accepting and processing applications for the Procard. Applications may be printed from the ECAT home page at <http://web.mit.edu/ecat/">http://web.mit.edu/ecat/>, or users can request a paper copy by sending e-mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The ECAT implementation team and MIT's senior administration hope that ECAT's ease of use will encourage more business with the partner companies.
"Greater volume will not only increase the discounts and savings MIT receives, but will also show these vendors that it's worth their time to continue to work with us on future refinements to ECAT," said William R. Dickson, senior vice president.
MIT does about $3 million worth of business with both VWR Scientific and Office Depot. However, some departments still use other suppliers, even for products that the partner companies can provide at lower cost.
Since the rollout was announced in a February 4 letter from Mr. Dickson to employees, the team has expanded ECAT access to additional computer network addresses, permitting departments with their own networks to use ECAT. For example, the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory can now utilize ECAT, and several of the staff are already beginning to place orders.
Mailings of confirmation letters, including a checklist of what's needed to use ECAT and information about a two-hour orientation class, will begin next week. Team members also plan to help users configure their computers for ECAT purchasing. "The team is committed to giving people the help they need to get up and running with ECAT," said Linda Lancaster, team captain.
The vendor representatives in Purchasing will continue to help customers with business issues such as deliveries and back orders, and the Help Desk in Information Systems will take technical support calls.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 26, 1997.